“Mondays with Mary” – Was the Blessed Virgin Mary the first to see the Resurrected Lord?

In a recent homily at our monthly Latin Mass, my boss and Pastor, made reference to something he once heard – the Blessed Virgin Mary was the first to see Jesus after his resurrection instead of St. Mary Magdalene, as the Gospels proclaim. It was a footnote in his homily more than anything else. As he said it, I thought to myself that I had never heard of such an idea. I just know what the Gospels tell us.

After Mass, Father said he was looking towards me when he said it thinking that I would have heard of it somewhere in my studies and in my writings on Mary via this blog. I told him I had never heard of it and asked him where he read it, but he said he didn’t read it. He heard it somewhere, however, he couldn’t remember where it was specifically.

Not thinking about researching that idea that night, I just came home and wrote on something else. As I was trying to figure out what to write for today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I was doing some online searches since I hoped to incorporate Mary with Easter. Not thinking I was going to find anything specific, I came upon an older Catholic website asking that same question I am asking today – Was the Blessed Virgin Mary the first to see the Resurrected Lord?

The website lead me to the Papal Audience of none other than – Pope St. John Paul II!!

Christ Appearing to His Mother – Rogier van der Weyden; Flemish, ca. 1445

Before you read this, I would say – go into it with an open heart. This is not definitive Church doctrine, but something we could reflect and contemplate in our hearts during this Easter Octave. Again, I don’t believe the Catholic Church doctrinally teaches on this point anywhere specifically, I would be interested to know the Orthodox view; but John Paul II gives us the opportunity here to use both our reason and our hearts to discover something about the relationship between Jesus and His Mother we may have never thought happened.

Instead of providing you with the entire text, here is the link to the Vatican website – General Audience – May 21, 1997 – Mary was witness to whole paschal mystery.

Pray about it this week and if questions come up – feel free to write me one in the comment section. I may or may not be able to answer them completely. If you are a Scripture buff, just keep in mind that the Gospels themselves do say that many other things happened which is not recorded in these writings. Could this interaction between Jesus and Mary be one of them? Remember also that the Gospels talk about Jesus appearing after his Resurrection to more than 500 individuals – if such a big event – why wasn’t it recorded either? Something for us to think about then.

Post Script: Just as I was about to publish this post, I found this article from May 2011 on The New Theological Movement.

I hope that you all had a blessed and joyful Easter Sunday and that your Easter Octave is as equally blessed.

“Mondays with Mary” – Reflecting on the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Cross

Since we have now entered the holiest weeks of all weeks in the Church’s liturgical year, also known as the Great Week in the East, I want to focus as I have done in years past, on Mary at the Cross. However, instead of focusing on the theology, I want to just examine some points in the hopes that you may reflect on them during this Holy Week.

In a culture that abhors suffering and pain, I remember the words of Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete of Communion and Liberation,

“Suffering is not a problem to be solved, it is a mystery to be lived.”

In regards to the cross of Jesus Christ, and the blood, sweat, agony, and suffering, I believe these words give us an insight to the suffering Our Lord endured and willfully embraced. I also believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary also lived these words out in her life, since she never fled from the suffering of her Son, even when it might have become too much to bear. She embraced his suffering and partook in that suffering, not physically, but spiritually as any mother would for their child.

We know that the walk to Calvary began at the Wedding Feast of Cana when the Blessed Mother requests that Jesus assist in the dilemma of the young couple having no more wine to offer. Unlike Cana, at the cross, Mary doesn’t utter one word. But what was she thinking? Could she have been remembering the life of Jesus as a child or her time when the angel Gabriel announced to her that she would have a son? We will never know completely on this side of Heaven, but the one thing we do know is that Jesus gave her to us on the cross through the Beloved Disciple, Saint John. From that point on, John took her into his home and cared for her as his own mother.

In our relationship with the Blessed Mother, I have some questions for us – Have we taken Mary into our homes? Like the Apostle John, have we allowed her to enter into the lives of our families? Like the couple who ran out of wine, have we asked her to intercede to Our Lord for us?

Among many non-Catholic Christians today, and even some Catholics, the Blessed Virgin Mary is rejected, although in the Sacred Scriptures she is “blessed among women” and is professed “full of grace” by the Angel Gabriel. Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters because of poor theology and faulty catechesis, reject the Mother of God and degrade her to just another woman that doesn’t deserve any honor or recognition. She is often misunderstood and is portrayed as a pagan goddess, a mother-goddess. Again, here we see a lack of clear thinking and the conclusions of the many divisions among the Christian faithful.

