Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Nativity of St. Mary - Theotokos

Volume 3 No. 168 September 8, 2013

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Birth of Mary - Esteban Murillo
Birth of Mary - Esteban Murillo
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Foreword

We honor St. Mary for her key role in the plan of God for the redemption of mankind and her place as the Theotokos, Mother of God. The birth of Mary was like a dawn. ...

Bible Readings for This Sunday (September 8)

Bible Readings for the Fourth Sunday after Shunoyo

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_4th_sunday-after-shunoyo.htm

Sermons for This Sunday (September 8)

Sermons for the Fourth Sunday After Shunoyo

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_4th-sunday-after-Shunoyo.htm

Inspiration for Today

In her life Mary knew, as we do, that God's will can seem at times obscure and far from our expectations; it involves embracing the mystery of the Cross. It is significant that at the Annunciation Mary ponders in her heart the meaning of the angel's message. Her example reminds us that faith while fully obedient to the Lord's will, also must seek daily to discern, understand and accept that will. ...

Featured: The Blessed Virgin

The blessedness of Mary is strongly emphasized in Luke 1:26-56. First, we hear it on the lips of the angel Gabriel when he comes to tell Mary that she is going to conceive and bring forth the Christ. Then we hear it again from Mary's cousin Elizabeth when Mary goes to visit her. Elizabeth said these things as one filled with the Holy Spirit - - it is not just her own words, but the word of God. And thirdly, we hear of Mary's blessedness from Mary herself, also speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in verse 48 where she says: "Henceforth all generations will call me blessed." I want to focus on the blessedness of Mary that you might not miss what God has given you about this in His word. ...

On the Faith of Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ

The angel's greeting to Mary is an invitation to joy, a deep joy, it announces the end of the sadness that there is in the world in front of the limits of life, suffering, death, wickedness, the darkness of evil that seems to obscure the light of the divine goodness. It is a greeting that marks the beginning of the Gospel, the Good News. ...

It is no different for the journey of faith of each one of us: it encounters moments of light, but also meets with moments where God seems absent, His silence weighs on our hearts and His will does not correspond to our own, to what we would like. But the more we open ourselves to God, welcome the gift of faith, put our trust in Him completely - like Abraham and like Mary - the more He makes us able, us with His presence, to live every situation of life in peace and in the assurance of His faithfulness and of His love. But this means going out of oneself and one's projects, because the Word of God is a lamp to guide our thoughts and our actions. ...

The Eternal Predestination of Our Lady

She has been given us to be our light in darkness, our strength in our weakness, our recourse in our miseries, our refuge in all necessities, and our model in all things. She exercises towards us all these offices in the mystery of her holy childhood, wherein the Church invokes and salutes her as Mother of the Son of God and of all the children of God, and, consequently, bound equally to both. ..

Blessed Among Women

St. Lawrence reflects upon the meaning of the words: "Blessed are you among women." He shows Mary to be unique in her creation, in her nature as woman, and in her motherhood. In doing so he calls upon Old Testament typology, the Fathers of the Church, and even fifth century Christian poetry. ...

Praying with Mary

A Song from the Heart. So what does Mary's Magnificat teach us? It shows us that Mary wanted to honor God with her whole being; it shows us that she was mindful of the great things God had already done for his people; and it shows that she was willing to do whatever God asked of her. ...

The History of the Term Theotókos

Theotókos (a Greek word meaning God-bearer) is the ancient Eastern title for Mary, Mother of God, prominent especially in liturgical prayer in the Orient down to our time. It was formally sanctioned at the Council of Ephesus. It makes into one word the Lucan title "Mother of the Lord" (1:43) with 2:12, where Lord is taken in a transcendent sense; it is the counterpart of John's "the Word was made flesh" (1:14). ...

Unless They Are Agreed

Mary agreed with God's promise and accepted it. Then the miracle happened. Whatever you are facing today, make the decision to agree with God and His promises. The Holy Spirit can bring His Word to pass! ...

More Resources For Study and Reflection

Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary plus other publications of interest.

Pray for Peace in Syria

Pope Francis has called Saturday, September 7, 2013 as a day of Prayer for Syria. As we all know, many Christians in Syria are being persecuted. Two Orthodox Bishops are kidnapped and are being held against their will; their whereabouts are unknown. Please pray for the people of Syria and for God to strengthen the resolve of leaders to end the fighting and to choose a future of peace. ...

Health: How to Navigate a Cancer Diagnosis

Pioneering Psychotherapist Shares Strategies for Managing Anxiety & Maintaining Emotional Wellness.

Family Special: Ten Insights to Help Us Better Relate to Others

Do you agree that relating to others better begins with first understanding them better? How can we work to understand and build relationships with those around us to ultimately show them the love of Christ? ...

Humor: Newton's Laws

Ten Laws Newton Forgot To State.

About Malankara World

Foreword
The theme of this issue of Malankara World Journal is the Nativity of St. Mary and the end of the ettu nombu (8 days lent).

[Note: This issue is dated September 8; but is released on September 5. There is significant time differences in celebrating the Living Sacrifice in various parts of the world. For example, our brothers and sisters in middle east, attend the qurbana on Fridays (Thursday in north America). So, we customarily release the MW Journal on Thursdays.]

Our church do not celebrate birthdays of saints (although it is getting fashionable to celebrate the birthdays of our thirumenies these days.) We only remember our saints on the day they died, because that is the day they were born into the joys of heaven. The only exceptions are: Jesus Christ (Christmas), St. Mary (Nativity) and John the Baptist.

We honor St. Mary for her key role in the plan of God for the redemption of mankind and her place as the Theotokos, Mother of God. The birth of Mary was like a dawn. When the sky starts to turn a rosy pink early in the morning, we know the sun will soon come up. If we have Mary, we have Jesus. Jesus loved his mother. Whoever is very faithful to her is very close to the heart of Jesus.

On Our Lady's birthday the Church celebrates the first dawning of redemption with the appearance in the world of the Savior's mother, Mary. The Blessed Virgin occupies a unique place in the history of salvation, and she has the highest mission ever commended to any creature. We rejoice that the Mother of God is our Mother, too. Let us often call upon the Blessed Virgin as "Cause of our joy", one of the most beautiful titles in her litany. - Fr. Francis Weiser, SJ - 'The Holyday Book'

St. Mary is highly regarded in the Orthodox Church.

"From apostolic times, and to our days all who truly love Christ give veneration to her who gave birth to him, raised him and protected him in the days of his youth. If God the Father chose her, God the Holy Spirit descended upon her, and God the Son dwelt in her, submitted to her in the days of his youth, was concerned for her when hanging on the Cross, then should not everyone who confesses the Holy Trinity venerate her?" - Archbishop John Maxomovitch, 'The Orthodox Veneration of Mary, the Birthgiver of God'

In the Orthodox Church the presence of Mary is defined by only two dogmas, but she is advocated by a thousand names or images.

The two dogmas adopted by the ecumenical councils affirm that Mary is Mother of God and that she is the ever-Virgin.

"The name of Mother of God is the only name which contains all the mystery of the economy," St. John Damascene said. The "economy" means the "work" that God has done for our salvation, and which is revealed through the name of Mary.

As we celebrate the Nativity of Theotokos, let us conclude with this prayer:

Impart to your servants,
we pray, O Lord, the gift of heavenly grace,
that the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin
may bring deeper peace to those for whom
the birth of her Son was the dawning of salvation.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
- Amen.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (September 8)

Bible Readings For the 4th Sunday After Shunoyo

Sermons for This Sunday (September 8)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today
It is fitting to consider the faith of Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ. At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel greets Mary with an invitation to rejoice because the Lord is with her.

This joy is that of the messianic hope of God's people, the daughter of Zion, now being fulfilled in her. It is also the fruit of the grace which fills Mary's heart and shapes her obedience to God's word. Mary's faith, like that of Abraham, combines complete trust in the Lord's promises with a certain "unknowing".

In her life Mary knew, as we do, that God's will can seem at times obscure and far from our expectations; it involves embracing the mystery of the Cross. It is significant that at the Annunciation Mary ponders in her heart the meaning of the angel's message. Her example reminds us that faith while fully obedient to the Lord's will, also must seek daily to discern, understand and accept that will. In this holy season, may Our Lady's prayers help us to grow in a humble, trusting faith which will open the door to God's grace in our hearts and in our world.

