Monday, August 22, 2011

Mary is Queen!

"Today He transports from her earthly dwelling, as Queen of the human race, His ever-Virgin Mother, from whose womb He, the living God, took on human form."

St. Andrew of Crete

At the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel was the first to herald Mary's royal office as Queen when he announced that her Son “...will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of this kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:33)

Pope Benedict XVI beautiful explains that “The Virgin Mary was associated in a very special way with Christ’s kingship. God asked her, a humble young woman of Nazareth, to become Mother of the Messiah and Mary responded to this request with her whole self, joining her unconditional ‘yes’ to that of her Son, Jesus, and making herself obedient with him even in his sacrifice. This is why God exalted her above every other creature and Christ crowned her Queen of Heaven and earth.” (Angelus Message – Nov. 2006)

Theologians of the Church have called Mary the Queen of all creatures, the Queen of the world, and the Ruler of all. In reference to Mary's Queenship, St. Germanus wrote eloquently of the Virgin Mary, "Be enthroned, Lady, for it is fitting that you should sit in an exalted place since you are a Queen and glorious above all kings." St. John Damascene exclaimed,  "When she became Mother of the Creator, she truly became Queen of every creature." In the book The Glories of Mary, St. Alphonsus Ligouri writes, "Because the virgin Mary was raised to such a lofty dignity as to be the mother of the King of kings, it is deservedly and by every right that the Church has honored her with the title of 'Queen'."

The fifth glorious mystery of the rosary is devoted to the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After Mary's Assumption, she was solemnly crowned by her Divine Son and received by the heavenly court as Queen. This divine mystery of the ruling power of Mary, has been called the mystical crown of the heavenly Queen.

Pope Pius XII established the feast of the Queenship of Mary during the close of the 1954 Marian Year. In the Pope's encyclical letter, AD CAELI REGINAM, Pius XII instituted the feast of the Queenship to be celebrated throughout the world on May 31st. (In 1969 it was transferred to August 22nd to coincide with the feast of the Assumption.) The Pope stated that the purpose of this Feast was “... that all may recognize more clearly and venerate more devoutly the merciful and maternal sway of the Mother of God.” (Ad Caeli Reginam 51)
The Holy Father assuredly hoped that this feast would help bring about peace among nations through the intercession of the Queen of Heaven. “Is she not a rainbow in the clouds reaching towards God, the pledge of a covenant of peace?[Cf. Gen. IX, 13.] "Look upon the rainbow, and bless Him that made it; surely it is beautiful in its brightness. It encompasses the heaven about with the circle of its glory, the hands of the Most High have displayed it."[Eccl. XLIII, 12-13] Whoever, therefore, reverences the Queen of heaven and earth - and let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul - let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us. “ (Ad Caeli Reginam 51)

On this beautiful feast we are encouraged to recognize Mary's Queenship by enthroning her in our homes, consecrating ourselves to her, and asking her to reign in our hearts.

Let all, therefore, try to approach with greater trust the throne of grace and mercy of our Queen and Mother, and beg for strength in adversity, light in darkness, consolation in sorrow; above all let them strive to free themselves from the slavery of sin and offer an unceasing homage, filled with filial loyalty, to their Queenly Mother.” (Ad Caeli Reginam 48)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why do you doubt?

The Gospel reading for Sunday, August 7th, was a story that has always fascinated me.  I ran across this passage from Father Augustine Stock in his commentary on this particular reading from Matthew.  I always thought that St. Peter was a bit presumptuous to tell the Lord, if it is really you, bid me come.  This commentary was a good reflection, so I thought I would post it. 

   Peter is presented as one in whom the emotions of courage and doubt lie close together.  The hesitant expression, “if it is you” does not spring from a lack recognition, but makes explicit the “little faith” with which Jesus reproaches Peter in verse 31.  The initiative to be allowed to walk on the water must be sanctioned (“command me!” with following infinitive); only then Peter hears the imperative “come!”  A typical disciple, Peter wants to have an order to follow.
    In the Peter scene the water is mentioned explicitly (no longer the sea as earlier) which perhaps underlines Peter’s fear and helplessness.  Peter’s noticing (feeling) the strong wind suffices to revive the first fear; cosmic powers shape the hard-won trust in Jesus, who can save him from going under.  Peter’s outcry, “Lord, save me” is the culmination of Matthew’s insertion.  Ultimately, this urgency wins out in Peter that Jesus alone can help.  Jesus reaches out his hand to save.  But the reproach continues: Peter’s “little faith” (not his unbelief) is upbraided; in temptation situations “little faith” manifests itself in doubt.

