Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Themes: Faith, Annunciation to St. Mary
Volume 7 No. 448 November 24, 2017
 
II. Lectionary Reflections

Mary: Model of Faith, Hope and Charity

by Pope John Paul II

In striving for holiness by overcoming sin, the faithful raise their eyes to the Blessed Mother, who shines forth as the Church's model of sanctity.

Mary as the Church's model of faith, hope and charity was the subject of the Pope's weekly catechesis on 3 September 1997. Taking his theme from the Second Vatican Council's statement that "in the most Blessed Virgin the Church has already reached perfection" (Lumen gentium, n.65), the Pope said that on their way to holiness the faithful are encouraged by the example of their Mother who is the "model of virtues".

1. In the Letter to the Ephesians St Paul explains the spousal relationship between Christ and the Church in the following words: "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:25-27).

The Second Vatican Council takes up the Apostle's assertions and recalls that "in the most Blessed Virgin the Church has already reached perfection", while "the faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness" (Lumen gentium, n. 65).

In this way the difference between Mary and the faithful is emphasized, although both belong to the holy Church which Christ made "without spot or wrinkle". In fact, while the faithful receive holiness through Baptism, Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin and was redeemed antecedently by Christ. Furthermore, although the faithful have been freed "from the law of sin" (cf. Rom 8:2), they can still give in to temptation, and human frailty continues to manifest itself in their lives. "We all make many mistakes", says the Letter of James (3:2). For this reason the Council of Trent teaches: "No one can avoid all sins, even venial sins, throughout his life" (DS 1573). By divine privilege, however, the Immaculate Virgin is an exception to this rule, as the Council of Trent itself recalls (ibid.).

Mary is the perfect expression of faith

2. Despite the sins of her members, the Church is first and foremost the community of those who are called to holiness and strive each day to achieve it.

In this arduous path to perfection they feel encouraged by her who is the "model of virtues". The Council notes: "Devoutly meditating on her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made man, the Church reverently penetrates more deeply into the great mystery of the Incarnation and becomes more and more like her Spouse" (Lu-men gentium, n. 65).

So the Church looks to Mary. She not only contemplates the wondrous gift of her fullness of grace, but strives to imitate the perfection which in her is the fruit of her full compliance with Christ's command: "You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). Mary is all holy. For the community of believers she represents the paradigm of the authentic holiness that is achieved in union with Christ. The earthly life of the Mother of God is characterized by perfect harmony with the person of her Son and by her total dedication to the redeeming work he accomplished.

The Church turns her gaze to the maternal intimacy that grew in silence during life in Nazareth and reached perfection at the moment of sacrifice, and she strives to imitate it in her daily journey. In this way, she is increasingly conformed to her Spouse. United like Mary with the Redeemer's Cross, the Church, amid the difficulties, contradictions and persecutions that renew in her life the mystery of her Lord's Passion, constantly seeks to be fully configured to him.

3. The Church lives by faith, seeing in her "who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Lk 1:45), the first and perfect expression of her faith. On this journey of trusting abandonment to the Lord, the Virgin goes before the disciples, adhering to the divine Word with an increasing intensity that embraces all the stages of her life and spreads to the very mission of the Church.

Her example encourages the People of God to practice their faith and to study and develop its content, by keeping in their heart and meditating on the events of salvation.

Mary also becomes a model of hope for the Church. In listening to the angel's message, the Virgin first directs her hope to the kingdom without end, which Jesus had been sent to establish.

She stands firm near the cross of her Son, waiting for the divine promise to be fulfilled. After Pentecost, the Mother of Jesus sustains the Church's hope despite the threat of persecution. She is thus the Mother of hope for the community of believers and for individual Christians, and she encourages, and guides her children as they await the kingdom, supporting them in their daily trials and throughout the events of history, however tragic.

Mary continues to support the Christian community

Lastly, the Church sees in Mary the model of her charity. By looking at the situation of the first Christian community, we discover that the unanimity of their hearts, which was shown as they awaited Pentecost, is associated with the presence of the Holy Virgin (cf. Acts 1:14). And precisely because of Mary's radiant charity, it is possible to maintain harmony and fraternal love at all times within the Church.

4. The Council expressly underscores Mary's exemplary role for the Church's apostolic mission, with the following observation: "The Church, therefore, in her apostolic work too, rightly looks to her who gave birth to Christ, who was thus conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin, in order that through the Church he could be born and increase in the hearts of the faithful. In her life the Virgin has been a model of that motherly love with which all who join in the Church's apostolic mission for the regeneration of mankind should be animated" (Lumen gentium, n. 65).

