“Mondays with Mary” – The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt

For the next seven weeks, which began last Monday, we are going to focus on the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which are prayed and meditated upon in the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa. Last week we focused our attention on the first sorrow – The Prophecy of Holy Simeon. This week we continue our studies concentrating on the second sorrow, The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt. To learn more about the Rosary and Litany, if you haven’t read my previous posts, I would highly encourage you to do so.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, we read,

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.”

The Flight into Egypt by the Holy Family recounts the typological connections between Jesus and some of the Old Testament figures that also fled into Egypt. In the Book of Genesis, we see Jacob and his entire family flee into Egypt (46:1-7). In the Book of Exodus, we see the entire Israel nation; descendants of Jacob (also known as Israel) come from the land of Egypt (12:37). Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel and is considered the New Israel. With him, the new People of God come into being as the Church. Furthermore, we see the connection between Jesus and Moses, both were saved through God’s divine will as infants only to lead and establish the Lord’s people (Ex. 2:1-10).

the-flight-into-egypt-1650

At the command of God, Joseph, as head of the Holy Family and protector of their lives, takes the child and his mother and escapes the onslaught of what’s to come due to Herod’s fury (see Mt 2:16-18). During the New Testament centuries, there were large Jewish communities in the Egyptian colonies of Alexandria and Elephantine where Jesus, Mary, and Joseph could hide and feel protected from the hand of Herod.

To fulfill what the Lord had spoken in Hosea, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son “(11:1), St. Matthew anticipates that return of Jesus as the Son as the fulfillment of this scripture verse in two ways. First, Hosea should make us think back to the Book of Exodus when God calls Israel his “first-born son” (4:22). It is here where Israel is freed from the slavery under Pharaoh. Second, it brings us forward knowing that Jesus is the eternal first-born son (Rom 8:29) who is delivered from the tyrannical rule of Herod and comes out of Egypt to return to Israel.

Regarding the Flight into Egypt (and the Slaughtering of the Holy Innocents), The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

“The flight into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents make manifest the opposition of darkness to the light: “He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.” Christ’s whole life was lived under the sign of persecution. His own share it with him. Jesus’ departure from Egypt recalls the exodus and presents him as the definitive liberator of God’s people” (#530).

As we continue our examination of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, let us pray for the intercession of the Holy Family that we may have the strength and courage to stand against all those who seek to destroy our lives as faithful Catholic Christians. Let us also ask for the intercession of St. Joseph, who was the Protector of the Child Jesus and Mary and is the Protector of the Holy Catholic Church.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Prophecy of Holy Simeon

Over the past few weeks, I have focused our attention on the Rosary and Litany of the Mater Dolorosa, prayers I learned after attending a Miles Christi Silent Retreat. In case you have not read the previous posts, the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa meditates on the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady.

In order to help you say the Mater Dolorosa Rosary with more fervor and prayer, I am going to explain teachings of the Seven Sorrows for the next seven weeks. I will also draw your attention to other blog posts that I have written that underline each sorrow and its theme. For this first week, we shall examine the Prophecy of Holy Simeon.

In the Gospel of St. Luke, we read,

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (vv. 25-35).

Yegorov-Simeon_the_Righteous

Simeon (along with Anna) is an elderly individual who stands in faithful anticipation for the coming of Israel’s Savior and Redeemer. They both give praise to God for allowing them to live long enough to see the hope they have waited for in the infant Jesus. In the above scriptural passage, we are introduced to Simeon, a man led by the Holy Spirit. Since it was revealed that he would see the Messiah before his death, anything that he professes is very significant. He says that Jesus is the Messiah Israel has been waiting for; he also states that He is mankind’s “light” and “salvation.” Along with these words of great hope, Simeon’s prophecy also states that Jesus’ birth will bring with it the rise and fall of many in Israel and his sign of salvation will be a sign that contradicts. It is at this point in the life of Christ that we see both sorrow and joy.

Not only would there be sorrow in the life of Christ, but Mary, the Mother of Jesus would endure great amounts of sorrow as well – “a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” Let’s clarify something – an actual physical sword never pierces Mary’s soul, but because of the great pains she would endure watching our Lord suffer in his sacrifice at Calvary, spiritually she suffers with Him. In her vocation as Mother, Mary must embrace a maternal suffering. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries. This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering” (#618).

The Catechism further states, “the sword of sorrow predicted for Mary announces Christ’s perfect and unique oblation on the cross that will impart the salvation God had ‘prepared in the presences of all peoples’” (#529).

Furthermore, in his document, Redemptoris Mater, Pope St. John Paul II says, “Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful” (#16).

