Monday, December 30, 2013

THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, MOTHER OF GOD: The Door that Leads to Christ.




THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, MOTHER OF GOD: The Door that Leads to Christ.
By Herbert B. Rosana, Ph.D.

My Tribute to Mary, Mother of God.

            January 1 is not only the beginning of the Gregorian calendar but it is also celebrated by the Church as a day of Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  A timely celebration indeed, proceeded by Christmas and the feast of the Holy Innocents.  No one can outshine the Filipino people for their love and devotion to Mary.  Here in the Bicol Region we have one of the most popular Marian Devotion in the Philippines, the Penafrancia Festival.   Pope Pius XII in his radio message to the International Eucharistic Congress in Manila in 5 December 1954 called the Philippines, the Kingdom of the Rosary.  We are proud of this distinction.  But beyond this feeling there is a need for us, contemporary Filipino Catholics, to deepen our faith and understanding of Mary in relation to the history of salvation so that our devotions will become fruitful and manifest in our daily lives.  Otherwise our devotions will become empty shells devoid of meaning and fruitfulness.  As individual Christians we have the duty to know our faith, to understand it to the best we can and to possess that ability to make others understand our faith. 

            The Blessed Virgin Mary has played an important role in the life of the church and in the history of Salvation.  Sister Thomas Mary, O.P.[i] In an article described the role of Mary in different epochs of Church history.  In the Early centuries of Christianity, Mary played a very important role in defining the divinity of Christ when controversies about the nature of Christ were raging among the Christian Churches at that time.  The early church confronted the heresies of its time most especially about the nature of Christ.  The affirmation and definition of the Motherhood of Mary vanquished the Heresies of Arius and Nestorius and many other heresies.  It was the council of Ephesus that invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary and called her, Theotokus.  Theotokus means “God-bearer” or the Mother of God.  The purpose of this definition is to proclaim the human nature of Christ as well as his divinity.  That there is one God in three Divine Persons.  And that Christ is one person with two natures, divine and human.  The heresies of the early centuries of Christianity were defeated because of Mary.  Her role as defined by the Church became the instrument of this victory.  Thus, putting to an end to the bitter debate about the Christological controversies of the early centuries.  Even in the middle ages, the spread of devotion to holy rosary of the Virgin Mary put an end to the Albigensian heresy.  St. Dominic de Guzman used the rosary as a weapon to defeat the arguments of the heretics.
 
Our Lady of Salvation.  Image Displayed at the Boac Cathedral, Marinduque (Photo by the Author)
Many artefacts of the early centuries of Christianity revealed how the early Christians expressed their love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This is made more eloquent in a passage written and included in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:

“It is truly just to proclaim you blessed, O Mother of God, who are most blessed, all pure and Mother of our God.  We magnify you who are more honourable than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim.  You who, without losing your virginity, gave birth to the Word of God.  You who are truly the Mother of God.” (St. John Chrysostom).[ii] 

We read about the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the great Christological controversies of the first centuries of Christianity.  By defining her role in the history of salvation, the church has saw the Blessed Virgin Mary as the means to define the connection between the Divine and Human and to define the nature of Christ, which today we profess in the Nicene Creed.  The early Fathers such as Ignatius of Antioch, St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, and Tertulian, made mention of Mary and emphasized her role in the incarnation of Christ to defend the Catholic faith against the heretics of the time.  Origen was the first to address the Blessed Virgin as Theotokus or Mother of God.  Sub tuum praesidum” we fly unto Thee, was the oldest extanct phrase that proves that the early Christians prayed to the Virgin Mary[iii].  This same line was borrowed by St. Bernard of Clairveux in his prayer in the Memorare.[iv]   

            The second Vatican Council defined the role of Mary as the pre-eminent member of the Church, and an archetype of the Church.  In fact this is not a new doctrine since this has been expounded by ancient Christian theologians like St. Augustine and others.  The role of the Virgin Mary was like that of Eve, the mother of nations.  The Second Vatican Council says, “The Father of mercies willed that the incarnation should be preceded by the acceptance of her who was predestined to be the mother of His Son, so that just as a woman contributed to the death of humankind, so also a woman should contribute to the restoration of life.”[v]  Mary here was portrayed as a mother, the New Eve.  If Christ was the new Adam according to St. Paul, so Mary is also the new Eve.  Thus when contemplating of the beautiful icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, we see the intimacy of the Mother and her Child and their role in the redemption of Humankind.  In crafting the documents of the Scond Vatican Coucil, the council fathers struggled how to situate the role of the Virgin Mary in the documents.  One group would want to have a separate constitution on Mary, while another group wanted to put a closer bond between Mary and the Church.  Our very own, the late Cardinal Rufino Santos, debated on the floor for the proposition that a separate document be written for Mary while Cardinal Koenig wanted it integrated into the constitution about the Church.  But whatever the reasons for these debates it was not a diminution of the role of Mary but it was a matter of putting things in the context of the History of Salvation.  Mary is our Mother, because Mary is the Mother of Jesus. 