Pope Benedict XVI, December 2012

Featured: The Blessed Virgin
Gospel: Luke 1:26-56

Introduction

I don't know if you have ever noticed it,

- but the blessedness of Mary is strongly emphasized in Luke 1:26-56:

1) First, we hear it on the lips of the angel Gabriel when he comes to tell Mary that she is going to conceive and bring forth the Christ.

- In verse 28, he says,

"Rejoice highly favored one, the Lord is with you; Blessed are you among women!"

2) Then we hear it again from Mary's cousin Elizabeth when Mary goes to visit her.

- In verse 42, Elizabeth declares,

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"

- And again in verse 45,

"Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."

- And notice that Elizabeth says these things as one filled with the Holy Spirit -

- it is not just her own words, but the word of God.

3) And thirdly, we hear of Mary's blessedness from Mary herself, also speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in verse 48 where she says:

"Henceforth all generations will call me blessed."

- Today I want to focus in my sermon on the blessedness of Mary that you might not miss what God has given you about this in His word.

My outline today is very simple and can be reduced to three questions:

I. First: What does the Bible mean when it says that Mary was blessed?

II. Second: What was the blessing that God bestowed on Mary?

III. And third: What was the effect of God's blessing on Mary?

But before I begin working through these questions,

- I want to alert you about something I will be doing as we go along...

- I will be applying what is said about Mary's blessedness to you...

- If you are in Christ, I will be encouraging you that like her, you are also blessed of God...

- And if you are not in Christ, I will be urging you to come to Him so that you too can have God's blessing.

- You all need to understand that what is said about the blessedness of Mary may, in a certain sense, be said about the entire church -

- As products of our age,

- we tend to look at the blessings of God as something we receive in isolation from others,

- but the Bible looks at them as something we receive in connection with others...

- For example, in Galatians 3, Paul calls the salvation that the Gentiles receive "the blessing of Abraham."

- We can read about God's blessing of Abraham and realize all the while that it is also our blessing, whoever among us not believe...

- The Bible gives me good reason to apply what is said to Mary here to all of you who believe...

- In the Bible, the church is often referred to as a woman who is called to bring forth life...

- Just after the fall of mankind into sin,

- God came to the woman and He promised that the woman's seed would crush the serpent's head.

- The woman's seed was, of course, her offspring...

- Some how, the woman would bring forth a Son that would deliver her from bondage to Satan into which the whole human race had fallen.

- All through Scripture, this theme is developed.

- The promise is expressed again and again that somehow, God's chosen people will bring forth a Saviour who will deliver them from their sin.

- For example, we read in Isaiah 54 about the barren woman (the church in her present state at the time Isaiah wrote it) becoming fruitful.

- In Galatians 4, Paul quotes from Isaiah 54 and compares

- Hagar as the mother of covenant people who do not believe -

- with Sarah, the barren woman, who by God's grace is the mother of those who are blessed through faith in God's promise.

- Mary could no more bring forth a son of righteousness than Sarah could bring forth a son in her old age...

- It was the work of God, not the work of the flesh, that the church would bring forth the very Son of God.

- It is the church that brings forth salvation by the grace of God through Mary...

- It is a personal blessing for Mary, but it is also a blessing for the entire church.

- If you look at the overall tenor of Mary's response, you can see that while she declares that "all generations will call me blessed,"

- She does not look at what God has done for her in isolation from what He has done for the entire church...

- She does not look at God's blessing in giving her this child as her blessing in isolation of what the coming of this child means for us all!

- This is very clear in verse 54 and 55 where she speaks of what God is doing in giving her this child as:

in the remembrance of His covenant mercy to Israel - that which was promised to Abraham and His seed forever.

- And so although Mary is the only woman who is to conceive and bring forth Jesus Christ,

- His coming forth is for the blessing of the entire church - that is, those who believe in every age.

- God's expression of love and grace to Mary in calling her to be the mother of the Lord cannot be separated from His love and grace to the whole church in at last bringing forth a Saviour.

- So I will not just be talking about the blessedness of Mary this morning,

- but also the blessedness of all of you who believe...

- and the blessedness that you who do not believe might have if only you would turn from your own way and believe.

- So with this in mind, let us turn to the first question:

I. What does the Bible mean when it says that Mary was blessed?

- by Gabriel and Elizabeth, "blessed among women"

- and by Mary that "all generation will call me blessed."

A. There are two possibilities as to what this might mean grammatically.

- Either it means that Mary is the recipient of God's blessing or that Mary is the source of blessing.

1. If Mary is the recipient of God's blessing,

- it means that she is blessed among woman because she has received something from God that others have not received.

a. This is the way you might speak of someone like Job (before his troubles began)...

- You look at Job in his prosperity and you say,

- "Look at how God has blessed that man!"

- He is more blessed than any man.

- Everywhere you look at his life, you see fruitfulness.

- God had given great riches,

- He had given him godliness,

- He had given him children,

- He had given him wisdom.

- All you had to do was look at his life and you could see God's blessing.

b. Paul speaks this way of the Ephesians' church which consisted of those who had recently received God's salvation in Jesus Christ.

- Ephesians 1:3 speaks of these blessings when it says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

- They were blessed because they were the recipients of God's blessing through Jesus Christ.

TRANS> So, grammatically, when the scripture says that Mary was blessed,

- it may mean that she is the recipient of God's blessing.

- But now consider the other possibility:

2. When the scripture says that a person is blessed,

- It can also mean that a person is the source of blessing to others.

a. Certainly, this is what we always mean whenever we speak of the blessedness of God,

1) When you say that God is "blessed forever"

- you are not saying that there is someone who is there continually enriching Him with blessings...

- When we bless God, we do not enrich Him, but we declare Him to be the source of all blessing!

- We are not looking at Him and saying,

- "Look at all the wonderful things that have been given to you. You certainly are blessed..."

- But we are looking at Him and saying, "Look how good He is, how full He is of good things."

b. But is it possible that such blessedness can be ascribed to human beings?

- The answer is "yes," but a qualified yes.

1) Look a Job again.

- There was a sense in which he was a fountain of blessing that others could come and drink from.

- He had widows and orphans coming to him for sustenance and protection...

- He had those in need of wisdom coming to him for counsel.

- He was a blessing to all who knew him.

2) Certainly, under God, you can be a blessing or a curse to others...

- And if someone is a blessing to you, you speak of that person as a blessing in this secondary way -

- You ought to always thank God, however, as He is the one from whom all blessings flow -

- He is the only true source of blessing and the one from whom every good and perfect gift comes.

- But still, it is not improper to say that a person is blessed.

TRANS> And so you see that grammatically, the blessedness of Mary could refer to:

- either that she is called blessed because she has received an abundance of blessing from God...

- or that she is called blessed she is the source of blessing to so many persons.

B. So which of the two is true of Mary?

1. It seems quite clear from the context that Mary is called blessed first and foremost because she is the recipient of God's blessing.

a. When Gabriel speaks to her, he tells her that she is going to conceive and bring forth a son who is to be the Messiah...

1) He tells her this by referring to the Messiah by a number of scriptural titles,

- and it is clear that Mary understands that somehow she is to conceive this child in her virginity...

- For she asks, "How can this be since I do not know a man?" which means, since I have never had sexual relations with a man?

2) Clearly, Gabriel is not telling her that she is blessed above other women in that she has more to give than others,

- but rather in that she is going to be given a privilege by God that no other woman will be given!

- Conceiving this child in her virginity clearly places this as a work of God, not a work of Mary!

- She could well sing Psalm 115 with us,

- "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory."

b. But sadly, you know that our sinful nature is all too ready to suppose that when we have been given a lot,

- we must have been given a lot because of our superiority to others...

1) How often the Lord reminds His people not to think this way!

- In 1 Cor 4:7, Paul says:

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

- In another place, Paul says,

"God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of Jesus Christ.

2) When the Lord was bringing His people into the promised land,

- He warned them that after they had entered and received the abundance of blessing,

- they were not to think that it was because they were superior to others...

- He tells them expressly that they are blessed because of his free promise of grace.

3) This is a major theme of scripture!

- We are not blessed because of our goodness, but we are blessed because of God's free grace.

a) Israel was taught this at the Passover -

- God did not pass over them when He sent His angel to destroy the first born in Egypt because they were good.

- In fact, their first born had to die also - the only difference was that God accepted a substitute in the place of their first born - there was still a judicial death required.

- God was showing them that He was treating them differently, but not because they deserved to be treated differently.

b) Isn't this is the lesson of the cross?