Through the Prophecy of Holy Simeon, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph learn that not only will their child bring glory to His people, but that he will also bring salvation to all of humanity.

This event in the scriptures is the seed that would blossom into what would eventually become the Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

As we conclude today’s post, let us ask the Lord Jesus Christ to allow us to always be ready to receive him in our hearts, allow us to share in his sacrifice, and allow us to bring Him to others as messengers through the intercession of the Holy Spirit.

Sources:

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament. Ignatius Press, 2010.

The Navarre Bible – The New Testament Expanded Edition. Four Courts/Scepter, 2008.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin Mary in the Sacred Scriptures

In his document, Marialis Cultus (For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary), Blessed Pope Paul VI says this about devotion to Mary in the Biblical context,

“Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary cannot be exempt from this general orientation of Christian piety; indeed it should draw inspiration in a special way from this orientation in order to gain new vigor and sure help. In its wonderful presentation of God’s plan for man’s salvation, the Bible is replete with the mystery of the Savior, and from Genesis to the Book of Revelation, also contains clear references to Mary, who was the Mother and associate of the Savior.”

The letter, The Virgin Mary in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation, written by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 1988, when speaking about the exegetical research focused on Mary says,

“Biblical exegesis has opened new frontiers for Mariology, ever dedicating more attention to the inter-testamental literature. Some texts of the Old Testament, and especially the New Testament parts of Luke and Matthew on the infancy of Jesus, and the Johannine periscopes, have been the object of continuous and deep study, the results of which have reinforced the biblical basis of Mariology and considerably enriched its themes.”

Furthermore, Pope Benedict XVI in his Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini (Word of God), states the following about Mariology and the Word of God,

“The Synod Fathers declared that the basic aim of the Twelfth Assembly was “to renew the Church’s faith in the word of God”. To do so, we need to look to the one in whom the interplay between the word of God and faith was brought to perfection, that is, to the Virgin Mary…I would encourage scholars as well to study the relationship between Mariology and the theology of the word. This could prove most beneficial both for the spiritual life and for theological and biblical studies. Indeed, what the understanding of the faith has enabled us to know about Mary stands at the heart of Christian truth.”

Mary Ponders The Word of God

Now that you have read through these three quotes focusing on the importance the Blessed Virgin Mary plays in the Sacred Scriptures, let us turn our attention to eight previous “Mondays with Mary” that have focused particularly on this very subject. It’s my hope that you can share this post as well as the previous posts on your social media sites as well as with your family and friends.

1. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Old Testament , Part 1

2. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Old Testament, Part 2

3. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Old Testament, Part 3

4. “Mondays with Mary” – The Esheth Yahil (Woman of Valor)

5. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the New Testament, Part 1

6. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the New Testament, Part 2

7. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant

8. “Mondays with Mary”- Mary the Word of God 

 

Conflict Resolution in the Sacred Scriptures

Conflict Resolution Meme

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:15-20).

Feel free to share this post or use the meme on your social media sites.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Esheth Yahil (Woman of Valor)

Besides Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant, which I have written about in a previous post, the image of her from Proverbs 31 as the Esheth Yahil or Woman of Valor has to be one of my favorite Old Testament Marian types.

I first learned about Proverbs 31 as a graduate student at Franciscan University of Steubenville in the fall of 2008. I can remember thinking the whole time as I was reading Proverbs 31 for homework that although this chapter was speaking about an ideal woman in the scriptures, it had to also speak of the Blessed Virgin Mary herself.

So how do we read this poem?

As it always with the literal sense of the scriptures, words point to things, in this case the literal words are pointing to a woman. This poem is modeled after a literal ancient woman. As it is with the spiritual sense, the things, in this case the ancient woman is pointing to other things or references.

First, the woman is pointing to the Church. The Church is always feminine for she is the Bride and Christ the Bridegroom. Second, the woman is pointing towards Mary, who is closely related to the Church for she cares and intercedes for it (we shall see this more clearly soon). Third, the woman in this poem is the everyday woman or women in general. Fourth, the woman points towards Wisdom, which in the scriptures has a feminine quality to it. And lastly, the woman is pointing towards Lady wisdom, which in turn points to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, who directs and guides the Church.

Proverbs 31 incarcerates all the other Proverbs. This Hebrew poem is the exalted point for woman in the Scriptures for we see the ideal woman that runs throughout. What also runs through this poem is a strong nuptial (marriage) theme that we see in verse 10 – “Who can find a good wife? She is more precious than jewels.” This good wife is a woman [esheth] of valor [yahil]. She is not a warrior maiden, but a mother of valor, an image we can clearly see the Blessed Virgin Mary holding.