Although seen as the forerunner of Protestantism, Martin Luther had a great love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He once wrote,

“Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of us all. If Christ be ours…all that he has must be ours, and His Mother also must be ours.”

In our daily lives, how do we include Mary? Simply, we must walk with her through faith, humility, and obedience. Through these three elements, Mary walked with Our Lord to the cross. Even though she was wounded, scorned, and in pain, she still walked with Him…and so must we.

One of the points I made above was that she did not speak at the Cross. More likely, she listened. How did she listen? She listened in her obedience. It seems to me that most Catholics want to be faithful and seek humility, but many reject obedience. We can’t follow Our Lord and His Catholic Church, as well as walk with his Mother, if we reject obedience.

In the book, Into Your Hands, Father, the Belgian Carmelite, Fr. Wilfred Stinissen, says the following,

“If God does not will something in every detail of our life, it is up to us to ‘discern the will of the Lord’. To be able to ‘obey’, we must ‘listen’…That is how Mary lived, with her eyes continually turned toward God. Her gaze was one single question, ‘What would you have me do?’”

These words I believe singularly define the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and most distinctly at the foot of the cross. Although I think many of us are fearful to “Behold, your mother”, the words of Jesus to St. John at Cross, this is precisely what we are called to do. We are to walk with Mary through faith, humility, and obedience.

To conclude this reflection, I leave you these words since they wrap up for me exactly what I tried to help you reflect upon today –

“Mary’s Way leads us to Calvary, and from there to the empty tomb. It is not an easy path, but Mary was unafraid. By her faithful and humble life, and by her presence at the cross, she shows us how to overcome the greatest obstacle to the spiritual life, fear. Let us meet her in her pain, her loss, and her grief. Let us choose, then, without fear, to accept suffering into our lives as she did, to welcome the wounds of love. Only in doing so can we also share with her the joy of the Resurrection” (The Prayer of Mary, Keith Fournier).

Stabat Mater Dolorosa…Pray for Us 

“Mondays with Mary” – 5 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom

Since yesterday was the 12th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s entrance into eternal glory, I thought I would combine his words on Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom with Mary in Old Testament (a series I have been writing recently) for today’s “Mondays with Mary.” Before we focus on the late Holy Father’s words, let us turn our gaze to understanding the Old Testament Marian symbol – “Created Wisdom.”

In the Old Testament, we see some rather transcendent passages on the idea of Wisdom, which focuses on the divine Person, the Father’s Word, who exists and works before all of creation is formed, most notably, Sirach 24:3-21 and Proverbs 8:22-35. The Church in the liturgical texts has used these transcendent scriptures for two Marian feasts since the seventh and tenth centuries – The Assumption of Mary into Heaven and The Nativity of Mary. In the Lectionary, these passages are commonly used for the Masses for the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, headed as “Mary, Seat of Wisdom.”

Since the seventh century, the Church has employed these texts to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This did not happen through simple accommodation, but through the simple and basic understanding of the texts, which “evidently is found in the letter of the text, but at the same time surpasses it, widens it, and enriches it.”

We see then that through the writings of the sacred author, “Wisdom, by way of reflection and participation is ascribed to Mary, the Mother of the Word of God, who from eternity was predestined, as Ineffabilis Deus, in one and the same decree with the Incarnation of divine Wisdom.” Understanding this, it is clear that Mary shares and plays a fundamental role in the mission of the Incarnation as well as the perquisites of the Word who dwelt among us, the hypostatic Wisdom incarnate. Wisdom, which was uncreated, was now incarnate in Mary, making her the epicenter of Life and Truth. She is truly “Created Wisdom.”

Madonna as Seat of Wisdom, 1199

Now that we have come to an understanding of the Marian symbol – “created wisdom”, let us turn our attention to five quotes by Pope St. John Paul II that focus on the Marian title, Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom –

1. “The prophecy and the promise of faith, whose fulfillment was awaited by the whole people, the Israel of divine election, and the whole of humanity: This was Mary’s mystery. Joseph did not know this mystery. She could not transmit it to him, because it was a mystery beyond the capacity of the human intellect and the possibilities of human language. It was not possible to transmit it by any human means. It was only possible to accept it from God – and believe. Just as Mary believed. – Termi, Italy, 1981

2. “Beloved young people! Continue to live in the truth and for the truth! May the Blessed Virgin, the Seat of Wisdom, Mother of the Word who enlightens every man, assist you, enlighten you, and comfort you.” – Rome, Italy, 1979

3. “To succeed in your intentions, entrust yourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary always, but especially in moments of difficulty and darkness. ‘From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ, her Son and the Son of God…Learn from her to be always faithful, to trust that God’s Word to you will be fulfilled, and that nothing is impossible with God.’” – Washington, D.C., 1979

4. “The cross is the living book from which we learn definitively who we are and how we must act. This book is always open in front of us. Read, reflect, enjoy this new wisdom. Make it your own and you will walk also along the paths of knowledge, culture, and university life, spreading light in a service of love, worthy of children of God.