After having co-operated in the work of salvation by her motherhood, her association with Christ's sacrifice and her motherly aid to the newborn Church, Mary continues to support the Christian community and all believers in their generous commitment to proclaiming the Gospel.

Source: L'Osservatore Romano September 10, 1997; Reprinted with permission

The Mystery of the Annunciation is the Mystery of Grace

by Pope Benedict XVI

"The Mystery of the Annunciation is the Mystery of Grace" by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

The mystery of the annunciation to Mary is not just a mystery of silence.  It is above and beyond all that a mystery of grace.

We feel compelled to ask ourselves: Why did Christ really want to be born of a virgin? It was certainly possible for him to have been born of a normal marriage. That would not have affected his divine Sonship, which was not dependent on his virgin birth and could equally well have been combined with another kind of birth. There is no question here of a downgrading of marriage or of the marriage relationship; nor is it a question of better safeguarding the divine Sonship. Why then?

We find the answer when we open the Old Testament and see that the mystery of Mary is prepared for at every important stage in salvation history. It begins with Sarah, the mother of Isaac, who had been barren, but when she was well on in years and had lost the power of giving life, became, by the power of God, the mother of Isaac and so of the chosen people.

The process continues with Anna, the mother of Samuel, who was likewise barren, but eventually gave birth; with the mother of Samson, or again with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer. The meaning of all these events is the same: that salvation comes, not from human beings and their powers, but solely from God—from an act of his grace.

(From Dogma und Verkundigung, pp. 375ff; quoted in Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year [Ignatius Press, 1992], pp. 99-100.)

The annunciation to Mary happens to a woman, in an insignificant town in half-pagan Galilee, known neither to Josephus nor the Talmud. The entire scene was "unusual for Jewish sensibilities. God reveals himself, where and to whom he wishes." Thus begins a new way, at whose center stands no longer the temple, but the simplicity of Jesus Christ. He is now the true temple, the tent of meeting.

The salutation to Mary (Lk 1:28-32) is modeled closely on Zephaniah 3: 14-17: Mary is the daughter Zion addressed there, summoned to " rejoice", in formed that the Lord is coming to her. Her fear is removed, since the Lord is in her midst to save her. Laurentin makes the very beautiful remark on this text: "... As so often, the word of God proves to be a mustard seed.... One understands why Mary was so frightened by this message (Lk 1:29). Her fear comes not from lack of understanding nor from that small-hearted anxiety to which some would like to reduce it. It comes from the trepidation of that encounter with God, that immeasurable joy which can make the most hardened natures quake."

In the address of the angel, the underlying motif the Lucan portrait of Mary surfaces: she is in person the true Zion, toward whom hopes have yearned throughout all the devastations of history. She is the true Israel in whom Old and New Covenant, Israel and Church, are indivisibly one. She is the "people of God" bearing fruit through God's gracious power. ...

Transcending all problems, Marian devotion is the rapture of joy over the true, indestructible Israel; it is a blissful entering into the joy of the Magnificat and thereby it is the praise of him to whom the daughter Zion owes her whole self and whom she bears, the true, incorruptible, indestructible Ark of the Covenant.

(From Daughter Zion: Meditations on the Church's Marian Belief [Ignatius Press, 1983], pp. 42-43, 82.)

Continue reading ""The Mystery of the Annunciation is the Mystery of Grace" by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger" »

Source: InsightScoop.com

Annunciation Homily

by Pope John Paul II

Delivered in the Basilica of Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel on March 25, 2000

"Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word" (Angelus Prayer).

1. On this day the eyes of the whole Church turn to Nazareth. I have longed to come back to the town of Jesus, to feel once again, in contact with this place, the presence of the woman of whom Saint Augustine wrote: "He chose the mother he had created; he created the mother he had chosen" (Sermo 69, 3, 4). Here it is especially easy to understand why all generations call Mary blessed (cf. Lk 2:48).

2. We are gathered to celebrate the great mystery accomplished here two thousand years ago. The Evangelist Luke situates the event clearly in time and place: "In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph. . . The virgin's name was Mary" (1:26-27). But in order to understand what took place in Nazareth two thousand years ago, we must return to the Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. That text enables us, as it were, to listen to a conversation between the Father and the Son concerning God's purpose from all eternity. "You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin. Then I said. . . ?God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will'" (10:5-7). The Letter to the Hebrews is telling us that, in obedience to the Father's will, the Eternal Word comes among us to offer the sacrifice which surpasses all the sacrifices offered under the former Covenant. His is the eternal and perfect sacrifice which redeems the world.

