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Discipleship in Mary
Catholic Exchange ^ | March 25, 2004 | Matthew Tsakanikas

Posted on 03/25/2004 5:24:33 AM PST by Desdemona

by Matthew Tsakanikas

Discipleship in Mary


It is little wonder that with Saint Paul explaining Jesus in terms of the true and last Adam (1 Cor 11:45; Rom 5), we find Saint John the Apostle explaining Mary in terms of the true and last Eve. The concept of the ultimate fulfillment of prophecies was a core Christian principle amongst Jesus’ Apostles. Jesus himself relayed to His hearers, “I did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.”

War Begins in Eden; Victory Declared in Revelation

To know and love Jesus better now as beloved disciples, we must know Mary as our loving Mother, the fulfillment of the promised “woman,” not only the one Isaiah spoke of, but also of “the woman” in Genesis 3:15 to whom Moses pointed.

According to God’s providence, we find that right after the chapter of the Suffering Servant who redeems Israel [Jesus](Is 53), Isaiah depicts a woman originally abandoned by God [figure of Eve, not just Israel] who upon the Suffering Servant's death is made fruitful again [now fulfilled in Mary]. This woman’s children — through the Lord’s power, not man’s — are made more numerous than she who has an earthly marriage (Is 54:1). The prophecy was not fulfilled until Jesus our Suffering Servant gave His mother Mary to be the mother of every beloved disciple, every Christian (Jn 19:26-27), thus making her the new Eve.

Mary who never “knew” man (Ever-Virgin), became the new Eve (“Mother of the Living” Gen 3:20) when in the fullness of time, God sent His only Son to restore what was lost in the first Adam. Now, by the power of the Holy Spirit forming Jesus’ humanity in us and thus sharing His divinity, Mary is made fruitful. For just as surely as Mary is the mother of Jesus, she is the mother of Jesus in us, His mystical body, and therefore just as truly our Mother. Through her Immaculate Conception, Mary was already privately anointed the new Eve, but at the Crucifixion she was publicly presented to us: “Behold your Mother” (Jn 19:27). A further explanation will help us understand her role as New Eve.

Reading carefully the third chapter of Genesis, we find a prophecy about a war between a “woman” and her “offspring” and the “serpent” and his “offspring,” engaged in a mortal combat as a result of the original sin. The chapter closes with the angel of God blocking the way back into Eden with a flaming sword, particularly fitting in that the serpent who wrecked man’s relationship with the Father was a fallen angel. The existence of angels and heavenly realities were obvious, not only to Moses, but to Jesus’ Apostles, too. These events were not dusty myths, but immediate and urgent realities to them.

Saint John the Apostle opened his Gospel with the phrase, “In the beginning” the opening words of Genesis. By his opening words, John wanted his hearers to understand that by the coming of Jesus Christ God had started a new heavens and a new earth.

With this in mind it is no surprise that Saint John viewed Mary as the new Eve. The Book of Revelation picks up on the train of thought that Jesus and Mary are the ultimate fulfillment of the opening chapters of Genesis and a renewed creation. Chapter twelve resumes the figures in Genesis 3:15 of “the woman” and her “offspring” and the “serpent” and his “offspring.” The “male child” (Rev 12:5) born of the woman is clearly Jesus Christ the promised “offspring” (Gen 3:15; the dragon is the “ancient serpent [of Eden]” (Rev 12:9), the Devil, and his offspring are the fallen angels. The fallen angels are called “its” angels and so are rightly seen as “offspring.” Clearly then the figure of the woman who gave birth to the child is depicted as the ultimate Eve...Mary.

Notice that the Devil has “its” angels (Rev 12:7). Rightly we refer to them as his offspring even though he did not give them physical birth. In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells those who refuse to listen, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning...he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44). In Revelation 12 the devil is depicted as a murderer trying to devour the child and called the “deceiv[er] of the whole world” (Rev 12:4, 9). “The woman” is depicted as having “her offspring,” those “who keep God’s commandments, and bear witness to Jesus” (Rev 12:17).