- We are not blessed with heavenly hope because we are deserving of it,

- we are blessed because Christ took our punishment upon Himself!

c. So we see that when Gabriel is ascribing blessedness to Mary,

- He is not declaring to her how wonderful she is,

- He is rather declaring to her the wonderful thing that God is going to do for her!

- It is true that in a secondary sense, she brings the blessing of Christ to us...

- But she is receiving a blessing that she could not possibly have worked up on her own!

- The very point is that Mary is bringing forth this child in a way that is utterly impossible for her to pull off!

- It is not about what she has done or can do for us;

- it is all about what God is going to do.

2. And so it is also with Elizabeth's declaration of Mary's blessedness.

a. When Elizabeth calls Mary blessed among women,

- She is not talking about what Mary is going to do for God,

- but about what God is going to do for Mary!

- It is not about Mary's goodness, but it is about God's grace!

b. In verse 45, Elizabeth does attribute something to Mary, and that something is faith!

- She says, "blessed is she who believed!"

- Mary is blessed, not because she is going to do something great, but because she is receiving something great from God through faith.

3. And then we see what Mary herself says...

- When she says that all generations will call her blessed, it is not because she sees herself as superior to others - it is the opposite!

- It is because God has regarded the lowly estate of His maidservant...

- He has taken a lowly maiden and has given her the highest privilege that any woman could ever have!

- The blessedness is clearly in what God does for her, not what she is in herself!

- His grace meets her in her lowliness and exalts her!

C. And it is right here that we learn of the great difference between true religion and false religion!

1. True religion looks for God to bless where there is no merit...

- True religion has blessedness to receive from God.

- True religion says, "God, you have to accept me because of your gracious promise in your Son."

2. Those who look at Mary as a source of blessing

- They find hope in Mary because if she could do it, they should be able to do it in time.

- Just as Mary is called blessed because what she has done (or because of what she is), so will they be called blessed because of what they have done (or what they are).

- Mary is called blessed because of what she has received from God through no merit of her own...

- She could no more produce this child than Sarah could bring forth Isaac in her old age.

- This was something that God was going to do for her.

- Everyone would call her blessed, as she said,

- because He who is mighty has done great things for me...

- NOT "because I have done great things for Him."

3. So what about you?

a. Are you trying to find life - happiness - blessedness on your own?

- Are you trying to find it in your achievements or in a special relationship or in your possessions or even in the good things you do for others or for God?

- That is the false way to live.

- That is all rooted in the lie of Satan that "You will be as God."

- Only God is blessed in Himself.

b. The only way you can be blessed is if God blesses you.

- The way of true life - happiness - blessedness is found in looking to God to pour His grace upon you.

- That is the way of true religion over against false Christianity and every other religion or non-religion in the world!

TRANS> Now this leads us to the next question:

II. What is the blessing that God bestowed on Mary?

A. To put it very simply, the blessing is Jesus.

1. For Mary in particular, the blessing was that she was chosen by God to be the one in whose womb He was conceived!

- In this she had a blessing that no other woman would ever have!

- Women have the wonderful privilege in general of bringing forth life in their wombs,

- but Mary would have the even greater privilege of bringing forth the One who would be the life of the world

2. But as I mentioned before,

a. You see clearly here that Mary's blessing contains in it a blessing for the whole church!

- Just as Abraham and Sarah were blessed with a child in their old age,

- and though this was a great blessing for them personally...

- yet the blessing that was to come through this child would be the salvation of the whole world -

- all the nations would be blessed through Abraham's seed!

TRANS> So it was with Mary...

b. When Jesus was teaching, there was a woman in the crowd that cried out and said:

- Luke 11:27: "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!"

- Jesus corrected her and said:

- Luke 11:28: "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"

- In other words, the blessedness of Mary was not so much in bearing a child,

- but in the salvation that came to all the world (and to her) through that child -

- the blessing that comes to those that hear the word of God and keep it and so receive the promise by faith.

TRANS> So you see that the blessing was Jesus Himself

B. Just Look at how Gabriel describes the blessedness this great blessing that Mary is to bring forth from her womb!

1. First, Gabriel presents the name by which this child will be called....

a. In verse 31, he says, "You shall call His name Jesus"

- This wonderful name explains the blessedness of Jesus' work...

- The name Jesus means: "Jehovah saves."

- In Matthew we are told that when Gabriel told Joseph to name Him Jesus,

- he added the reason,

- "because He will save His people from their sins."

- In this name it is declared to us the work that He would perform!

- He will save us.

b. What a tremendous blessing this is!

1) Every human being, with the exception of Jesus, is in desperate need of salvation.

a) We stand in desperate need of forgiveness.

- We must all pay the penalty of our sin,

- and the great problem is that the only way we can pay it is through eternal suffering.

- There is no other way for God's justice to be satisfied,

- and God will not be unjust!

b) We stand in desperate need of renewal.

- Even if there was some way for us to be forgiven,

- we still need to have our hearts and lives changed...

- Love has to come in where there is bitterness and selfishness, or we could never enjoy either God or heaven.

2) The blessing for Mary is that she is going to bring forth a child that will be Jesus - "Jehovah who saves."

- He will be the One who saves His people from their sins by:

- He will secure for them God's forgiveness by His death on the cross so that as soon as they believe in Him, their sins are all forgiven...

- He will be the one who renews their hearts and their lives to love God and neighbour... so that they are renewed daily and at the last day made perfect...

- All that is wrong with us, He will make right.

TRANS> So you see first of all that the child given to Mary is a blessing because He is Jesus - He is the Lord who saves...

2. Secondly, He is a blessing because of His greatness and majesty.

a. Gabriel says,

- "He will be great, and will be the called the Son of the Highest."

b. There is no greater greatness and no majesty more majestic than His!

- As the Son of the Highest, He is shown to be in very nature God.

- Yet, marvelously, He who existed from all eternity is to be conceived as man in Mary's womb!

- He is to actually be made of her substance!

c. It is this very combination of being both God and man that makes Him able to save us from our sins...

1) Because He is the Son of God, He is able to bear upon Himself the wrath and curse of God for us without crumbing.

- And being the Son of God, He is worthy to be heard by His Father when we pleads for our forgiveness on the merits of His sacrifice....

- And as God, He is able to destroy all our enemies including Satan and death...

- And He is able to call forth His Spirit and send Him to renew us and make us complete...

2) Because He is also the offspring of Mary and so truly man,

- He is made able to represent us and suffer for us as one of us...

- You see, the human race is all one family - we are all the sons of Adam, and so to redeem us, Christ had to become one of our race and be born of us...

- And because He is one of us, He is able to sympathize with us in our weakness...

- and He is able to raise our nature out of its ruin, being Himself anointed above measure by the Holy Spirit.

3) In Jesus then, we have this great one... the very Son of God, residing in human flesh!

- Who could have ever dreamed that this great one, the very Son of the Highest, would be born of lowly virgin from Nazareth?

- See how blessed this virgin is!

- See how blessed the church is!

TRANS> But Gabriel does not stop here describing the blessing that Jesus is...

- He has told us of His work - to save us...

- He has told us of His greatness and majesty - He is the Son of the Highest...

3. And now He tells us the duration of His reign!

- v. 32-33: "the Lord God will given Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."

a. Here Gabriel makes it clear that Jesus' reign is not to be like David's or Solomon's which only lasted until they died!

- He is the King who is promised in 2 Samuel 7 and in Isaiah 9 whose kingdom would never end!

- He is the King whose subjects are blessed beyond the grave!

b. Now this is altogether marvelous!

- Mary, a simple maiden, was to bring forth from her womb a child that would live forever...

- and who would bring eternal life to all His people... sustaining them in His blessed kingdom forever and ever!

- Here the people over whom He reigns are called Jacob because God made His promise to Jacob.

- And all you who believe are now a part of Jacob - you are the circumcision to whom all of God's promises belong.

- Yours is a blessing that will never be taken away!

TRANS> Now you see what the blessing is that God has given to Mary,

- That she should be the mother of this child who is the Saviour of the world!

- That He who is truly the Son of God should be conceived in her womb...

- And you see how God's blessing to Mary is indeed a blessing to the entire church!

III. And now I want you to consider what the effect of God's blessing had upon Mary -

- and by her example what it should have upon you all.

A. First of all, you see that she believes what God has told her!

1. We see this in two places...

a. First, in verse 38 where she says:

- "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."

1) Understand what she has just been told!