When we think of the word – “force” or “valor”, our mind automatically thinks of a battle or a fight, but this is not what the sacred author is giving to us. The woman in Proverbs 31 is not a warrior; she is the ideal wife and mother. The sacred author, possibly King Solomon himself, is challenging our assumptions of valor and heroism. The woman of Proverbs 31 is a woman who is faithful to her daily duties and performs them well, without complaint. The woman who does is a witness of true valor and heroism.

So now that we have a basic understanding of this poem, let us turn our gaze to how the Blessed Virgin Mary fulfills Proverbs 31. There are quite a few Marian references here, so lets take a look at a few.

Mary Ponders The Word of God

1. In verse 12 it states: “She does him good and not harm, all the days of her life” – in regards to Mary this verse speaks of her perpetual lack of sin which derives from her Immaculate Conception.

2. In verse 15 it says: “She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and tasks for her maidens” – here we see Mary as the Morning Star, which rises while others are still sleeping. As the Morning Star, she is Christ’s true herald of his word to the Church, the world, and all who will hear it.

3. In verse 20 it professes: “She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy” – The Blessed Mother as the Queen of Heaven cares for the spiritually poor. She brings the needs of the faithful to Jesus Christ, and as Mediatrix, grace flows from her hands. The grace initially comes from Christ himself then Mary dispenses that grace to the faithful.

4. In verse 22 it reads: “She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple” – although Mary while on Earth probably did not dress with fine linens, as the Queen of Heaven, she is now adorned with purple, a color of royalty.

5. In verse 26 it states: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” – here we can see that Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation and words at the Wedding Feast of Cana, “do whatever he tells you” are guided with wisdom. With God’s grace, she knows the right words for each situation.

6. In verse 27 it says: “She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness” – Mary surpasses all woman for she is the tower of complete womanhood. The Blessed Mother is the true feminist. She stays busy maintaining her house, both in Nazareth, and now as the Mother of the Church.

7. In verse 28 it reads: “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” – from the moment of her Visitation with her cousin Elizabeth, Mary has always been venerated as the Blessed Virgin. By praying the Hail Mary and the Rosary, we ask the Blessed Mother to intercede on our behalf with Jesus.

8. In Verse 31 it states: “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates” – here we see the evolution of Christians toward their Mother. As Christians, she brings her children’s needs to the gates of Heaven.

For all the faithful and all humanity, Mary stands as our mother of valor. Without strapping on battle gear as would a warrior, the Blessed Mother, our Queen Mother, advocates for us to our Son and Our Lord Jesus Christ on a daily basis. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the one true Esheth Yahil.

The Sermon on the Mount: Jesus, the New Law, and the Kingdom of God

Over the next four Sundays, as we approach the Season of Lent, the Gospel Readings in the Western Rite of the Catholic Church will be read from the Gospel of St. Matthew, specifically readings from the Sermon on the Mount. Throughout the three-year lectionary cycle, we hear from the Sermon on the Mount many times. It’s an important section of St. Matthew’s Gospel and one that needs to be understood by all the faithful since it’s Jesus speaking about the Kingdom of God.

Below are excerpts from a paper I wrote on the Gospel of St. Matthew – “The Catechetical Gospel”, when I was a graduate student at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

It is at the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus begins to draw the outline for the new covenant. He explains that the new kingdom will awaken the hearts of humanity and that it won’t be just laws and decrees as seen in the old covenant. It is through his teachings at the Sermon on the Mount and his teachings through the parables, where he will reach the heart of all who hear him.

As Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis says in Fire of Mercy, “Jesus is not only the new Moses but God himself, who inscribes the Law of his Sacred Heart no longer now on stone tablets but on the very hearts of men” (1996). Christianity is not a “religion of the book.” “Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, a word which is “not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 108, will be known as CCC).

The Sermon on the Mount covers chapters five, six, and seven in the Gospel of St. Matthew and is the first dialogue of five dialogues [the apostolic discourse; the parabolic discourse; the discourse on the Church and the discourse on eschatology] (Navarre Bible, page 22) where Christ begins to explain the new covenant and his outline for the “Kingdom.”

“In the Sermon on the Mount, and especially in the Beatitudes, Our Lord proclaimed the ruling maxims of His kingdom. It was a discourse – new, utterly un-heard of, and coming straight from heaven!” (Kneght, page 470) The Sermon on the Mount covers a variety of themes that assist us to focus to see that the New Law will redefine and supplant the Old Law. The themes Jesus covers are how a person is to direct themselves so they can enter the Kingdom of God, the ability to practice religious duties, trusting in the divine economy of God, the behaviors of God’s children and how they are to act towards one another; and the precepts for entrance into heaven (Navarre Bible, page 23).