And look also the Blessed Virgin, standing by the cross of Jesus (Jn. 19:25) where she is given to us as our mother: she is our hope, the seat of true Wisdom.” – Rome, Italy, 1980

5. “Be faithful to the Mother of fair love. Have trust in her, as you shape your love and form your young families. May Christ always be there for you “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” – Krakow, Poland, 1979

Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom…Pray for Us.

Pope St. John Paul II…Pray for Us.

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Old Testament: Among the “Poor of Yahweh” (Part 6)

After a couple of weeks focusing on other Marian topics, I want to turn my gaze back onto Mary in the Old Testament and focus on the Marian liturgical symbol – Among the “Poor of Yahweh”. Today’s blog post coincides perfectly with Saturday’s Solemnity of the Annunciation.

According to the Second Vatican Council document, Lumen Gentium, “She [Mary] stands out among the humble and the poor of the Lord, who confidently await and receive from him their salvation” (#55). Here the Council Fathers, with biblical recollection, focus on the “anawim” of God. They are considered the truest of the “poor of Yahweh” – the God-fearing and humble children of God who trust in the Lord to save them from the oppression of men. From these “anawim” come the poorest of the poor – the “remnant of Israel”, who will now form the chosen people of God. This chosen people will be lead by Christ and His Church on pilgrimage to the Kingdom of heaven.

Being the “handmaid of the Lord”, we know that the Blessed Virgin Mary is shown to us as being of a poor disposition. In her song of praise, the Magnificat, Mary includes herself in the humble and poor of the Lord – “he has looked upon the low estate of his handmaiden” (Lk 1:48) and “he has lifted up the lowly” (Lk 1:52).

The Annunciation – Henry Ossawa Tanner

Focusing on these words from the Sacred Scriptures, in the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, Pope St. John Paul II, focuses on and asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary was undoubtedly saturated in the “poor of Yahweh.” In paragraph 37, John Paul II says,

“The Church’s love of preference for the poor is wonderfully inscribed in Mary’s Magnificat. The God of the Covenant, celebrated in the exultation of her spirit by the Virgin of Nazareth, is also he who “has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly, …filled the hungry with good things, sent the rich away empty, …scattered the proud-hearted…and his mercy is from age to age on those who fear him.” Mary is deeply imbued with the spirit of the “poor of Yahweh,” who in the prayer of the Psalms awaited from God their salvation, placing all their trust in him (cf. Pss. 25; 31; 35; 55). Mary truly proclaims the coming of the “Messiah of the poor” (cf. Is. 11:4; 61:1). Drawing from Mary’s heart, from the depth of her faith expressed in the words of the Magnificat, the Church renews ever more effectively in herself the awareness that the truth about God who saves, the truth about God who is the source of every gift, cannot be separated from the manifestation of his love of preference for the poor and humble, that love which, celebrated in the Magnificat, is later expressed in the words and works of Jesus.

The Church is thus aware-and at the present time this awareness is particularly vivid-not only that these two elements of the message contained in the Magnificat cannot be separated, but also that there is a duty to safeguard carefully the importance of “the poor” and of “the option in favor of the poor” in the word of the living God. These are matters and questions intimately connected with the Christian meaning of freedom and liberation. “Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him, and at the side of her Son, she is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission.”

As we commemorate the fourth week of Lent, the fourth Sunday in Lent – Laetare Sunday, let us rejoice with the Heavenly Jerusalem that the Blessed Virgin Mary gives us hope, even in her poor disposition, that she is with us always and ready to lead us closer to her son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Source:

Burke, Raymond L., Stefano M. Manelli, Luigi Gambero, Manfred Hauke, Peter M. Fehlner, Arthur Burton. Calkins, Paul Haffner, Alessandro M. Apollonio, Edward P. Sri, Charles M. Mangan, Enrique Llamas Martínez, Neil J. Roy, Etienne Richer, Vladimir Zelinskiĩ, and Mark I. Miravalle. Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons. Goleta, CA: Queenship Pub, 2008. Print.

“Mondays with Mary” – Asking for the Intercession of Saint Joseph

Last week I said I would return to the series, Mary in the Old Testament, but again I am going to suspend that series for one more week to focus on the Intercession of Saint Joseph by providing you some prayers and litanies that ask for his intercession. I can write about Saint Joseph as part of my “Mondays with Mary” series since he is so closely connected with Mary, most especially through their marital vows. Although Saint Joseph never utters a single word in the Sacred Scriptures, his presence is never forgotten and his heroic fortitude is never shaken. He listens to the Lord and in turn is obedient to Him.