            There is a dramaturgy once we put ourselves in the presence of Calvary, (this is often the imagination I focus on when I hear Mass), there is Jesus hanging on the Cross, there is Mary grieving at the foot of the cross, her heart pierced with invisible swords of sorrows for her Son and there was John, the beloved disciple.  As the Scripture tells us:

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman behold your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.[vi]

Thus even in the sacred mysteries of the Eucharist, Mary is there, we can hear Jesus telling us, “Behold your mother.”  Mary is our mother, for it was Christ Himself who said so.  Her being the mother of Jesus was not a coincidence nor an accident as some of our protestant and fundamentalist friends may say.  But it was planned by God all along.  Even before she was conceived, it was already pre-ordained that she will be the Mother of Jesus and the mother of all Humankind and it is She together with the Son who will vanquished and subdue and crushed the head of the serpent-Satan. In Genesis it is written:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.[vii]

As a mother Mary continues to pray for us, she continues to obtain graces for us.  For in God all things live, so Mary our mother lives together with all the saints.  But Mary by her singular role as Mother of God, is pre-eminent.  She is above the angels and the saints, for she is the New Eve, the Mother of Humankind and our Mother. Christ Himself is telling us, Son, behold your Mother!  For here we behold our Virgin Mother as the door leading us to Paradise and to Jesus Himself.  Being the first disciple to follow Jesus.  She was the reason by which Jesus performed the first miracle in Cana, and Mary followed her son and bore all the pains as a mother.  Today we saw her as the image of the church, pure, triumphant.  The Song of Solomon says:

Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?[viii]

The woman who recited this magnificat:

...my soul exalts the Lord
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And Holy is His Name.
And His mercy is upon generation after generation
Toward those who fear Him.
“For He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
And sent the rich away empty-handed.
And He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our Fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.[ix]


Is now exalted as Queen of Heaven and Earth, who because of her humility and submission to God’s will has become the New Eve, mother of Humankind, she who gave birth to the Son of God, has given birth to us by showing us the way to the new birth, into the Kingdom of God. So that just as Christ gave Mary to John as Mother, Mary may also become our Mother.  As a tribute to her motherhood may I share with you this old prayer composed by St. Bernard of Clairvaux:

MEMORARE, O piisima Virgo Maria, non esse auditum a saeculo, quemquam ad tua currentem praesidia, tua implorantem auxilia, tua patentem suffragia, esse derelictum. Ego tali animates confidential, ad te, Virgo Virginum, Mater, curro, ad te veinio,  coram te gemens peccator assisto. Noli Mater Verbi, verba mea despicere; sed audi propitia et exaudi. Amen.[x]

Pray for us O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.


[i] Sr. Thomas Mary, O.P. Marian Theology up to Vatican II. [web] can be accessed at: http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/mcbride/marian-upto2vat.htm

[ii] Fr. William Saunders, Mary, Mother of God. [web]. EWTN. can be accessed at: http://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/maryc1.htm

[iii] Early Christians.org. The Devotion to the Virgin Mary in the Early Church. [on the web] can be accessed at: http://www.earlychristians.org/docs_interest/Mary.html

[iv] Michael Martin. [on the web] can be accessed at: http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/BVM/Memorare.html

[v] Lumen Gentium, Chapter VIII, par 56.

[vi] John 19:25-29 (NKJV).

[vii] Genesis 3:15 (NASB)

[viii] Song of Solomon 6:10 (RSV)

[ix] Luke 1:46-55 (NASB)

[x] REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided.  Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

MISQUOTED AND MISUNDERSTOOD THOUGH WELL-MEANING

Effective communication is indeed important.  This is specially true if the person communicating has authority and exercises an important function or office.  I had one follower of my facebook page who criticize me for posting a pro-life message.  He said that Pope Francis is not against abortion and that I should listen to the Pope.  So I was taken aback by the statement.  Where on earth did Pope Francis said that abortion was okay? I have observed that in many instances the words and spontaneous speeches and interviews of the Holy Father are misunderstood by the liberals and the secular media.  

There is one article by the famous blogger  Fr. Z in his blog. and you can read this by following the link.. about an interview with Cardinal Meisner of Cologne about receiving communion, re: the divorced. The interview with the Cardinal can be read in this.

Monday, December 23, 2013

COME LET US WORSHIP THE KING!




“And evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up into heaven.” [ 1 Timothy 3:16, Douay – Rheims Bible]

“For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.” [ Isaiah 9:6 Douay – Rheims Bible]
 For if the gospel of Christ were merely liberation from tyrannical governments or oppressive social structures, then there would be no need for Christ and His message because there are enough ideologies on the ground on this.
“COME LET US WORHSIP THE CHILD-KING!”
By Herbert B. Rosana, Ph.D.