- She has just been told that the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, who will bring eternal life to His people, is going to be conceived in her virgin womb!

- She is astounded when she first hears this, and asks,

- "How can this be since I know not a man?"

- Gabriel explains to her quite simply that the Holy Spirit will bring about this conception -

- that with God nothing is impossible.

2) With this simple explanation,

- Mary believes.

- She needs nothing more.

- In saying, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord."

- She presents herself as one who is completely resigned to what God has said.

- She remembers that she is here to serve Him and to bring glory to Him... she is His servant, God is not her servant.

- In saying, "Let it be to me according to your word."

- She shows clearly that she believes what Gabriel has told her, even though it was such an extraordinary and remarkable thing!

- What was spoken is what will be done.

b. Secondly, we see her faith described by Elizabeth when Elizabeth says to Mary in verse 45:

- "Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."

- Mary has not believed a fairy tale!

- She has believed God's word and she will not be disappointed.

- God will do exactly what He has promised to do.

2. How I could wish that this child-like faith were more common among us than it is today!

a. How foolish are those who reject the virgin birth and try to explain it away because it goes beyond their understanding!

- They do this in the name of intelligence and wisdom, but it is the greatest folly...

- For here they are, creatures of God, denying that the God who created them of nothing could create a body in the womb of a virgin!

- If you do not believe this, your problem is not that your intellect won't allow you to believe -

- It is very illogical to think that God could not do such a thing...

- Your problem is that you are trying to avoid God.

- You are trying to deny that there is a living God who made you...

- If you will only admit that there is such a God,

- it is quite easy to believe that He could form a body for His Son in the womb of a virgin.

b. Jesus says that you must have this child like faith in what God says if you want to be saved.

1) This does not mean you turn off your reason and your intellect!

- Quite the contrary!

- It means you turn them on so as to stop suppressing the truth about the world as it really is!

- You turn off your intellect when you try to suppress the One we all know.

- When you try to account for your existence apart from Him and you end up very confused...

- When you try to live your life in isolation from Him - as if He does not exist; you end up very empty and barren.

2) What Elizabeth said of Mary is true of every human being who believes the Word of God...

- "Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."

- So also the Scripture says very plainly:

- Romans 10:8: "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."

- If you would have the blessing of eternal life, you must believe what God has spoken about His Son.

- Do not think that God would not or could not save you.

- It is only a foolish excuse on your part because you do not want to turn from your sin and come to Him.

- You will not be disappointed if you do - you will be blessed!

- Come now, what is there really to lose if you serve Him?

TRANS> So first, you see that Mary believed what God had said and so should you...

B. Secondly, you see that Mary is filled with gratitude, joy, and hope in God's blessing!

- After Mary speaks to her cousin Elizabeth,

- (who also expresses gratitude, joy and hope in God's blessing)

- she breaks out in a song of praise to God.

- Her song is given to us in verse 46-55.

- This wonderful poem calls for a whole sermon in itself,

- but we must content ourselves with the highlights.

1. First, look at how Mary is taken up with God here!

a. She speaks of magnifying Him and rejoicing in Him, not merely with her lips from her soul and spirit:

- v. 46-47: "My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior."

- Hypocrites will say the words,

- but those who have received God's blessing rejoice and have high thoughts of God within.

b. She calls Him mighty because of the great things He has done...

- She calls Him holy, which means that He is unlike us in perfection and excellence!

- She calls Him merciful because He has remembered His covenant promise to save His people from their sins...

2. Secondly, you see how she delights in what He has done!

a. First she speaks of how God has regarded her in particular so that all generations will call her blessed...

- They will see what God has done for her in giving her the privilege of conceiving and bringing forth the Son of God from her womb...

b. Then she speaks of this as God remembering His mercy to His people...

- That what God is doing in her - in her conception - is to bring forth His promised salvation to His people...

- And that this promised salvation will completely turn around the lives of all who receive it!

- that they will go from being poor to rich,

- from being hungry to being filled with good things!

- It short, they will be fully blessed of God who were miserable.

- So it will be for any of you who come to this Saviour.

c. She also speaks of those who are rich and full already -

- that is, those who think they do not need a savior to bless them -

- those who think they can bless themselves well enough -

- these, she says, will be brought down and sent away empty.

- So it will be for any of you that refuse this Saviour.

3. Now I say to you - are you filled with the gratitude, joy, and hope of one who is the recipient of God's blessing?

- Are you filled with the gratitude, joy and hope of one who is trusting in the Son of God who was conceived in Mary's womb that He might come and turn everything around for His people?

- Have you come to this Saviour to receive this blessing?

- Do you believe what God has said?

- or are you still trying to find blessing apart from Him?

- I am here to declare to you today in the name of Lord that there is no real blessing to be found apart from Jesus.

- Like Mary, blessedness does not come because of what you are or do,

- blessedness comes from what God does for you.

Halifax, 18 December 2005 (edited.)

On the Faith of Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ

by Pope Benedict XVI

In the journey of Advent, the Virgin Mary has a special place as the one who in a unique way waited for the fulfillment of the promises of God, accepting Jesus in faith and in the flesh, the Son of God, in full obedience to the divine will. Today I would like to reflect with you briefly on Mary's faith, beginning from the great mystery of the Annunciation.

"Chaire kecharitomene, ho Kyrios meta sou",
"Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Lk 1:28).

These are the words - recounted by the Evangelist Luke - with which the Archangel Gabriel greets Mary. At first glance, the term chaîre, "rejoice", looks like a normal greeting, common in the Greek world, but this word, when read against the background of the biblical tradition, takes on a much deeper meaning. This same term is present four times in the Greek version of the Old Testament, and always as a proclamation of joy at the coming of the Messiah (cf. Zeph 3:14; Joel 2:21; Zech 9:9; Lam 4:21). The angel's greeting to Mary is thus an invitation to joy, a deep joy, it announces the end of the sadness that there is in the world in front of the limits of life, suffering, death, wickedness, the darkness of evil that seems to obscure the light of the divine goodness. It is a greeting that marks the beginning of the Gospel, the Good News.

But why is Mary invited to rejoice in this way? The answer lies in the second part of the greeting: "The Lord is with you." Here, too, in order to understand the meaning of the expression we must turn to the Old Testament. In the Book of Zephaniah, we find this expression "Rejoice, O daughter of Zion, ... the King of Israel, the Lord is in your midst ... The Lord, your God, in your midst is a mighty savior" (3:14-17). In these words there is a double promise made to Israel, to the daughter of Zion: God will come as a savior and will dwell in the midst of His people, in the womb - as they say - of the daughter of Zion. In the dialogue between the angel and Mary, this promise is fulfilled to the letter: Mary is identified with the people espoused to God, she is truly the daughter of Zion in person; in her is fulfilled the expectancy for the final coming of God, in her the Living God makes His dwelling.

In the angel's greeting, Mary is called "full of grace"; in Greek the word "grace," charis, has the same linguistic root as the word "joy." In this expression, it also clarifies further the source of Mary's delight: the joy comes from grace, it comes, that is, from communion with God, from having a so vital a connection with Him, from being the dwelling of the Holy Spirit, totally shaped by the action of God. Mary is the creature who in a unique way has opened the door to her Creator, she has placed herself in His hands, without reserve. She lives entirely from and in the relationship with the Lord; she is in an attitude of listening, attentive to recognize the signs of God in the journey of her people; she is inserted into a history of faith and of hope in the promises of God, which constitutes the fabric of her existence. And she submits freely to the Word received, to the divine will in the obedience of faith.

The Evangelist Luke narrates the story of Mary through a fine parallel with the story of Abraham. As the great patriarch is the father of believers, who responded to God's call to leave the land in which he lived, his safety, to begin the journey to a land unknown and possessed only in the divine promise, so Mary relies with full trust in the word that the messenger of God announces and becomes a model and mother of all believers.

I would like to emphasize another important point: the opening of the soul to God and to His action in faith also includes the element of darkness. The relationship between human beings and God does not erase the distance between Creator and creature, it does not eliminate what the Apostle Paul said before the depth of the wisdom of God, "How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!" (Rom 11:33). But the one who - like Mary - is totally open to God, comes to accept the will of God, even if it is mysterious, even if it often does not correspond to our own will and is a sword that pierces the soul, as the old man Simeon will say prophetically to Mary, when Jesus is presented in the Temple (cf. Lk 2:35). Abraham's journey of faith includes the moment of joy for the gift of his son Isaac, but also the time of darkness, when he has to go up to Mount Moriah to carry out a paradoxical act: God asks him to sacrifice the son He had just given him. On the mountain, the angel tells him: "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me"(Gen 22:12); Abraham's full trust in the God who is faithful to His promises exists even when His word is mysterious and difficult, almost impossible to accept. So it is with Mary, her faith lives the joy of the Annunciation, but also passes through the darkness of the crucifixion of the Son, to reach the light of the Resurrection.