Because he was the Guardian of the Redeemer and the protector of the Redeemer’s mother, Saint Joseph stands as the Patron of the Universal Church – he protects the Church as he protected Jesus and Mary. However, with Mary, he shares in her divine motherhood by protecting and interceding for that which is most precious to all of humanity. In the Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, Pope St. John Paul II says,

“Together with Mary, Joseph is the first guardian of this divine mystery. Together with Mary, and in relation to Mary, he shares in this final phase of God’s self-revelation in Christ and he does so from the very beginning. Looking at the gospel texts of both Matthew and Luke, one can also say that Joseph is the first to share in the faith of the Mother of God and that in doing so he supports his spouse in the faith of the divine annunciation. He is also the first to be placed by God on the path of Mary’s “pilgrimage of faith.” It is a path along which – especially at the time of Calvary and Pentecost – Mary will precede in a perfect way…The path that was Joseph’s – his pilgrimage of faith – ended first, that is to say, before Mary stood at the foot of the cross on Golgotha, and before the time after Christ returned to the Father… Nevertheless, Joseph’s way of faith moved in the same direction: it was totally determined by the same mystery, of which he, together with Mary, had been the first guardian.”

So how does one ask for intercession to St. Joseph? Although there are a variety of prayers, the three most common that I personally turn to in prayer are below. The first is pretty short and focuses on any difficult affairs we might be facing. The second is a litany and I provide you with the link to the EWTN page. The third focuses exactly on my points today – his Guardianship in union with Mary. It is my hope for you that if you don’t know St. Joseph well, these prayers will begin your time with him.

O Glorious St. Joseph, whose power can render possible even things which are impossible, come to my aid in my present trouble and distress. Take under thy protection the important and difficult affairs which I entrust to thee, that they may end happily. (Pause – Petition)

My beloved Father, all my confidence is in thee. Let it not be said that I invoked thee in vain; and since thou art able to obtain everything before Jesus and Mary, show me that thy goodness equals thy power. Amen.

Litany of St. Joseph

In our tribulation we fly to thee, O blessed Joseph; and, after imploring the help of thy most holy Spouse, we ask also with confidence for thy patronage.

By the affection which united thee to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and the paternal love with which thou didst embrace the Child Jesus, we beseech thee to look kindly upon the inheritance which Jesus Christ acquired by His Precious Blood, and by thy powerful aid to help us in our needs.

Protect, most careful Guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen people of Jesus Christ. Keep us, most loving father, from all pestilence of error and corruption.

Be merciful also to us, most powerful protector, from thy place in heaven, in this warfare with the powers of darkness; and, as thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from danger of death, so now defend the Holy Church of God from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity.

Guard each one of us by thy perpetual patronage, so that, sustained by thine example and help, we have live holiness, die a holy death, and obtain the everlasting happiness of heaven. Amen.

Saint Joseph, Patron and Guardian of the Holy Catholic Church…Pray for Us.

To read more about St. Joseph, see Saint Joseph – The Foster-Father of Jesus Christ and the Patron of the Universal Church

“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Sorrowful Mother at the Cross through the words of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

For this week, I want to suspend my Mary in the Old Testament series I have been writing on over the past few weeks in order to provide you with two important reflections on Mary and her connection with Christ at the Cross. I am doing this since I don’t think I will get another chance before Lent ends since I am focusing on the aforementioned series. Next week, we will return to that series and focus on Marian symbols.

I have written on this week’s topic numerous times before over the years, most especially during the Season of Lent, when we focus on our own sufferings, crosses, and penitential offerings. Today’s two reflections come from the great mind of the 20th century United States Archbishop –  Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. These two excerpts are from a book compiled by Henry Dieterich, titled, Through the Year with Fulton Sheen.

I hope that you enjoy them and will reflect on them this week and in the weeks to come as we approach the High Holy Days of Lent, otherwise known a the Triduum.

The first reflection is titled – Mary and Christ’s Suffering

“Mary’s participation in Christ’s suffering began with the annunciation, when she was asked to give God a human body, more properly, a human nature. In other words, will you make God capable of suffering? God though he was, he learned obedience in the school of suffering. God could know experimentally what suffering was only by taking a body. So the Blessed Mother is asked, ‘Will you make it possible for your creator to suffer?’ Think of a mother, for example, who give to a young son or daughter an automobile at the age of nineteen, which a short time afterwards is the cause of a wreck and permanent injury. Would the mother ever forgive herself? And here Mary has to say yes, I will let him suffer.”