Just Because She Was Perfect, That Does Not Mean It Was Easy

Catholics easily fall in to the trap of thinking Mary’s holiness came easily. It did not. We have all received special graces from God, but like the Prodigal Son, we squander them and have no gratitude to the Father who bestowed them. Mary however chose the harder path. Every day she chose to continue to sacrifice her will to the will of the Father.

Certainly God’s grace was unique to her, as unique as the grace given at her conception in Saint Anne’s womb (the Immaculate Conception), but this did not steal from Mary’s freedom. Having to say “no” to herself so that the will of God could reign in her and for all mankind was a constant and difficult sacrifice. What godly and innocent woman would not revolt at the thought of being misunderstood — possibly even viewed as an adulteress — by her betrothed? That took gut-wrenching humility...almost being disowned by Saint Joseph. What a test of trust in God — as great as that of Abraham! What loving mother is not deeply pierced to know that hundreds of children two years old and younger were slaughtered on account of the birth of her son? What loving mother is not revolted to know her son is destined for a horrifying death and then to have to helplessly watch? We honor Mary’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart because it was real, as real as the suffering of Jesus in His Sorrowful Mysteries, and with Jesus, her suffering was for our sakes, not hers alone.

Mary shows us what it means to be the faithful disciple of Jesus, and Jesus desires to find in us a will as submissive as hers. This is partly why He wanted us to know her as our Mother. Jesus tells us what we must do to be saved: “Believe in Him whom God has sent.” Through Elizabeth, the Holy Spirit Himself testifies that Mary ultimately fulfills this call to discipleship: “Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit...said, ‘Most blessed are you among women...Blessed are you who believed what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled’” (Lk 1:41-44). Mary believed in Jesus from the start and was the first to believe in Him. At the Annunciation she gave God her “Fiat” (“be it done”), her “Yes,” and did not turn back despite the awesome odds she faced. Under the weight of the cross she did not despair, but trusted God as she experienced absolute anguish.

Now, together with her (discipleship in Mary), we must say “Yes” to Jesus’ coming and not turn back. We must heed her original public command at the Wedding Feast in Cana: “Do whatever [Jesus] tells you” (Jn 2:5).

Mary and the Rosary

Whether it was at major apparitions such as Lourdes or Fatima, or locally-approved ones like Betania or Akita, the message remains the same. Mary tells us to pray the Rosary daily. Why? How could a prayer outside of the Mass be so important to her? To Jesus?

The Rosary is a tool that trains us to be beloved disciples. In order to understand why, we must understand meditation because the Rosary is a meditation on the mysteries of Jesus’ Salvation and Mary’s discipleship.

Saint Paul uses the analogy of Christians being in the ultimate competition for the salvation of their souls and says, “I do not box as one beating the air; but I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:26-27). Athletes easily understand the importance of meditation. Mental visualization and preparation are just as key to winning as the physical activity. This understanding is summed up in the popular phrase concerning competition that it is “90% mental and 10% physical.” So don’t only consider the Virgin Mary as your mother, consider her also as your personal trainer in the faith. When she recommends the Rosary, she is getting you ready for the big fight.

Consider the strength available to you in the Sorrowful Mysteries: It’s not going to be every day that you feel so beaten down in anticipation of what is coming that you call out, “Father take this cup from me!” However, the time will come when your enemies are on their way because you refused to give in to corruption; you will be diagnosed with cancer or worse; or, you will be faced with continuing God’s will or turning back. Will you say with Christ to the Father, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done?” Or will you get mad at God that things are not going your way? If you’ve been meditating on this mystery you will be prepared to face these challenges with Christ. You will continue with Mary in discipleship. You will accept that God can bring good out of any evil and you will persevere in faith.

It’s not going to be every day that someone rips the flesh off your back with a scourging whip, but as a human, the powers of your flesh will always seek to be satisfied. Our flesh contains many powers and desires: the desire to be liked or be important, the desire for foods, the desire for the sexual, for pleasure or relaxation. While good in themselves, they can become disordered. When desires override what you know to be the will of God, are you capable of saying “No” to them? Jesus certainly didn’t want the struggle of feeling His flesh subject to such torture, but went through it to strengthen us when we feel the torture of saying “No” to ourselves. If we are meditating on this mystery, then when we are called to the line to fight we will be prepared to face the challenge.

