THE FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Thursday, December 8, 2022
This is a feast of Mary for us Catholics. In today’s gospel, we read the story of Mary’s Yes to God, her consent to bring Jesus into our world.
I offer for your reflection the Song of Mary that Luke places upon her lips ~ the Magnificat, sung or recited everywhere in the church throughout the world each evening of the year.
And as you’ll see, it has quite a radical message ~ if you allow yourself to think about it.
And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has shown strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
for he has remembered the promise of his mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers [and mothers]
to Abraham [and Sarah and Hagar] and [their] children for ever.
+ + + +
The song speaks of lowliness ~ humility. Yet it recognizes what God does in our lives.
Look with favor on US too, Lord.
Please ~ We need Your favor ~Your grace.
May we see (and accept) that You do good things for us!
May we cry out every day: Holy is Your name, my God!
Let Your mercy be on us and our world!
Show Your strength, Lord ~ the strength of Your justice!
Scatter the proud, the arrogant ones, who control so much of our world.
Cast down the mighty!
Lift up the lowly!
Fill the hungry!
Send the rich empty away, as the ones in Power often do to the poor, Lord.
Come to the help of Your people now, Lord ~ especially as this pandemic continues to claim it’ victims!
We, too, are All descendants of Abraham ~ Jew ~ Muslim ~Christian ~ non-believer.
We are all Your children, dear God,
To You be glory and honor and praise for ever. Amen!
The Evangelist Luke places these words in the mouth of Mary at the very beginning of the story of Jesus. It is the “Magnificat,” the Canticle of Mary, sung or recited by priests and nuns and monks and many more believing Christians all over the world every day of the year at Evensong. So, it’s a very important text to reflect upon.
I would like you to notice how radical this message is: “Cast down the mighty.” “Raise up the lowly.” “Send the rich away empty.”
Sounds like a pretty political message, doesn’t it?
People have been thrown into prison for saying things like that.
But these words are two thousand years old!
They’re an essential and enduring part of the Christmas story as told by Luke.
It’s a Song about Justice from the lips of Mary, the Mother of God as told by Luke. About Justice entering our world.
I have sung Mary’s Song every evening for 30 years with spontaneous melodies arising from the mood of my soul of the moment.
And in that, I try to live the song!
How do you respond, dear friend?
How do you respond?
There are political messages buried in this song that are pretty obvious for us right now as our country struggles to find itself~ or at any age or in any country.
Today, let’s reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation ~ the Christmas portion of our faith. (Again if you don’t accept this as an article of faith, then just consider it as a beautiful story; it still has power and it still can have tremendous meaning for you.)
St. John says “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Jesus saves us as man. If you look at the word “Incarnation” you’ll recognize the word “carnal” ~ meat, flesh. Our God became flesh.
“He emptied himself of his equality with God and became as humans are” (Philippians 2). The Father sent his Son into our world toidentify with us. To become one of us and with us.
God likes us ~ the human race! In Jesus, a marriage is made between God and the human race.
But this article of our Christian faith often doesn’t dawn on folks. Many think he was just play-acting ~ pretending to be human.
I offer this passage (excerpted) from St. Gregory Nazianzen, bishop and doctor of the church in the fourth century from the Advent Office of Readings:
He [Jesus] takes to himself all that is human, except sin; i.e. unfaithfulness).
He comes forth as God, in the human nature he has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit.
“Spirit gave divinity, flesh receives it.
He who makes me rich is made poor;
he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of divinity.
He who was full is made empty;
he is emptied for a brief space of glory, that I may share in his fullness.”
We need God to become one of us and with us.
To help us like and love ourselves.
To realize that Love and Beauty and all good things are our destiny.
To invite us to our future instead of destroying ourselves.
If only we believed.
If only we believed.
(Please take a moment to read over this a couple of times to get the full import of what St. Gregory is saying in his poetry.)
And if you’re new to this Advent blog, or would like a refresher, I recommend readingWelcome to Advent. Click here.Please read this! I just re-read myself and you know what? It even motivated me to do this Advent even better! So I encourage ya to read it; it’s been updated too. (And once again, don’t forget to click on the < back arrow on the top left-hand corner of your browser so you can come right back to this page!)
Take time today to allow this story of God’s love affair with the human race to touch you, embrace you, heal your heart and transform your life as it has mine.
The season of Advent is about preparing our hearts once again for a deeper experience of Christ at Christmas. Here’s a wonderful hymn that supports today’s theme: “Let all mortal men keep silence. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d care to reflect on them. Click here.
Sunday, November 27th, begins the Advent season for the liturgical Christian churches. Funny enough, we begin at the end — thinking about THE END – the end of the world. The early Christians believed Jesus was coming “soon and very soon.” The early generation of Christians thought the end would come soon. Jerusalem fell in 70 CE but Jesus didn’t come.
Paul admonishes us in Romans today:
“Now is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;the night is advanced, the day is at hand.Let us then throw off the works of darknessand put on the armor of light.”
And Jesus also admonishes us in today’s gospel (Mt. 24:37-44).
” Stay awake !
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. . . . .
You must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay tells us that no one knows the timing of the Second Coming, not the angels or even Jesus himself, but only God, and will come upon humankind with the suddenness of a rainstorm out of a blue sky. Thus, speculation regarding the time of the Second Coming, Barclay suggests, “is nothing short of blasphemy, for the man who so speculates is seeking to wrest from God which belong to God alone.
He tells us these verses are a warning never to become so immersed in time or worldly affairs, however necessary, to completely distract us from God, and our life should be in his hands, and whenever his call comes, at morning, noon or night, it will find us ready.
And these verses tell us that the coming of Christ will be a time of judgment, when he will gather to himself those who are his own. ~ Barclay: The Gospel of Matthew ~ Volume 2, pp. 315-6.
Now here’s my reflection:
Jesus wants us to be prepared ~ watchful ~ alert ~ aware ~ awake
knowing what’s happening
. . . but so many of us are asleep, Lord.
We tend to not recognize the signs of the times.
We often dull our senses ~ stay in our own little worlds.
Choosing not to care. We become complacent.
Many of us don’t want to be bothered thinking about or praying about the real issues
And thus, we go like lemmings over the cliff.
So tribulations loom. We become fearful. Threats . . .
. . . of losing our job ~ having a lump in our breast
losing health insurance because we lost our job
corruption on Wall Street and government
a new Congress
Stand erect! Face your fears with courage.
Do not fear the terror of the night! (Psalm 91.)
This is what Advent faith is all about . . .
Being vigilant. Being prepared for anything life throws at us.
Standing proudly humble or humbly proud no matter what.
That’s the kind of faith in life — in You, my God that I seek.
I want it. I ask you for it.
Today I consent to it. May we all consent to it too, as Mary did.
Amen. So be it.
Now here’s a song to get you in an Advent mood ~ an interesting take on the old hymn Soon and Very Soon by a young lady by the name of Brooke Fraser. Click here. Turn up your speakers since she has a soft voice.