The divine plan is gradually revealed in the Old Testament, particularly in the words of the Prophet Isaiah which we have just heard: "The Lord himself will give you a sign. It is this: the virgin is with child and will soon give birth to a child whom she will call Emmanuel" (7:14). Emmanuel - God with us. In these words, the unique event that was to take place in Nazareth in the fullness of time is foretold, and it is this event that we are celebrating here with intense joy and happiness.

3. Our Jubilee Pilgrimage has been a journey in spirit, which began in the footsteps of Abraham, "our father in faith" (Roman Canon; cf. Rom 4:11-12). That journey has brought us today to Nazareth, where we meet Mary, the truest daughter of Abraham. It is Mary above all others who can teach us what it means to live the faith of "our father". In many ways, Mary is clearly different from Abraham; but in deeper ways "the friend of God" (cf. Is 41:8) and the young woman of Nazareth are very alike.

Both receive a wonderful promise from God. Abraham was to be the father of a son, from whom there would come a great nation. Mary is to be the Mother of a Son who would be the Messiah, the Anointed One. "Listen!", Gabriel says, " You are to conceive and bear a son. . . The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. . . and his reign will have no end" (Lk 1:31-33).

For both Abraham and Mary, the divine promise comes as something completely unexpected. God disrupts the daily course of their lives, overturning its settled rhythms and conventional expectations. For both Abraham and Mary, the promise seems impossible. Abraham's wife Sarah was barren, and Mary is not yet married: "How can this come about", she asks, "since I am a virgin?" (Lk 1:34).

4. Like Abraham, Mary is asked to say yes to something that has never happened before. Sarah is the first in the line of barren wives in the Bible who conceive by God's power, just as Elizabeth will be the last. Gabriel speaks of Elizabeth to reassure Mary: "Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son" (Lk 1:36).

Like Abraham, Mary must walk through darkness, in which she must simply trust the One who called her. Yet even her question, "How can this come about?", suggests that Mary is ready to say yes, despite her fears and uncertainties. Mary asks not whether the promise is possible, but only how it will be fulfilled. It comes as no surprise, therefore, when finally she utters her fiat: "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me" (Lk 1:38). With these words, Mary shows herself the true daughter of Abraham, and she becomes the Mother of Christ and Mother of all believers.

5. In order to penetrate further into the mystery, let us look back to the moment of Abraham's journey when he received the promise. It was when he welcomed to his home three mysterious guests (cf. Gen 18:1-15), and offered them the adoration due to God: tres vidit et unum adoravit. That mysterious encounter foreshadows the Annunciation, when Mary is powerfully drawn into communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Through the fiat that Mary uttered in Nazareth, the Incarnation became the wondrous fulfilment of Abraham's encounter with God. So, following in the footsteps of Abraham, we have come to Nazareth to sing the praises of the woman "through whom the light rose over the earth" (Hymn Ave Regina Caelorum).

6. But we have also come to plead with her. What do we, pilgrims on our way into the Third Christian Millennium, ask of the Mother of God? Here in the town which Pope Paul VI, when he visited Nazareth, called "the school of the Gospel", where "we learn to look at and to listen to, to ponder and to penetrate the deep and mysterious meaning of the very simple, very humble and very beautiful appearing of the Son of God" (Address in Nazareth, 5 January 1964), I pray, first, for a great renewal of faith in all the children of the Church. A deep renewal of faith: not just as a general attitude of life, but as a conscious and courageous profession of the Creed: "Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est."

In Nazareth, where Jesus "grew in wisdom and age and grace before God and men" (Lk 2:52), I ask the Holy Family to inspire all Christians to defend the family against so many present-day threats to its nature, its stability and its mission. To the Holy Family I entrust the efforts of Christians and of all people of good will to defend life and to promote respect for the dignity of every human being.

To Mary, the Theotókos, the great Mother of God, I consecrate the families of the Holy Land, the families of the world.

In Nazareth where Jesus began his public ministry, I ask Mary to help the Church everywhere to preach the "good news" to the poor, as he did (cf. Lk 4:18). In this "year of the Lord's favour", I ask her to teach us the way of humble and joyful obedience to the Gospel in the service of our brothers and sisters, without preferences and without prejudices.

"O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen" (Memorare).

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