It’s not going to be every day that someone wishes to crown us with thorns, but truly in western society the persecution has begun. The soldiers put the crown on Jesus' head because He testified to the truth and so they wanted to mock Him and hurt Him. Do you avoid speaking the truth because you are afraid of the crown of thorns that awaits? When people mock you for speaking the truth, do you hate them and lash out? Jesus didn’t lash out. When Mary says “Think about the Passion of my Son,” she is pointing out the mysteries that have within them the strength to make us true disciples of Jesus.

Jesus did not throw down His cross because it was too heavy. Obedient to His Father, He fell beneath it three times. We are called to daily take up our cross and follow Him. Maybe our own sinfulness weighs us down and so we fall. Maybe we begin to think we’ll never complete God’s will — the way seems too steep and long. God just asks us to be faithful, not successful, as Mother Theresa said. We need to keep trying despite the odds. If we meditate on this mystery then we will know that God always sends the help we need. The Father inspired the soldiers to get Saint Simon of Cyrene to help Jesus carry His cross. Surely He will send others to help those baptized in to His Son carry theirs. Meditation on this mystery will convince us to never give up.

Finally, if we have been “beloved disciples” the time will come when it seems all have abandoned us as we hang naked upon a cross. Otherwise, we should question if we have lived trying to fit into the world rather than trying to transform it in Christ. No servant is greater than the Master. If they treated the Master in such a manner, think of what they will do to the disciples. This mystery forces us to remember that life can get bad. Living for God in a corrupt world usually means a clash of cultures — the culture of life and the culture of death. Such suffering seems meaningless to the world and is mocked by it. However, Jesus’ obedient suffering made reparation for mankind’s disobedience and sin (Rom 5), so too, since Jesus lives in us, our obedient suffering will make reparation for the disobedience of others. Suffering has value and meaning. If we think on the Passion of Jesus we will not despair in the face of suffering.

Fear not. Just as God was working out our salvation in Jesus on the Cross, so too God is helping you work out your salvation in fear and trembling. The same woman who comforted Jesus in His ignominious death on the Cross stands ready to help us in the Rosary as she prays for us “now” and at the hour of our death.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Current Events; General Discusssion; History; Moral Issues; Prayer; Religion & Culture; Theology
KEYWORDS: annunciation; mary; rosary

1 posted on 03/25/2004 5:24:33 AM PST by Desdemona
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To: Desdemona
Oh goodie a Marian thread. Where's my DeMontfort url?
2 posted on 03/25/2004 6:19:28 AM PST by biblewonk (The only book worth reading, and reading, and reading.)
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To: Desdemona
To know and love Jesus better now as beloved disciples, we must know Mary as our loving Mother

Got chapter and verse?

3 posted on 03/25/2004 6:20:26 AM PST by biblewonk (The only book worth reading, and reading, and reading.)
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To: Desdemona
Isaiah 54

A Perpetual Covenant of Peace

A Promise of Everlasting Kindness
1 "Sing, O barren,
You who have not borne!
Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,
You who have not labored with child!
For more are the children of the desolate
Than the children of the married woman," says the LORD.
2"Enlarge the place of your tent,
And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings;
Do not spare;
Lengthen your cords,
And strengthen your stakes.
3For you shall expand to the right and to the left,
And your descendants will inherit the nations,
And make the desolate cities inhabited.

4"Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame;
For you will forget the shame of your youth,
And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.
5For your Maker is your husband,
The LORD of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth.
6For the LORD has called you
Like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit,
Like a youthful wife when you were refused,"
Says your God.
7"For a mere moment I have forsaken you,
But with great mercies I will gather you.
8With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,"
Says the LORD, your Redeemer.

9"For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;
For as I have sworn
That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
So have I sworn
That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
10For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,"
Says the LORD, who has mercy on you.

11"O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
12I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones.
13All your children shall be taught by the LORD,
And great shall be the peace of your children.
14In righteousness you shall be established;
You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
And from terror, for it shall not come near you.
15Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me.
Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake.