It is no different for the journey of faith of each one of us: it encounters moments of light, but also meets with moments where God seems absent, His silence weighs on our hearts and His will does not correspond to our own, to what we would like. But the more we open ourselves to God, welcome the gift of faith, put our trust in Him completely - like Abraham and like Mary - the more He makes us able, us with His presence, to live every situation of life in peace and in the assurance of His faithfulness and of His love. But this means going out of oneself and one's projects, because the Word of God is a lamp to guide our thoughts and our actions.

I would like to pause once more to dwell on one aspect that emerges in the infancy narratives of Jesus narrated by St. Luke. Mary and Joseph bring their son to Jerusalem, to the Temple to present him to the Lord and consecrate him as required by the law of Moses, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord" (Lk 2:22-24). This gesture of the Holy Family acquires a more profound sense if you read it in the light of the evangelical knowledge of Jesus when He is twelve, who, after three days of searching, is found in the Temple discussing scripture with the teachers. To the words full of Mary and Joseph's concern: "Son, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety", corresponds the mystery of Jesus' answer: "Why were you searching for Me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"(Lk 2:48-49). That is, in the property of the Father, in the Father's house, like a son is. Mary must renew the deep faith with which she said "yes" at the Annunciation; she must accept that precedence that the true Father of Jesus has; she must leave that Son whom she generated free to follow His mission. And Mary's "yes" to the will of God, in the obedience of faith, is repeated throughout her life, until the most difficult moment, that of the Cross.

Faced with all this, we can ask ourselves: how was Mary able to live this path beside her Son with such a strong faith, even in the moments of darkness, without losing full trust in the action of God? There is an underlying attitude that Mary assumes in the face of what happens in her life. At the Annunciation she is disturbed by hearing the angel's words - it is the fear a person feels when touched by the closeness of God - but it is not the attitude of those who are afraid in front of what God may ask. Mary reflects, she ponders the meaning of this greeting (cf. Lk 1:29). The Greek word used in the Gospel to define this "reflection", "dielogizeto", evokes the root of the word "dialogue." This means that Mary comes into intimate dialogue with the Word of God that has been announced, she does not consider it superficially, but pauses, she lets it penetrate her mind and her heart to understand what the Lord wants from her, the announcement's meaning. We find another hint of Mary's interior attitude in front of the action of God, again in the Gospel of St. Luke, at the time of the birth of Jesus, after the adoration of the shepherds. Luke affirms that Mary "treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart" (Lk 2:19), in Greek the term is symballon, we could say that She "held together", "put together" in her heart all the events that were happening; she placed each single element, every word, every fact within the whole and compared it, guarded it, recognizing that everything comes from the will of God. Mary does not stop at a first superficial understanding of what happens in her life, but is able to look deeper, she allows herself to be questioned by the events, processes them, discerns them, and gains that understanding that only faith can provide. It is the profound humility of the obedient faith of Mary, who welcomes into herself even what she does not understand of the action of God, leaving it to God to open her mind and heart. "Blessed is she who believed in the word of the Lord"(Lk 1:45), exclaims her relative Elizabeth. It is precisely because of this faith that all generations will call her blessed.

Dear friends; the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord which we will soon celebrate, invites us to live this same humility and obedience of faith. The glory of God is not manifested in the triumph and power of a king, it does not shine in a famous city, in a sumptuous palace, but dwells in the womb of a virgin, it reveals itself in the poverty of a child. The omnipotence of God, also in our lives, acts with the force, often silent, of the truth and of love. Faith tells us, then, that the defenseless power of that Child in the end overcomes the noise of the powers of the world. Thank you!

Source: Address Benedict XVI gave on December 19, 2012. Translation by Peter Waymel; © Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

The Eternal Predestination of Our Lady

by St. John Eudes

This eternal predestination is the first thing to which the Holy Ghost would draw our attention. He does so in Prov 8:23:

I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be.

So, it is true to say that this amiable Infant, who is called Mary, daughter of Joachim and Ann, has been predestined and chosen by God from all eternity, that in her and by her, He may perform most marvelous things suitable to His eternal designs.

This predestination is ennobled and elevated by several very singular advantages; the first is, that it owes its origin to the infinite love of the Eternal Father for His Son, Jesus, His immense love for Mary, His well-beloved Daughter, and His inconceivable charity towards us.

The incomprehensible love of the adorable Father for His Son, Jesus, led Him to make choice from all eternity of a Mother who should be worthy of Him, and to prepare her from the first moment of her infancy for this dignity.

From that moment He began to enrich her with all the virtue and holiness which should fittingly adorn her who was to conceive, bring forth, nourish, and rule the Saint of Saints, Sanctity itself.

The ineffable love of the Father for His Daughter, Mary, is second only to His love for His Son, Jesus. Mary herself declared one day to St. Mechtilde, that He had, on many occasions, turned aside the torrent of His indignation from overwhelming the guilty world for the sake of His incomparable Mary, and that, even before she was born into this world. (1)

I repeat that the love He had for Mary caused the Eternal Father to predestinate her in His eternal counsels, to be Mother, nurse, and ruler of the Incarnate Word, the Queen of Angels, the Sovereign of heaven and earth, the Empress of the universe. From the first moment of her Infancy, her soul was inundated with torrents of grace, and with a perfection of holiness bordering on the infinite.

The unparalleled charity of the Father of Mercies towards us, led Him to conceive from all eternity the design of bringing into the world this incomparable Virgin, who should give us our Redeemer, and associate herself with Him in the work of our redemption. She must therefore be endowed, from her earliest years, with the perfections requisite for a predestination so excellent.

Behold here, the origin of this same predestination, raising it infinitely above the predestination of all the elect.

Another very considerable advantage is the perfect resemblance of Mary's predestination to that of Jesus. For, as the man, Jesus, was chosen by God from all eternity to be the beginning of all His designs; (2) that is, the first in excellence among all the marvelous works of His hands, so also the Holy Ghost speaking by the mouth of the Church, pronounces these same words, "Initium viarum Domini," in praise of this incomparable Daughter who, after the Man-God, is the most admirable masterpiece fashioned in the eternal counsels of the Divine Majesty: "Aeterni consilii opus," says St. Augustine. (3)

As Jesus has been uniquely chosen out of thousands (Song of Songs 5:10),

My beloved is radiant and ruddy,
outstanding among ten thousand.
"electus ex millibus,"

that is, elected from among all the children of Adam, to be hypostatically united to the person of the Word Eternal, so has Mary been uniquely chosen among thousands; that is, among all the daughters of Eve, to be associated in the most high and wonderful manner possible with the Incarnate Word.

"Thy election and predestination, O Divine Virgin, may be compared to that of the sun, that is, the Eternal Sun, Who created the earthly sun." says St. Bernard.  "He has been chosen from among men; thou from amongst women." Jesus is the marvel of His Father's works, Mary is the masterpiece of Jesus' miracles.

In the words of St. Paul, "Jesus has been predestinated to be the Son of God, in the virtue and power of His Father." (Rom 1:4) For, by an admirable effect of Divine Power, His Sacred Humanity has been formed from the most pure blood of the Virgin and united with the Person of the Divine Word at the moment of the Incarnation. Mary having been chosen in the eternal counsels of the Most Holy Trinity, to be the Mother of the Son of God, was created and formed in the womb of her mother by arare marvel of Divine Omnipotence and, from that moment, united by a most holy and perfect union, in quality of most dear Daughter and well-beloved Spouse with Him Who had chosen her to be His most worthy Mother. She was clothed with power from the Most High, to enable her to form and to bear in her heart Him Who later on should be formed and borne in her blessed womb.

Jesus has been predestinated to be the Son of God by the operation of the Holy Ghost in the mystery of the Incarnation, "Secundum spiritum sanctificationis" (1) (it is again St. Paul who speaks), and Mary has been animated and possessed by the same Spirit from the first instant of her life. She was replenished with grace and sanctified more and more during the course of her Infancy, in order to dispose her to conceive and bear the Eternal Word.