            I am sure that in many Christmas messages today in the churches we shall hear homilies about the social relevance of Christmas, and I find it sad that only few talks about the deeper, spiritual and personal meaning of Christmas.  I am of the opinion that talking about the social relevance of Christmas would not mean anything if people are not converted or are not spiritually awake.  But to a spiritually enlightened individual charity comes as a natural consequence. This is the flaw in our modern approach to evangelization.  Too much of liberation theology spoils the real purpose and meaning of the gospel.  For if the gospel of Christ were merely liberation from tyrannical governments or oppressive social structures, then there would be no need for Christ and His message because there are enough ideologies on the ground on this.  But the gospel of Christ is beyond this world because it assures the believers the hope that this world cannot give.  Before the judgement seat of Pilate and the chief priests of the Jews, Jesus gave the testimony that His Kingdom is not of this world, otherwise His servants would have taken the sword to protect Him.  But the message of Christ is that of Transcendence.  Transcending the temporalities of human history.  This is precisely the meaning of what Jesus said in the Book of Revelations that He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end, if just to express in temporal language the nature of eternity.  This transcendence was further strengthened by the statement of Jesus when he rebuked the Jews for believing that the Kingdom of God would descend from heaven or would appear here and there at an instant.  Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is “within you [us”.  For it is with the word that the faith is preached unto us and it is with our mind and soul that we comprehend the transcendental and eschatological meaning of God’s Kingdom.
 
As the Magi from the East came bearing gifts that symbolizes the Ministry of Christ we too must come before Him bearing the very gift of ourselves, a humble and contrite heart that God will not despise.

            What does it mean then to worship the King?  The Child-king on a golden crib? No but a Child-King on a lowly manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes.  Why Christ did chose to be born in a manger and in a stable?  Why shepherds? And why in the most abject episode in the history of Israel [reeling under the burden of Roman occupation, ruled by an Idumean-Herod the Great who oppressed God’s people?]?  God works in marvellous ways and only the evidence of history and passage of time helps us understand the Will of God at work.  Often it is in the most pitiable condition that God always comes to the rescue.  It is in our weakness that God manifests His saving grace, this to demonstrate to us that He is powerful and is able to save. This experience is shared by almost every Christian who sincerely follows in the footsteps of Jesus.  St. Paul aptly expressed this point when he said, “For which cause I please myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am powerful.” [2 Corinthians 12:20, Douay – Rheims Bible].

The Holy Mass is the culmination of this homage
            To render homage to this Child-King, we need to see beyond the peripheries and draw the real meaning out of this.  This is the reason why we consider the Holy Mass a celebration of the paschal mystery for therein we celebrate the mystery of the saving work of Christ.  That is why Christmas is called Christmas because it is the mass of Christ.  Christ the bread of life (Bethlehem means the house of bread), was born in a manger, the place where sheep feed themselves.  For we as the sheep in God’s flock must feed on the living bread which is Jesus Christ.  Jesus said to the Jews, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever, and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.” (John 6:51, Douay – Rheims Bible).  This concept of eating bread is emphasized not only during Christmas but even in the last supper rites performed by our Lord.  That is why for me the Holy Mass is the most important form of worship because in a capsule our whole being is transported into the whole history of the paschal mystery of the Lord.  As if in a timeless capsule the whole ensemble of the history of salvation is captured in an instant.  For when the priest holds the bread – ‘This is Jesus the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, Happy are we are called unto this supper’ and we reply “ Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only way your word and my soul shall be healed.”  For as we accept and eat of this bread, we see the Child Jesus in the manger, we eat and partake of this bread of life, the pledge of salvation and the door of paradise opened up again for us.  Jesus in this mystery lifts the veil of the temple, he removes the fiery sword of the angel from the door of paradise and it is this bread that unites us to all the things that God has promised. 
 
The Celebration of the Paschal Mystery provides a point of convergence for the transcendent nature of our Faith
            Contemplating on these sacred mysteries, are we not moved in awe to pay attention in the Mass, to interiorly and outwardly participate?  People often misinterpret active participation to mean that everyone must do something.  Conscious of these sacred mysteries and our ability to transcend by faith the meaning of the paschal mystery of Christ will move us to a more prayerful participation in the mass.  Even as we sit and participate in the responses and acclamation, we consciously and actively participate.  Every mass will always be a Christmas and Easter as well.  For me every Mass is a Christmas and what better way to worship the Child-King than to bring our selves the gift/present, not of gold and riches but our humble hearts who seek the Lord in all sincerity and is willing to receive the promise.  May this Christmas Brings us Hope.  May Christ move us to love Him in a more personal way so that charity and justice may radiate from our hearts to others.  Merry Christmas to all of us.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

MY REFLECTION ON THE SUNDAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS



“...he did as the angel of the Lord has commanded him...” (Matt. 1:18-24)

As we anticipate with joy the coming of Christmas, we are reminded by this Sunday’s reading about a man whose life of quietness, obedience and lack of pretense has been an example of Christian Living.  A proclamation of the gospel in advance.  Yet a proclamation as powerful even as it was done simply without fanfare.  Joseph...the carpenter...foster father of Jesus and the chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of the house of David.   I wonder in awe and marvel at the wisdom of God.  Why he chose humble characters to complete the Christmas ensemble.  Joseph, Mary, the Shepherds, the magi, the animals in the stable...all characterizes and displayed humble countenance.  Indeed, the saying is true, that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.  May this Christmas reminds us of the message that the angel proclaimed:  Peace on earth and to men of goodwill.  May the Lord bless us this day and may we follow the example of St. Joseph that at the behest of a divine dream, followed the Will of God, without question.  Amen.