16"Behold, I have created the blacksmith
Who blows the coals in the fire,
Who brings forth an instrument for his work;
And I have created the spoiler to destroy.
17No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
And their righteousness is from Me,"
Says the LORD.
4 posted on 03/25/2004 7:29:38 AM PST by biblewonk (The only book worth reading, and reading, and reading.)
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To: biblewonk
The obvious difficulty with this whole scheme is that the woman spoken of in Rev. 12 is figurative (the book is, after all, a book in symbols; "signified" in Rev. 1:1).

We have no more reason to believe that the woman refers to a particular person (e.g., Mary) than we do believe that "the harlot" of Rev. 17 refers to a particular person.

In fact the rest of the imagery in Rev. 12 would lead us to an opposite conclusion. E.g.,
- The Woman is clothed with the sun, moon, and stars. A Jewish believer of the 1st century would recall the dream of Joseph where he describes his family (Israel) in these terms (Gen. 37). In fact this is what happened after he became an official in Egypt.
- The Woman is persecuted and is carried away into the wilderness for a definite period of time. An obvious reference to the bondage and protection of Israel as they fled from Egypt. True Israel, the church, was persecuted and forced to flee Jerusalem after Christ's ascension (Matt. 24:9; Luke 21:21).

The Israel imagery/connection in Rev. 12 cannot be ignored.

5 posted on 03/25/2004 8:40:03 AM PST by topcat54
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To: NYer; GirlShortstop; ArrogantBustard; ninenot; Pyro7480; BlackElk; B-Chan; american colleen; ...
6 posted on 03/25/2004 8:45:15 AM PST by Desdemona (Music Librarian and provider of cucumber sandwiches, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary. Hats required.)
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To: All
Please, see today's Mass readings for more reflections on Mary as our spiritual mother.
7 posted on 03/25/2004 9:03:50 AM PST by Desdemona (Music Librarian and provider of cucumber sandwiches, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary. Hats required.)
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To: Desdemona
read later
8 posted on 03/25/2004 9:49:29 AM PST by LiteKeeper
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To: Desdemona
Thank you for this.
9 posted on 03/25/2004 1:13:28 PM PST by walden
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To: biblewonk
Got chapter and verse?

Did Martin Luther have chapter and verse when he upheld the ever virginity of the Mother Of God?

Then, we could veer off to the "sola scriptura" matter, that is really the crux.

I like those discussions, for the sake of lurkers, who might give it a think; do some investigating on when this novel doctrine appeared; and weigh the evidence to decide.

10 posted on 03/25/2004 3:50:40 PM PST by don-o
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To: don-o
Did Martin Luther have chapter and verse when he upheld the ever virginity of the Mother Of God?No, and Martin Luther was wrong about other things as well. Luther wasn't our pope, and doesn't establish truth.
11 posted on 03/26/2004 12:58:12 PM PST by aimhigh
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To: aimhigh
No, and Martin Luther was wrong about other things as well. Luther wasn't our pope, and doesn't establish truth.

If he was wrong about "other things" possibly wrong about "sola scriptura"?

Or right about that?

Kinda tough to pick and choose. By what standard?

12 posted on 03/27/2004 9:49:06 AM PST by don-o
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To: don-o
Sorry, I don't see Martin Luther's name in the bible. You seem to think he carries a lot of weight with me in this area or something.
13 posted on 03/27/2004 10:12:26 AM PST by biblewonk (The only book worth reading, and reading, and reading.)
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To: biblewonk
Sorry, I don't see Martin Luther's name in the bible.


You really do not understand that Martin Luther is the father of the "me and my Bible" apologetic?

You don't admit to that?

If not, from what?

14 posted on 03/27/2004 12:26:43 PM PST by don-o
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To: Desdemona
Why do I sense an anti-Catholic scree coming on? Any mention of Mary seems to set one off.
15 posted on 03/27/2004 1:16:01 PM PST by fidelis (fidelis)
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To: topcat54
"The obvious difficulty with this whole scheme is that the woman spoken of in Rev. 12 is figurative (the book is, after all, a book in symbols; "signified" in Rev. 1:1)."

