- Friday, 08 December 2006 09:34
The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 97: 1, 2-3ab, 3cdd-4
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
A Song From the Womb
“Rejoicing, I will rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God. He has clothed me with the garment of salvation, and with the robe of justice He has wrapped me about, as a bride adorned with her jewels” (Is 61:10). A song intoned from the womb! The Church takes the jubilant words of the prophet Isaiah and places them in the mouth of the Immaculate Conception, the Child full of grace just conceived in the womb of Saint Anne.
Prelude to the Magnificat
“Gaudens, gaudebo in Domino.” “Rejoicing, I will rejoice in the Lord.” If you would understand the text, you must sing it as the Church sings it today. The exegesis of the text is in its ravishing third mode melody; it soars pure as crystal in a kind of ecstatic cry of undiluted joy in God.
Mary herself intones the first chant of the Mass today: a kind of prelude to her Magnificat. Already — just conceived — the Child Mary begins to sing, and with her the whole Church. On no other feast of the year does the liturgy allow the Virgin Mary to open the Mass by singing in the first person singular. “Rejoicing, I will rejoice” (Is 61:10). Mary’s message, from the first instant of her Immaculate Conception, is one of joy in God.
The joy of the Immaculate Conception springs from the mystery of the Cross. The Collect says that Mary was “preserved from all stain” in foresight of the death of Christ on the Cross. Here enters the figure of the tree glimpsed in today’s First Lesson from Genesis. The tree of Eve’s mourning and weeping becomes for Mary the tree of “an unutterable and exalted joy” (1 P 1:8). Mary is the first to taste of the sweet fruit of the Tree of Life; Mary is the first to sing of the joy of the Cross. There is an extraordinary medieval painting that shows the Tree of Life with Mary on one side and Eve on the other. Eve, completely naked, is giving the bitter fruit of her sin to her own communicants in evil. From her side of the tree a skull looks out, grimacing in death. On the other side of the tree is Mary, crowned and clothed in grace and beauty. She takes pure white hosts from among the branches of the tree and, like a priest distributing Holy Communion, places them in the mouths of her own communicants in eternal life. In the branches of Mary’s side of the tree there is a crucifix. The Face of the Crucified is turned toward those who partake of the fruit of the Cross.
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- Thursday, 07 December 2006 22:39
Mary of Great Beauty
Some weeks ago, I stopped to browse at Cutler’s on Broadway, New Haven’s best and biggest record shop. For me, a visit to Cutler’s is as exhilarating as a visit to the library or the art gallery. So much to learn. So much to discover. Among the display of bestselling new releases what did see? A CD by the women known as The Anonymous 4 entitled: “La bele Marie,” — The Beautiful Mary. The cover features a 14th century Virgin and Child in limestone. The Virgin has a radiant smile; so too does the Child Jesus who, incidentally, appears to be holding a pet squirrel on a leash. The smiles of the Mother and Child are ravishing. The beauty of holiness radiates from them. Opening the the performance notes, my eyes went immediately to the epigraph: “Shining star, moon without darkness, sun giving great light, Mary of great beauty.” I was stunned. With young Yale students bustling all about me, with something quite secular playing from the loudspeakers, with the noises of Broadway in the background, there was a moment of Marian grace. “Mary of great beauty.” So long as there is room for Mary in the world, there will be room for beauty — and room for beauty means space for grace.
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- Thursday, 07 December 2006 17:39
Today is the anniversary of the death of Monsieur le Chanoine Louis François CROSET. Born at Annecy-le-Vieux in 1914, he was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral of Annecy on 7 June 1941. He exercised the sacred ministry in the diocese of Annecy from 1941 until 1952, and in the diocese of Bayonne from 1952-1990. He died on the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 7 December 1990.