How often in life's little trials do we start to doubt in the goodness of God, His love for us, and His providential care for us.  Doubting is usually a result of fear, and if we allow fear to get the upper hand it can block our faith.  Let us all cry out with St. Peter: "Lord, save me" and believe that Jesus is the source of all of our strength, and will give us the courage to walk the path that He has chosen for us. Have a great day!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Assumption of Mary

The Assumption brings to mind the "woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rev. 12: 1).  St. Cyril of Alexandria calls Mary "an everlasting light,...a symbol of orthodoxy [by whom] the fallen race of man is taken up on high."  This solemnity reflects the glory in the world to come which we may hope for since, as St. John Damascene says, "our faces shine with Mary's radiance."  Let us, after her example, diligently conform ourselves to the image of Christ on earth that we may come to our eternal home where our Mother Mary has already gone to prepare a place for us.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

St. Clare of Assisi

There is a beautiful section about St. Clare in a book entitled Clothed with Gladness that ties in with the Marian spirit of our community.  Reflecting on the prayer and contemplation of St. Clare, the author Sister Mary St. Paul wrote of  Saint Clare’s intimate relationship with Mary, the Mother of God.

“They lived heart-to-heart.  Together they ‘treasured all these things and reflected on them.’  Just as Spirit-filled prayer and reflection changes that person truly docile to their transforming power, so the prayer of Clare opened out into an entire mode of being in identification with the Virgin Mary, even in her unique divine motherhood.  In a letter to Saint Agnes of Prague, Saint Clare opened this potential to her, and to all of us, recalling that the glorious Virgin of virgins carried Christ within here – materially, physically.  Those who follow in her footsteps, by humility and especially by poverty, also carry him spiritually in their chaste and virginal bodies.
This ‘possession,’ more secure than any earthly gain, becomes a veritable life. In the ‘form of life’ which Saint Francis gave Saint Clare and her sisters, he described their Trinitarian call in terms of relationship: ‘By divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and handmaids of the…heavenly Father, and have espoused yourselves to the Holy Spirit…’
These are precisely Marian positions.”

As we celebrate the feastday of St. Clare, we pray that she may inspire in us a great love for Our Blessed Mother and thereby bring us closer to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dedication of Mary Major Basilica

Altar of the Icon

Having lived in Rome for over a year, St. Mary Major Basilica was certainly one of my favorite places to attend Mass, especially on a major feast day.

Those who attend the Vespers Service on August 5th are given a grand surprise.  Two of our Sisters were able to be present last year and recounted the occasion:

The evening ceremonies began with the recitation of the Rosary, followed by the chanting of Evening Prayer presided by Cardinal Law and ended with the celebration of the feast day Mass. The Basilica was crowded with pilgrims and the "locals." We managed to find seats in the side section in front of the chapel of Our Lady of the Snows. This positioned us for the perfect view of the "snow shower" during the Evening Prayer Magnificat. Throughout the entire chanting of this hymn white flower petals gently fell from an opening in the ceiling of the basilica. Truly it was magnificent and the Italians clapped enthusiastically. Afterward they pushed their way into the area where they could gather flower petals. It was delightful to watch these dear Italian ladies walk back with arms loaded with flower petals, stuffing them in their purses and handing them out to others. Our Lady must have smiled...

This particular display represents the snow fall on August 5th, which marked the spot for the Basilica. If you have ever been in Rome during August, you would understand why this event was such a great miracle. The local Italians leave the city every August due to the unbearable heat. So a snowfall that time of the year was a sure sign of a heavenly visitation.

According to tradition, a Roman patrician named John owned some property on the Esquiline hill, one of the 7 main hills in Rome. After marriage, this pious couple decided to dedicate their wealth to Mary and ask Our Lady what she would like done with the property. She appeared in a dream to each separately expressing her wish for a Church and said they would know the spot the next morning. During the same night, Pope Liberius, was also informed in a dream of Our Lady's wishes. The next morning, the Holy Father, met the pious couple on the Esquiline hill and there in snow lay the outline of the Church. Wishing to comply with Our Lady's desires, the basilica was begun and complete in the year 360. The “Liberian basilica” was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431. Then the Basilica was rededicated to her under that title.

Whether legend or fact, the important point is that this Basilica is the Mother of all Churches. The largest Church dedicated to the Mother of God. It celebrates the famous icon of the Virgin Mary, sometimes referred to as Our Lady of the Snows, but better known as Salus Populi Romani, or Health of the Roman People because through her intercession a miracle stopped a plague from reaching the city. In the Crypt of the Nativity, below the main altar, the Basilica houses the relic of the Holy Crib of the Nativity of Our Lord. If you are ever able to travel to Rome, I would suggest that you go during the Christmas season. Christmas in Rome is absolutely fantastic!

From the Homily of Pope Benedict, Feast of Mary, Mother of God, 2010

“Among the many typologies of icons of the Virgin Mary in the Byzantine tradition is the one called "of tenderness" that portrays the Child Jesus with his face resting, cheek to cheek, against his Mother's. The Child gazes at the Mother and she is looking at us, almost as if to mirror for those who are observing and praying the tenderness of God who came down to her from Heaven and was incarnate in the Son of man, whom she holds in her arms. We can contemplate in this Marian image something of God himself: a sign of the ineffable love that impelled him "to give his Only Son" (cf. Jn 3: 16). But that same icon also shows us, in Mary, the face of the Church which reflects Christ's light upon us and upon the whole world, the Church through which the Good News reaches every person: "You are no longer a slave but a son" (Gal 4: 7), as once again we read in St Paul.”

Basilica at Christmas.