I would generally agree with this except in the passage in question (Rev. 12:1-17) all of the other characters are clearly identifiable individuals. For example. the male child is Jesus (vv 2, 4, 5 and 13), Michael the archangel is Michael the archangel (v 7) and the great dragon is "that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deciever of the whole world (vv 3-4, 7, 9-10, 12-13, 15-18). This is of course, the individual Satan.

So in context, and in consistency with the rest of the passage, if all these are all individuals, then so is the woman, at least on one level (you can also admit an additional symbolic level). Furthermore, if we can acknowledge that the male child is the individual Jesus, which is plain, then the individual who gave birth to him (v. 5) is--surprise--Mary.

16 posted on 03/27/2004 1:33:36 PM PST by fidelis (fidelis)
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To: don-o
Kinda tough to pick and choose. By what standard?By the standard of God's Word.
17 posted on 03/27/2004 1:36:07 PM PST by aimhigh
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To: fidelis
18 posted on 03/27/2004 4:39:34 PM PST by fidelis (fidelis)
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To: don-o
I'd say the bible itself is the Father of the "bible only" thing. Read it and see how many places it exalts itself.
19 posted on 03/28/2004 11:55:24 AM PST by biblewonk (The only book worth reading, and reading, and reading.)
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To: Desdemona
The Annunciation of the Lord

The Annunciation of the Lord
March 25th

Readings - History - Family Observance - Activities with Children - Mary's Flowers
Icon - Incarnation -
Homily of John Paul II, 3/25/00 - Homily of John Paul II, Aug 15, 2004

Fra Angelico - The Annunciation. Fresco. San Marco, Florence (detail)

Readings and Collect:
God our Father,
Your word became man and was born of the Virgin Mary.
May we become more like Jesus Christ,
whom we acknowledge as our redeemer, God and man.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.


Almighty Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
You have revealed the beauty of Your power
by exalting the lowly Virgin of Nazareth
and making her the Mother of our Savior.
May the prayers of this Woman
bring Jesus to the waiting world
and fill the void of incompletion
with the presence of her Child,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.

First Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, "Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test." And Isaiah said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanu-el. Take counsel together, but it will come to nought; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11

R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Sacrifice and offering thou dost not desire;
but thou hast given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering thou hast not required.
Then I said, "Lo, I come;

R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

In the roll of the book it is written of me;
I delight to do thy will,
O my God; thy law is within my heart."

R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation;
lo, I have not restrained my lips, as thou knowest, O LORD.

R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

I have not hid thy saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of thy faithfulness and thy salvation;
I have not concealed thy steadfast love
and thy faithfulness from the great congregation.

R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Second Reading: Hebrews 10:4-10
For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, He said, "Sacrifices and offerings Thou hast not desired, but a body hast Thou prepared for Me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings Thou hast taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'Lo, I have come to do Thy will, O God', as it is written of Me in the roll of the book." When He said above, "Thou hast neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), then He added, "Lo, I have come to do Thy will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Gospel Reading: Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. 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." And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

The Annunciation
he Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, is one of the most important in the Church calendar. It celebrates the actual Incarnation of Our Savior the Word made flesh in the womb of His mother, Mary.

The biblical account of the Annunciation is in the first chapter of the Gospel of Saint Luke, 26-56. Saint Luke describes the annunciation given by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she was to become the mother of the Incarnation of God.

Here is recorded the "angelic salutation" of Gabriel to Mary, 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee" (Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum - Lk 1:28), and Mary's response to God's will, "Let it be done to me according to thy word" (fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum) (v. 38)

This "angelic salutation" is the origin of the "Hail Mary" prayer of the Rosary and the Angelus (the second part of the prayer comes from the words of salutation of Elizabeth to Mary at the Visitation).

The Angelus, a devotion that daily commemmorates the Annunciation, consists of three Hail Marys separated by short versicles. It is said three times a day -- morning, noon and evening -- traditionally at the sound of a bell. The Angelus derives its name from the first word of the versicles, Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae (The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary).

Mary's exultant hymn, the Magnificat, found in Luke 1:46-55, has been part of the Church's Liturgy of the Hours, at Vespers (evening prayer), and has been repeated nightly in churches, convents and monasteries for more than a thousand years.