Jesus has rendered visible the glory and majesty of the Divine Sonship to which He was predestinated, "ex resurrectione mortuorum, " (Rom 1:4) St. Paul again remarks, by the wonderful miracles He operated, especially raising the dead to life, and Himself rising from the tomb, miracles proper to the power exercised by the Son of God. In like manner the excellence of the predestination of the holy child Mary to the divine maternity manifests itself clearly by the great and wonderful things which God operated in her. It is shown in the wonderful plenitude of grace which filled her soul from the first instant of her life, in the universal joy of the world at her birth, in her admirable name of Mary, and in the many other marvels Divine Wisdom performed in and by her, conformably to her greatness as Mother of God.

The end of the predestination of Jesus is that He may become our Savior, our Mediator with the Father, Himself our Father, our Exemplar, our Treasure, our Glory, our Paradise, our Spirit, our Heart, our Life, our All.

The predestination of Mary has given her to us that she may cooperate with her Son in our redemption, and be our Mother, our rule, our life, our consolation, our hope. She has been given us to be our light in darkness, our strength in our weakness, our recourse in our miseries, our refuge in all necessities, and our model in all things. She exercises towards us all these offices in the mystery of her holy childhood, wherein the Church invokes and salutes her as Mother of the Son of God and of all the children of God, and, consequently, bound equally to both. O Admirable Mother of Jesus, thy Son is ours and thou art ours, in all states, in all mysteries, in all thy life from beginning to end. I am not astonished at thy goodness and mercy towards poor sinners, nor at the words Holy Church sings:

"Thou dost not abhor sinners
without whom thou should not be
Mother of a Son Who is God."

But I am astonished more than I can say at the horrible ingratitude that thou and thy Divine Son receive from the greater part of mankind. In place of thanking and serving thee, do not they heap upon thee all sorts of injuries and outrages? O may I be possessed entirely by Jesus and Mary, as Jesus and Mary are entirely mine! May my whole being, all my life and whatever pertains to me, be consumed in the honor and service of Jesus and Mary. Would that all minds and hearts in heaven and upon earth were mine, that I might employ them in praising and loving the only Son of Mary and the most worthy Mother of Jesus.

To what has already been said to show the perfect resemblance between the predestination of the Man-God and that of the Mother of God, I shall add, that as His predestination is the primary principle and cause of the predestination of all the true children of God, Mary's predestination is the second cause. "No one is saved except by thee, O most Holy Virgin," cries out St. Germain, Patriarch of Constantinople. (4) "It is with good reason that all creatures cast their eyes toward thee, O Blessed Virgin," says St. Bernard, "for in thee, by thee and through thee, the hand of the Almighty has repaired His creation." (5)

All these considerations must convince us that the predestination of our divine Infant is an exact counterpart to that of Jesus.

But I go further; for I dare assert that the union existing between these two predestinations is so close, that the Son and Mother being one in union of mind, and heart and will, their predestination is inseparable. Jesus recognized Himself in the eternal designs of God as Son of Mary, Mary saw herself therein as Mother of Jesus. So that the one included and was encompassed by the other reciprocally. Thus it comes to pass that the Church applies to the Mother of the Savior, the same words that the Holy Ghost uses regarding the eternal election and predestination of her Son:

I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
(Prov 8:23)

When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
when there were no springs overflowing with water;
(Prov 8:24).

Do you desire, dear reader, that as the predestination of Jesus and Mary is inseparable, yours also may be joined indissolubly to theirs?

Never separate the Son from the Mother, nor the Mother from the Son, in your devotions. As you adore the Son in all the mysteries of His life, honor also the Mother in her marvelous life. As you honor Jesus in the state of His Divine Childhood, fail not to show special devotion to the sacred Childhood of the Mother of Jesus.

References:

1. Deus me super omnem creaturam dilexit in tantum ut amore mei multoties pepercerit mundo, etiam antequam nata essem." Lib. spec, gratiae, part I., cap. 19.

2. Dominus possedit me in initio viarum suarum" (Prov 8:22).

3. Sermo de Annunt.

4. De zona B. Virg., cap. 2.

5. "Meritointerespicimtoculitotiuscreaturae, quiainte, etperte, et de te benima manus Omnipotent quidquid creaverat recreavit." D. Bern Serm 2 de Pent.

Blessed Among Women

by Dr. Joseph Almeida

One of the remarkable things about the Marian sermons of St. Lawrence of Brindisi is that they are at once new and old. To be sure, the reflections of the Capuchin saint sometimes bear the marks of his own private mysticism, but these are always filtered through and tempered by the bona fide tradition of the living Church.

In his sermon upon the Hail Mary, St. Lawrence reflects upon the meaning of the words: "Blessed are you among women." He shows Mary to be unique in her creation, in her nature as woman, and in her motherhood. In doing so he calls upon Old Testament typology, the Fathers of the Church, and even fifth century Christian poetry.

One aspect of Mary's special blessedness flows from the supreme favor showed her by God himself. To exemplify this St. Lawrence looks to Queen Esther who has become for him a great prefigure of Mary herself:

Just as Sacred Scripture says of queen Esther that she found favor in the eyes of king Ahasuerus, that she was beloved of him beyond all women, that she was adorned with a diadem, crowned with a royal crown, and made Ahasuerus's queen, and in this way far surpassing all women in the supreme honor, glory, and dignity of Ahasuerus's kingdom and authority, so the angle said of the Virgin Mother of God: "Hail full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women." That is to say: you are blessed not only beyond all women but alone among women; you are the most illustrious and glorious of all, just like the sun among the stars, just like Christ among all men.

God indeed desired there to be always in every grouping a chief and most excellent member, like a general in his army, a king in his kingdom, like God himself among spiritual natures, like gold among metals, precious adamant among gems, like the lion among animals, and the eagle among birds. Thus from the beginning God created the sun among the stars, the tree of life among the trees of paradise, and men among the animals. In like manner he wished Abraham to be chief among the Patriarchs, Moses among the Prophets, Aaron among the priests, David among the kings, and Peter among the Apostles. So, in my view, he created Mary, the greatest among all women. "Blessed are you among women."

Mary is also especially blessed because she has been excluded not only from fallen human nature in general, but from fallen womanhood in particular. St. Lawrence illuminates this by comparison to Eve and the ancient curse which she and all womanhood, save one, incurred as a consequence of the fall:

It is most especially manifest that the angel Gabriel removes the Virgin Mother of God from the scope of that curse which the divine power imposed, because of her sin, upon the first woman Eve, the mother of all living persons.

"I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband's power, and he shall have dominion over thee" (Gn 3, 16, Douay-Rheims).

There are three evils in this divine curse which unhappily afflicted Eve: the intensity of pain in childbirth, the heat of passion and libido in the act of conception, and subjection and servitude to her husband.

Mary was blessed among women because she gave birth to the Savior of the world without pain, while remaining a virgin, with the integrity of virginity untouched and undefiled. Because she did not feel the heat of passion, she was always a virgin most pure in mind and body, not ever stained even in thought, not in the slightest degree. For this reason she is called Virgin.

"The angel Gabriel was sent from God ... to a virgin" (Lk 1, 17);

"Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son" (Is 7, 14, Douay-Rheims);

"And Mary said to the angel: how shall this be done, because I know not man?" (Lk 1, 34, Douay-Rheims).

Neither was she subject to the third evil of the curse, subjection to man. Although Mary was betrothed to a husband, to Joseph, a man of noble lineage from the line of David, the angel revealed to him that the Virgin had conceived the only son of God.

"Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1, 21).

Therefore Joseph knew Mary's special blessedness and therefore treated his betrothed and wife with the highest honor, reverence, and veneration, treated her as the very spouse of God and therefore as his own queen.

St. Lawrence confirms his own exegesis by measuring it against the tradition of the Church as articulated by his holy and learned predecessors:

Therefore by these words of the angel, as St. Bernard says

"the ancient curse of women was removed and a new mother received a new blessing. She who knew not concupiscence was made full through grace so that, with the Spirit of the Most High overcoming her, she, who deigned not to know man, might give birth to a son" (Serm. 2 De Annunciat. V.M. n. 1; P.L. 183, 977).

Likewise Fulgentius says in De Laudibus Mariae:

"The three evils of Eve were shown to be foreclosed by the three goods of Mary. For of Eve it was said: 'In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband's power, and he shall have dominion over thee' (Gn 3, 16, Douay-Rheims).