Père Croset’s priestly life was marked by great suffering, by an extraordinary love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by a wonderful spiritual fruitfulness. I was privileged to be numbered among the many souls touched by his priesthood. At the end of his life Père Croset lived in a residence for elderly priests in Pau, not far from Lourdes. A number of years ago he drove me to Lourdes where, together in the February rain, we stood before the grotto and prayed this Act of Abandonment to the Blessed Virgin. Père Croset composed it in 1952 in a moment of intense moral suffering and darkness.
O Marie, ma Reine et ma Mère,
reçois en tes mains mon Acte d’Abandon
à la volonté du Père de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ,
afin qu’à l’exemple de son Fils bien aimé
et par le secours de ta Tendresse,
je laisse conduire ma vie par l’Esprit-Saint
selon les mysterieux desseins de la Trinité.
O Mary, my Queen and my Mother,
receive into your hands
my Act of Abandonment
to the will of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
so that, following the example of His beloved Son
and with the help of your tenderness,
I may let my life be directed by the Holy Spirit
according to the mysterious designs of the Trinity.
Aide-moi à livrer sans réserve tout mon être à Dieu
dans la clarté obscure de la foi,
l’élan austère de l’Espérance
et l’étreinte crucifiante de l’Amour.
Help me to surrender without reserve
my whole being to God
in the dark brightness of Faith,
the austere élan of Hope,
and the crucifying embrace of Love.
Je veux m’enfoncer en ton Coeur Immaculé
pour y devenir l’hostie que tu donneras à Jésus,
afin qu’en son sacrifice
Il me consacre à la gloire de son Père
et à la fécondité de l’Eglise son Épouse.
I want to hide myself within your Immaculate Heart
to become there the host
that you will give to Jesus,
so that He may consecrate me in His sacrifice
to the glory of His Father
and to the fecundity of His Bride the Church.
- Tuesday, 21 November 2006 09:52
Forty–two years ago today, on 21 November 1964, Pope Paul VI solemnly declared the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of the Church.
Pope John Paul II recalled this moment in a General Audience on 17 September 1997:
The title “Mother of the Church” thus reflects the deep conviction of the Christian faithful, who see in Mary not only the mother of the person of Christ, but also of the faithful. She who is recognized as mother of salvation, life and grace, mother of the saved and mother of the living, is rightly proclaimed Mother of the Church.
Pope Paul VI would have liked the Second Vatican Council itself to have proclaimed “Mary Mother of the Church, that is, of the whole People of God, of the faithful and their Pastors”. He did so himself in his speech at the end of the Council’s third session (21 November 1964), also asking that “henceforth the Blessed Virgin be honoured and invoked with this title by all the Christian people” ( AAS 1964, 37).
- Tuesday, 31 October 2006 23:25
“There is nothing that I will not do for sinners.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of All Saints is also the Mother of Mercy and the Refuge of Sinners. There is nothing that she will not do to help a fallen sinner rise from his sin. There is nothing that she will not do to draw a sinner to the Heart of her Son.
Though sinless from the moment of her conception, Mary is not repulsed by sinners; on the contrary, she is drawn to sinners. God has given her a Heart full of pity for sinners. Mary will pursue a sinner to the very gates of hell, pleading for him and pleading with him to stretch out his hand to hers. Only in the light of glory will we see the immense number of sinners rescued by the Mother of God and brought, by the ministrations of her mercy, to great holiness.
There are, I think, certain sinners whom it pleases Our Lord to reserve for his Mother. In some way, He entrusts them to her Heart and leaves them in her hands. Sinners who accept this particular disposition of the Mercy and Wisdom of God will necessarily become saints. In heaven they will shine with a particular glory reflected from Mary’s Immaculate Heart.
This perhaps is why Saint Bernard, Saint Alphonsus, the Curé of Ars and so many other saints, when confronted with hardened sinners, abandoned them into the hands of Mary as their final recourse. What no preacher can do, what no tears can obtain, Mary does and Mary obtains. While the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Queen of All Saints, she is even more the Queen of those whom she herself delivered from bondage to sin. There is nothing in the Virgin Mary that is not wholly at the service of the Mercy of God.