The Church's celebration of the Annunciation is believed to date to the early 5th century, possibly originating at about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c 431). Earlier names for the Feast were Festum Incarnationis, and Conceptio Christi, and in the Eastern Churches, the Annunciation is a feast of Christ, but in the Latin Church it is a feast of Mary. The Annunciation has always been celebrated on March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas Day.

Two other feasts honoring Our Lord's mother, the Assumption (August 15), and the Immaculate Conception (December 8), are celebrated as Holy Days of Obligation in the United States and many other countries. New Year's Day, January 1, is observed as a Solemnity of Mary. The Annunciation was a Holy Day throughout the Universal Church until the early 20th century. Many Catholics who are deeply concerned with the defense of the life of unborn children believe it would be fitting if the Feast of the Annunciation were restored to this status. Although it seems unlikely that it will be added to the Church calendar as a Holy Day of Obligation, we can certainly take on the "obligation" ourselves to attend Mass. In any case, it is most appropriate that we encourage special celebrations in the "Domestic Church".

One sign of the significance this Christian feast had throughout Western culture is that New Year's Day was for centuries celebrated on March 25. It was believed by some ancient Christian writers that God created the world on March 25, and that the fall of Adam and the Crucifixion also took place March 25. The secular calendar was changed to begin the year on January 1 (in 1752 in England and colonies, somewhat earlier on the continent).

Another remnant of the historic universality of Christianity in the West is the use of BC (before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini The Year of Our Lord) to denote periods of time in history. There has been an attempt in some circles to change BC to BCE (before the common era), and AD to CE (common era) -- and although it is true that the religious significance of our system of dating has been effectively obliterated -- nevertheless, Christians and non-Christians alike consent to the birth of Christ as the "fulcrum" of the dating the events of human history.

Family observance of the Annunciation

In families with young children, this feast would be a good time to begin teaching youngsters important lessons about the inestimable value God places on human life.

First, that He loved us so much that He chose to become one of us to take on our humanity so completely that He "became flesh", as utterly weak and dependent as any human infant is. Second, God became "like us in all things except sin" at the moment of His conception in Mary's womb, not at some later time. The Feast of the Annunciation is a celebration of the actual Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Children may, quite naturally, think that the birth of Jesus is the time when Our Savior first "became Man", especially since Christmas has become the Christian holiday in our culture. We understand best what we can see, what is visible. The invisible, the hidden, is no less real for our lack of seeing it. (We think of the baby in its mother's womb, known and felt, though unseen, only to her.)

Even very young children can know the truth about the growth of a baby inside its mother's body, especially if the mother of the family (or an aunt, perhaps) happens to be pregnant on the holiday. The nine months' wait from March 25 to December 25 for the Baby to be born would be interesting to most children. (God made no special rules for His own bodily development!) What better way than the reading first chapter of Luke to gently begin teaching children about the beginning of each new human life?

Children should be told how important it is to every person that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1), and parents can find this feast a valuable teaching moment.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Article 3 of the Creed: "He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary" (§436-511), should be read by parents. This will not only give adults a timely review of Catholic doctrine, but it can be a great help to us in transmitting important truths of the faith to our children. The summary at the end can help formulate points we want to emphasize. Excerpts from the Catechism could be read aloud to older children.

Some other lessons that can be drawn from this important feast on the Church's Calendar are:

    • Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
    • Angels as God's messengers
    • The importance of humility, submission and obedience to God's will
    • The value of hiddenness, silence, quiet (baby in womb, Mary at home, &c.)

Family Prayers and Readings

    • Saint Luke 1:26-53 ; Magnificat (Luke 1:46-53); Psalm. 139; John 1.
    • Creed (See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, Creed, Article 3.)
    • The Angelus
    • Rosary (Five Joyful Mysteries: Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Presentation of Jesus, Finding of Jesus in the Temple)
    • Catechism: section on Angels (§328336)

Activities with children

Have children draw an Annunciation scene, with the Trinity present Father, Son and Holy Spirit as well as Mary and the Angel Gabriel. Another idea would be to make the figures from clay or play-dough, and make a "tableau" using a shallow box to represent Mary's house.