Mary, on the contrary, was elevated by three most illustrious goods; consider: the angelic salutation, the divine benediction, and the fullness of grace. Thus we read that the angel greeted her: 'Hail full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women.'

When he said, hail, he revealed to her the heavenly greeting.

When he said, full of grace, he showed that she was entirely excluded from the ira sententiae, the anger of the first judgment and that the full grace of the original benediction was restored.

When he said, blessed are you among women, he expressed the blessed fruit of her virginity so that from this benediction whosoever among women shall have persevered may be called virgin' (See Serm. 36; P.L. 65, 899).

Therefore in the angel's benediction Mary stands opposed to Eve, declared immune and wholly free from Eve's curse. Hence the angel said, "Blessed are you among women," because he found even in her deepest recesses nothing of this ancient malediction. Blessed are you among women: all women, to be sure, in all ages, whosoever were or are yet to be. It is as the noble poet Sedulius wrote: "neither was she seen to have the first woman as an equal nor any woman thereafter" (Carm. Pasch. lib. 2, v. 68).

Finally, St. Lawrence sees in Mary a unification of the blessing of fecundity and the blessing of virginity. It is the special fruit of this virginal fecundity, a phrase St. Lawrence often uses, which most accounts for the unique blessedness announced in the angel's significant greeting. In illuminating his point St. Lawrence brilliantly links the old dispensation with the new by finding in the joyful exclamation of Leah an echo of the glorious Magnificat:

Scripture said:

"You will conceive in your womb and bear a son ... He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Lk 1, 35).

O blessed mother! "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breast that you sucked" (Lk 11, 27). This son was better to her than seven sons. Whence with Leah she could say to her own acknowledged son: "This is for my happiness: for women will call me blessed" (Gn 30, 13, Douay-Rheims).

Thus indeed Mary herself said: "For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation" (Lk 1, 48-50).

By these words, then, the Virgin herself clearly declares what the angel said to her, which Elizabeth under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, confirmed and repeated: "Blessed are you among women."

About The Author:

Dr. Joseph Almeida is Professor of Classics at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. The above article is the fourth in a series on the sermons of St. Lawrence of Brindisi on the Angelic Salutation. The series first appeared in the publication Catholics United for the Faith.

Praying with Mary

She shows us that we each have a song to sing.

Mary's Song, called the Magnificat, tells us more than any other gospel story just how Mary approached prayer (Luke 1:46-55). Mary had heard that her long-barren cousin Elizabeth was pregnant, and so she went to visit her.

When they met, the baby in Elizabeth's womb jumped for joy, and Elizabeth herself proclaimed Mary as "most blessed" among women (1:39-45). Mary was so moved by all that was happening around her that this beautiful prayer practically tumbled out of her - a prayer of praise and gratitude for the God who was doing such marvelous things.

At the beginning of her song, Mary expresses her love for God by saying, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord" (Luke 1:46). Then she goes on to express a key spiritual principle that Scripture illustrates over and over again:

God chooses the lowly and the humble over the proud, even though the proud are often more educated and more qualified. Mary saw that God reaches out to the needy. She understood that God sends his strength to those who know that they are weak, and his grace to those who know they cannot survive without it. By contrast, he leaves those who do not see any need for him empty and barren (1:52-53).

Just as Elizabeth announced Mary as blessed among women, the angel Gabriel greeted her as the "favored one," acknowledging that the Lord was with her in a special way (Luke 1:28). Just as the rain falls from the sky and fills our rivers and streams, so the grace of God flowed from heaven and filled Mary completely. Divine grace perfected her, and that is why she was able to become God's handmaid - and even his mother - to such a complete extent.

Mary's Magnificat disposition allowed God to do in her the very thing he wants to do in us - transform her into his likeness. What Mary did not understand when Gabriel first met her, she eventually found out (Luke 1:34). What she did not know when her young son told her "Did you not know that I must be in my father's house?" (2:49), she eventually came to understand. Whenever Jesus did something that was new and unexpected, Mary's first thought was always to take careful note and ponder it prayerfully.

A Song from the Heart. So what does Mary's Magnificat teach us? It shows us that Mary wanted to honor God with her whole being; it shows us that she was mindful of the great things God had already done for his people; and it shows that she was willing to do whatever God asked of her.

Just like Mary, each of us has our own song that we sing to the Lord. This song is our response to whatever work of grace he is accomplishing in us. In Mary's case, her song became her very philosophy of life. It was her song that guided her, not the various circumstances she faced - not even the possibility of divorce, Herod's murderous wrath, or of the agony of watching her son endure a torturous death.

This is not to say that Mary was unaffected by what happened around her. It did mean that she wanted the decisions she made in these circumstances to be influenced by the Spirit's leading. Similarly, our song to the Lord will be as rich as Mary's as we learn to tell Jesus: "I need your grace because I want to do your will in everything - in the joyful times of life, in the challenging times, and in the painful times as well."

Source: wau.org

The History of the Term Theotókos

by Fr. O'Carroll

Theotókos (a Greek word meaning God-bearer) is the ancient Eastern title for Mary, Mother of God, prominent especially in liturgical prayer in the Orient down to our time (1). It was formally sanctioned at the Council of Ephesus (2). It makes into one word the Lucan title "Mother of the Lord" (1:43) with 2:12, where Lord is taken in a transcendent sense; it is the counterpart of John's "the Word was made flesh" (1:14).

From the second century, Mary's Son was called God by the Fathers; a Christian interpolation in a Jewish book of the Sibylline oracles reads "a young maiden will bear the Logos of the highest God." The precise origin in time of the word itself is difficult to establish. It is attested by a unique piece of evidence: the papyrus fragment in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, on which, in the vocative case, it is clearly discernible (3). If this papyrus can be dated in the third century, the title must have existed for some time, possibly a generation, before. A word of such significance would not be invented in a popular prayer.

Since Egypt was the homeland, Christian thinking, or verbal composition, may have been influenced by the existence of the title "Mother of god" for Isis in regard to Orus; the adaptation was possibly first made in Coptic. The differences between Mary and Isis were well clarified: she was "the handmaid of the Lord," the chaste virgin whose Son was true God and true man, whereas Isis was seen as a goddess, one who conceived her son in passion, entirely removed from the mysterious destiny of the Incarnation.

Texts from Hippolytus of Rome and Origen showing Theotokos are controverted, and at present the first certain literary use of the title is attributed to Alexander of Alexandria in 325 (4). Thereafter it is found widely, especially with St. Athanasius and the Alexandrians, in Palestine with Eusebius of Caeserea and Cyril of Jerusalem, with the three Cappadocians, with Eustathius of Antioch and the Council of Antioch in 341, Apollinarius of Laodicea, Diodorus of Tarsus, Severian of Gabala - even Arians like Asterius the Sophist used it.

About The Author:

The late Fr. O'Carroll wrote widely on theological and ecumenical topics and was an internationally known Mariologist. He was a member of the Pontifical Marian Academy, the French Society for Marian Studies, and an Associate of the Bollandistes. This article was excerpted from Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Michael Glazier Inc., 1983.

References:

(1) Cf. V. Schweitzer, "Alter des Titels Theotokos," Der Katholik, 28 (1903), 97-113; Cl. Diltenschneider, C.SS.R., Le sens chrétien et la maternité divine de Marie au IVe et Ve sičcles (Bruges, Beyaert, 1929); G. Jouassard, Maria, I, 85-86, 122-36; A. Grillmeier, S.J., Christ in Christian Tradition (London, 1965), 73-74, 244; G. Giamberardini, O.F.M., Il culto mariano in Egitto nei primi sei secoli: Origine-Sviluppo-Cause (Cairo, 1967), ch. 6, art 4; id., "II ‘Sub tuum praesidium' e il titolo ‘Theotokos' nella tradizione egiziana," MM 31 (1969), (6. L'Origine del titolo ‘Theotokos') 350-58; id., "Nomi e titoli mariani," EphMar 23 (1973), (5. Madre di Dio) 214-17; R. Laurentin, Traité, V, 170-71; R.H. Fuller, "New Testament roots to the Theotokos," MSt 29 (1978), 46-68.

(2) See O'Carroll's entry on St. Cyril of Alexandria.

(3) See O'Carroll's entry on the Sub Tuum Praesidium.

(4) PG 18, 568 C.

Unless They Are Agreed
Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? (Amos 3:3).