Sermon on the Mount Icon

“The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount” (CCC 1965).

In chapter five, we see Jesus moving away from the crowds and ascending up the mount where his disciples are gathered around him as he sits. “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him” (Matthew 5:1).  His movements up the mount and his sitting to teach are definitive acts placing himself as the Teacher of authority. Christ is stating that he is now the “Mediator between God and man.” Just as Moses once was the mediator between God and the people of Israel; now Christ takes on this role – he is the “New Moses.” (Leiva-Merikakis, page 181) And just as Moses sat in judgment; now Christ “sits” in the cathedra where he teaches the Truth, which he is himself.

On the Sermon on the Mount, Christ begins his dialogue with the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are “the gateway to the Sermon on the Mount.” The Beatitudes are not just for different people who are seeking salvation. They are to be reached by all those who desire to follow Christ and the religious and moral outline that he sets forth. The Beatitudes are requirements for everyone who wishes to follow Christ. Each of the Beatitudes does not represent a single person, just like salvation is not meant for one person or a group of persons, but is available to all who follow Christ.

It must be understood that the Beatitudes are defined as eschatological [theology of the last things], since the promise of salvation lies in the world to come and not in this veil of tears. (Navarre Bible, page 56)  The Beatitudes are the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments, but unlike the Commandments of the Old Testament, the Beatitudes now give us the ability and potential in this world to be God-like.

Leiva-Merikakis states, “The Beatitudes are no longer now negative commands that forbid sin, as the first Decalogue largely was, in keeping with its nature as the minimum necessary to obey God.  The Beatitudes are the carta magna, as it were, that invites the poor mortals to be like God here…”

The promises laid down by Christ reach their apex in the Beatitudes. “In the Beatitudes, the New Law fulfills the divine promises by elevating them and orientating them toward the “kingdom of heaven.” (CCC 1967)  We see in the Beatitudes the infancy outline of how to reach perfection in Christianity. In seeking out this perfection through the Beatitudes we are trying to imitate the behavior of the Divine, which will help us on our way to be happy, as God is happy. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Sources:

Catholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City , Vatican : Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Knecht, D. B. (2003). A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture. Rockford, Ill: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc.

Leiva-Merikakis, E. (1996). Fire of Mercy Heart of the Word . San Francisco, CA : Ignatius Press.

The Navarre Bible. (2000). St Matthew. Dublin , 8, Ireland : Four Courts Press

12 Great Quotes from Dei Verbum

Over the past three weeks, I have been teaching a course for the Diocese of Phoenix Diaconate Program titled, Scripture in the Life of the Church. One of the two documents we read and discussed is the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation from the Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum.

I am no stranger to this document from Vatican II, since I have read it nearly ten times since the Fall of 2008. While in graduate school at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I read Dei Verbum at least five times for five different courses. If you ask any of my peers who studied with me during the years of 2008-2010, they will tell you the same thing, we read this document many times! It’s one of those great documents that should be read over and over again.

If you have not read it yet, please take the time to read it (it’s not very long). If you are fearful to read it in the case that you may not fully understand it, then seek out someone who has read it, so that they may explain the rich content within its pages. You will come to love the Sacred Scriptures more and have a passion to pray and study the Scriptures in your daily life.

Dei Verbum cover

Below are 12 great quotes from my studies. The number in the parentheses is the article number from the document.

1. “…This present council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the messages of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love” (1).

2. “The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Tim. 6:14 and Tit. 2:13)” (4).

3. “This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything, until she is brought finally to see Him as He is, face to face (see 1 John 3:2)” (7).

4. “Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence” (9).

5. “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church…But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ” (10).

6. “…The books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself…the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully, and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation” (11).

7. “The plan of salvation foretold by the sacred authors, recounted and explained by them, is found as the true word of God in the books of the Old Testament: these books, therefore, written under divine inspiration, remain permanently valuable…The principal purpose to which the plan of the old covenant was directed was to prepare for the coming of Christ…” (14-15).

8. “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body” (21).

9. “Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful” (22).

10. “…And so the study of the sacred page is, as it were, the soul of sacred theology” (24).

11. “Therefore, all the clergy must hold fast to the Sacred Scriptures through diligent sacred reading and careful study, especially the priests of Christ and others, such as deacons and catechists who are legitimately active in the ministry of the word” (25).

12. “…Prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for “we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine saying” (25).

For more information on studying and praying with the Sacred Scriptures, please see the post, Scripture in the Life of the Church