Mention that Christianity is unique in recognizing the Incarnation of the God as Jesus Christ, the Son. God's taking on a human body, while being truly and fully divine, is the reason why artistic representations of Jesus, Mary, etc., are not "idols" or "graven images" prohibited by the First Commandment. (See Catechism § 476, 466). Catholics who properly reverence images of sacred figures are actually reverencing the Person whom the image represents, not the physical object painting or sculpture or medal or whatever.

Make a flower centerpiece for the dinner table using red carnations (symbolize "incarnation"), baby's breath (innocence, spirit) and ivy (eternal fidelity). Explain how the symbolism of the flowers reminds us of the Annunciation, and the appropriateness of the gift of real flowers for the occasion. Sprinkle the flowers with Holy Water (little children love to do this!), and explain that this consecrates, or sets apart, our gift to the worship of God.

Make a special Annunciation Candle. Use a fat pillar candle of white or blue. Carve a niche in the wax large enough to fit inside it a tiny image (or picture cut from a Christmas card) of the Infant Jesus. Fasten a "curtain", made from a small piece of white cloth, over the opening with pins pushed into the wax. The candle wax represents the purity of the Virgin. The Baby is "hidden" within the body of the candle. Light the candle when the Angelus or Rosary is said on this Feast. The same candle can be saved from year to year. It can also be used on other feast days and solemnities of the Blessed Virgin (Assumption, Immaculate Conception); as well as on Pro-life observances (e.g., January 22, in the US). On Christmas the little curtain would be removed from the niche so the Holy Infant can be seen.

Substitute the regular bedtime story with looking at and talking about pictures of the Annunciation in books. There are many beautifully printed art books containing masterworks of Catholic art that can be borrowed from any public library -- or you may have some in your home library. There you may find reproduced paintings of the Annunciation by Fra Angelico, Roger van der Weyden, and others.

Make a household shrine. A statue or picture of Mary could be placed on a small table in a special place in the house. Or a picture or sculpture of Mary could be hung on the wall over a shelf or cabinet containing the Bible, prayer books and other devotional books, rosaries, &c.

On Marian feasts, especially the Feast of the Annunciation, decorate the "shrine" to "highly favored" Mary with real flowers, if possible. Carnations, roses or lilies in bud would be ideal.

If real flowers are impossible, children could make flowers symbolizing attributes of Mary from tissue or colored paper, etc. (See section on "Mary's flowers" below.) These flowers could be made into a wreath to be hung on the door or placed on a table with a statue or picture of Mary, or to surround the Annunciation Candle.

    Plant seeds of marigold (named in honor of Mary) in little pots on a window sill; wait to see them sprout and grow. While you and the children are planting these, talk about the importance of "hidden" work. As a baby grows unseen within the mother's womb, and as the sprouting seed invisibly grows under the soil, so is much essential and vital work that people do -- not visible to most people, and perhaps never known except to God.

    Transplant the seedlings to the flower bed outside when the weather permits. There's also a lesson here in the need to grow strong in the faith before we can "flower" as God intends us to do; also the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:2-20; Matt 13:3-23; Luke 8:4-15).

    Bake a special cake to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation (perhaps a traditional seed cake?), or make waffles (a Swedish tradition). An angelfood cake would also be appropriate. It could be iced in pale blue, the traditional color of Mary's mantle.

    Mary's Flowers

Israel ­ Nazareth
Saturday, March 25, 2000


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

Your Beatitude,
Brother Bishops,
Father Custos,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. 25th March in the year 2000, the Solemnity of the Annunciation in the Year of the Great Jubilee: 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).

I warmly greet Your Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah, and thank you for your kind words of presentation. With Archbishop Boutros Mouallem and all of you ­ Bishops, priests, religious women and men, and members of the laity ­ I rejoice in the grace of this solemn celebration. I am happy to have this opportunity to greet the Franciscan Minister General, Father Giacomo Bini, who welcomed me on my arrival, and to express to the Custos, Father Giovanni Battistelli, and the Friars of the Custody the admiration of the whole Church for the devotion with which you carry out your unique vocation. With gratitude I pay tribute to your faithfulness to the charge given to you by Saint Francis himself and confirmed by the Popes down the centuries.

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).

20 posted on 03/25/2010 8:53:57 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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