In order to walk with God, one must agree with Him. In order to experience the fulfillment of His promises in our lives, we must agree with what those promises say - whether we understand how they could ever come to pass or not.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would give birth to a son, she asked, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" (Luke 1:34).

A pretty fair question, don't you think? It seemed impossible to Mary. She could not get her mind around how Gabriel's announcement could ever come to pass.

I love the angel's response to her question, "The Holy Spirit…" (Luke 1:35). That is the answer to your impossibilities as well. When you can't understand how a promise from God could ever be fulfilled, the answer is "The Holy Spirit!"

At this point Mary could have said, "No way! This makes no sense to me. I don't accept it!" But she didn't. She said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

Mary agreed with God's promise and accepted it. Then the miracle happened.

Whatever you are facing today, make the decision to agree with God and His promises. The Holy Spirit can bring His Word to pass!

Source: Answers with Bayless Conley

More Resources For Study and Reflection

We celebrate the Nativity of Virgin Mary on September 8. To learn more about St. Mary, her life, and her role in the Church, please visit Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary.

You can access Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary at:
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/shunoyo/StMary.htm

 Malankara World Library with devotionals, prayer, essays and sermons are available at:

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http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Default.htm

Pray for Peace in Syria
Pope Francis has called Saturday, September 7, 2013 as a day of Prayer for Syria.

As we all know, many Christians in Syria are being persecuted. Two Orthodox Bishops are kidnapped and are being held against their will; their whereabouts are unknown. Several priests are also held against their will.

Please pray for the people of Syria and for God to strengthen the resolve of leaders to end the fighting and to choose a future of peace.

Prayer for Peace in Syria

God of Compassion,
Hear the cries of the people of Syria,
Bring healing to those suffering from the violence,
Bring comfort to those mourning the dead,
Strengthen Syria's neighbors in their care and welcome for refugees,
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
And protect those committed to peace.

God of Hope,
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and to seek reconciliation with enemies,
Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria,
And give us hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.

We ask this through Jesus Christ,
Prince of Peace and Light of the World,
Amen.

Petition: For the people of Syria, that God may strengthen the resolve of leaders to end the fighting and choose a future of peace.

Prayer Source: USCCB

Health Tip: How to Navigate a Cancer Diagnosis
Pioneering Psychotherapist Shares Strategies for Managing Anxiety & Maintaining Emotional Wellness

Unlike many of the most important events in one's life - graduation, marriage, having a child - almost no one anticipates a cancer diagnosis.

This year, nearly 239,000 U.S. men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 232,000 women will learn they have breast cancer, according the American Cancer Society. Over their lifetimes, nearly half of all men can expect a cancer diagnosis, and more than a third of women.*

"Thankfully, we now have many tools for detecting cancers early and treating them successfully. But learning you have cancer remains one of life's most frightening and stressful experiences," says cancer psychotherapist Dr. Niki Barr, author of "Emotional Wellness, The Other Half of Treating Cancer," (canceremotionalwellbeing.com).

"Developing ways to help patients address their emotional well-being throughout their medical journey, still lag behind medical advances, but physicians and psychologists recognize that healing improves when both the physical and emotional needs of patients are served."

In her years of clinical practice working exclusively with cancer patients and their loved ones, Barr developed an Emotional Wellness Toolbox that patients stock with what Barr has found to be the most effective tools.

Here are some of her tools for managing anxiety - a normal and emotionally healthy response to a cancer diagnosis, but one that can spiral out of control.

Catch your anxious thoughts. Stop anxious thoughts - thoughts about fear, unease and worry -- before they lead to anxiety. Start by writing your thoughts down on individual note cards and identifying the first one that's leading to you feeling anxious. Then the next one. When you've identified all of your anxious thoughts, go back to the first one and, on the card, write a new thought that will not make you feel anxious. It should be a thought that is confident and empowering. Continue down the list and do the same for each anxious thought.

Erase 'what if' thinking. What if the cancer has spread? What if the treatment doesn't work? One 'what if' leads to another and often spirals into anxiety. Be aware when you start asking 'what if' and instead ask yourself, "Is this thought helping me or hurting me?" and "Is this thought moving me forward or backward?"

Ground yourself. Interrupt a chain of anxious thoughts by focusing on details around you. Look at the color of the walls in the room you're in; take in the pictures on the walls, the books on the shelves and the titles on their spines; look at the person you're talking to, the color of their eyes, the clothes she's wearing. Being very focused on external details can derail anxious thoughts.

Use distraction. Choose a favorite place and visit it. Absorb everything about it - the colors, smells, any people involved, the sounds, tastes, how it feels. Build it up very clearly in your mind, going over and over it, so it can become a distraction tool. When you're waiting for a medical test or procedure, undergoing a procedure, or any other time you need to "be" somewhere else, call up your distraction and visit.

Other tools for your box include meditation CDs that use guided imagery; favorite music CDs; and a journal to record your thoughts and feelings.

"Being able to manage your anxiety enables you to move forward through cancer whether patient, caregiver or family member," Barr says. "Don't tell yourself you can't handle whatever you're going through. Yes, you can ... five minutes at a time."

*The data does not include non-melanoma skin cancers, the most common diagnosis.

About Niki Barr, Ph.D.

Niki Barr, Ph.D. founded a pioneering psychotherapy practice dedicated to working with cancer patients in all stages of the disease, along with their family members, caregivers and friends. In her book, she describes an "emotional wellness toolbox" patients can put together with effective and simple strategies, ready to use at any time, for helping them move forward through cancer.

Family Special: Ten Insights to Help Us Better Relate to Others

by Anna Kuta

How can we better relate to the people we encounter around us on a daily basis? Thom Rainer tackles this question in a blog post analyzing a recent Harvard Business Review article about understanding people. Rainer summarizes 10 key questions from the article that give an insight into understanding the "why" and "how" of a person:

What is the talk-to-listen ratio?
Does the person give or take energy?
Does the person act or react?
Is the person real or fake?
Do you know his or her spouse?
How does this person treat someone he or she doesn't know?
Has this person struggled in his or her own life?
What does this person read?
Would you go on a long car ride with this person?
Is this person self-aware?

Rainer cautions that "these guidelines do not necessarily mean we are to avoid those who don't measure up on all 10 points." To the contrary, he says, "as Christians we are called to relate to people who might not 'normally' be our best friend. We are to have big hearts that have room for a host of hurting people."

So how can we as Christians effectively build better relationships with those around us? In an article on Crosswalk.com titled "Get Along Better with Coworkers," Whitney Hopler lists some ways to build better relationships with people at work, even those who are difficult to get along with. In another Crosswalk.com article titled "Build Better Relationships," Jeanne Doyon states: "As a Christian I am God's representative to a dying world. Even if I don't say a word, my actions reveal my heart attitude. Scripture offers many examples to follow to express love for one another." Doyon goes on to say: "Relating to others begins with how I relate to the Savior of my soul. Until I love the Lord with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength I will be unable to fully express that love unselfishly to others. As I experience His love and grace, my outward actions will dramatically change. I will be led by a spirit of humility. This radical love will begin to transform my relationships the same way they did for those whom Jesus loved throughout Scripture."

Do you agree that relating to others better begins with first understanding them better? How can we work to understand and build relationships with those around us to ultimately show them the love of Christ?

Anna Kuta is the editor of ReligionToday.com.

Source: Live It Devotional

Humor: Newton's Laws
Ten Laws Newton Forgot To State.

1. LAW OF QUEUE:

If you change queues, the one you have left will start to move faster than the one you are in now.

2. LAW OF TELEPHONE:

When you dial a wrong number, you never get an engaged one.

3. LAW OF MECHANICAL REPAIR:

After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch.

4. LAW OF THE WORKSHOP:

Any tool, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.

5. LAW OF THE ALIBI:

If you tell the boss you were late for work because you had a flat tyre, the next morning you will have a flat tyre.

6. BATH THEOREM:

When the body is immersed in water, the telephone rings.

7. LAW OF ENCOUNTERS:

The probability of meeting someone you know increases when you are with someone you don't want to be seen with.

8. LAW OF THE RESULT:

When you try to prove to someone that a machine won't work, it will!

9. LAW OF BIO-MECHANICS:

The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.

10. LAW OF COFFEE:

As soon as you sit down for a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

How can Newton the greatest scientist of our times be left behind.

NEWTON STRIKES BACK WITH LAW NO 11.

THE LAW OF MOTION.

LOOSE MOTION CANNOT BE DONE IN SLOW MOTION!!! 

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