Our Lady of Sorrows by Carlo Dolci

The second reflection is titled – Mary and John

“On the cross we no longer have Christ and his mother, or Jesus and Mary. I know we speak of the sorrowful mother at the foot of the cross, but I don’t think she was sorrowful, I think she was suffering. I cannot imagine the mother of the Maccabees as being sorrowful when she sent her seven sons to death. There must have been a certain joy in the mother’s heart as she gives her son. But there’s something different here. At this moment on the cross we no longer have Jesus and Mary. We have the new Adam and the new Eve. Our Lord on the cross is the new Adam, the Blessed Mother at the foot of the cross is the new Eve. And we’re going to have the consummation of a marriage, and out of the consummated marriage of the new Adam and new Eve is going to begin the new church of which John will be the symbol. And so the new Adam looking down to the woman, says: ‘Woman, your son.’ And to the son, he did not say ‘John’ (he would have then been only the son of Zebedee), but ‘Son, your mother.’ Here is the beginning of a new life. The Blessed Mother becomes the symbol of the church. And as Eve was the mother of the living, so Mary becomes the mother of the new living in the order of grace.”

To read more about this topic, I would suggest reading my other articles –

“Mondays with Mary” – The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Mary at the Foot of the Cross  

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary, Our Guide Through Lent

“Mondays with Mary” – The Method of Praying the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa 

“Mondays with Mary” – The Suffering of Mother Mary 

“Mondays with Mary” – Pope St. John Paul II on the Suffering of Mary 

O Blessed Mother, Sorrowful and Suffering…Pray for Us.

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Old Testament: The “Paradise of God” and “Closed Door,” “Gate of God,” “Gate of Heaven” (Part 5)

The term, “Paradise of God” in reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary derives from the homilies of the eighth century Bishop of Constantinople, St. Germain. Traditionally in the Church, the term “paradise” is a Marian symbol closely associated with the Early Church Fathers, such as St. Leo the Great, St. Proclus, St. Andrew of Crete, St. John Damascene, and others, who developed it in their writings.

Since the trickery of the serpent and the sin committed by our first parents in the earthly paradise of Eden, resulting in a original sin (yesterday’s Gospel Reading in the Latin Rite), God, in his infinite mercy, desired to fully restore another earthly paradise through the redeeming work of the Incarnate Word. He (God) prepared the “paradise” of the virginal womb of Mary, in which, in the fullness off time (Gal 4:4) came the Divine Son.

In the Litany of Loreto, the Blessed Virgin Mary has been petitioned by the faithful to answer their intercessions as the “Gate of Heaven.” Mary’s immaculate and virginal womb brought forth Jesus Christ into the world, she then is truly the Gate of Heaven.

In the prophet Ezekiel (44:1-2), it references the mystery of the “closed door” which “shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut.” The most accurate and detailed scriptural exegetical study of this passage points out that this passage is in reference to Mary’s perfect and perpetual virginity – before, during, and ever childbirth. In Mary’s perpetual virginity, it’s a doorway that is always sealed and always to be closed.

 The image of the Virgin Mother and Infant Christ surrounded by flowers is from the Cistercian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz in Austria.


The image of the Virgin Mother and Infant Christ surrounded by flowers is from the Cistercian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz in Austria.

As Saint Ambrose said, “Christ has passed through it, but not opened it.” Pope St. John Paul II has said that Jesus did not violate Mary’s virginity, rather, he sanctified her virginity.

The elect enter into paradise through the “Gate of Heaven” – who is truly the Blessed Virgin Mary. Psalm 117:20 says, “This is the gate of the Lord, the just shall enter through it.” In the antiphon for the Gospel of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it says the following – “‘Gate of Heaven’: The gate of paradise, shut by the sin of Eve, has been reopened by you, O Virgin Mary.”

Next week we will continue our Old Testament Series in relation to the Blessed Virgin Mary as we examine Marian Symbols used in the Liturgy.

O Mary, as the Paradise of God and Gate of Heaven…Pray for Us. 

Source:

Burke, Raymond L., Stefano M. Manelli, Luigi Gambero, Manfred Hauke, Peter M. Fehlner, Arthur Burton. Calkins, Paul Haffner, Alessandro M. Apollonio, Edward P. Sri, Charles M. Mangan, Enrique Llamas Martínez, Neil J. Roy, Etienne Richer, Vladimir Zelinskiĩ, and Mark I. Miravalle. Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons. Goleta, CA: Queenship Pub, 2008. Print.