“Mondays with Mary” – Pope Benedict XVI on the Mother of God

Since we just celebrated the great Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God on January 1, for this week’s “Mondays with Mary” I want to share with you a major excerpt from a homily given by Pope Benedict XVI (now informally known as “Fr. Benedict” – his request) on January 1, 2008.

Drawing from his extensive knowledge of biblical history, exegetical knowledge, and the Doctors of the Church, specifically, St. Augustine of Hippo, Pope Benedict XVI, draws for us an excellent understanding of Mary’s divine motherhood as the Theotokos.

Dear Brothers and Sisters…

Our thoughts now turn spontaneously to Our Lady, whom we invoke today as the Mother of God. It was Pope Paul VI who moved to 1 January the Feast of the Divine Motherhood of Mary, which was formerly celebrated on 11 October. Indeed, even before the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council, the memorial of the circumcision of Jesus on the eighth day after his birth – as a sign of submission to the law, his official insertion in the Chosen People – used to be celebrated on the first day of the year and the Feast of the Name of Jesus was celebrated the following Sunday. We perceive a few traces of these celebrations in the Gospel passage that has just been proclaimed, in which St Luke says that eight days after his birth the Child was circumcised and was given the name “Jesus”, “the name given by the Angel before he was conceived in [his Mother’s]… womb” (Lk 2: 21). Today’s feast, therefore, as well as being a particularly significant Marian feast, also preserves a strongly Christological content because, we might say, before the Mother, it concerns the Son, Jesus, true God and true Man.

The Apostle Paul refers to the mystery of the divine motherhood of Mary, the Theotokos, in his Letter to the Galatians. “When the time had fully come”, he writes, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (4: 4). We find the mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine Word and the Divine Motherhood of Mary summed up in a few words: the Virgin’s great privilege is precisely to be Mother of the Son who is God. The most logical and proper place for this Marian feast is therefore eight days after Christmas. Indeed, in the night of Bethlehem, when “she gave birth to her first-born son” (Lk 2: 7), the prophesies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled. “The virgin shall be with child and bear a son”, Isaiah had foretold (7: 14); “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son”, the Angel Gabriel said to Mary (Lk 1: 31); and again, an Angel of the Lord, the Evangelist Matthew recounts, appeared to Joseph in a dream to reassure him and said: “Do not fear to take Mary for your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son” (Mt 1: 20-21).

Mother of Jesus Christ

The title “Mother of God”, together with the title “Blessed Virgin”, is the oldest on which all the other titles with which Our Lady was venerated are based, and it continues to be invoked from generation to generation in the East and in the West. A multitude of hymns and a wealth of prayers of the Christian tradition refer to the mystery of her divine motherhood, such as, for example, a Marian antiphon of the Christmas season, Alma Redemptoris mater, with which we pray in these words: “Tu quae genuisti, natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem, Virgo prius ac posterius – You, in the wonder of all creation, have brought forth your Creator, Mother ever virgin”. Dear brothers and sisters, let us today contemplate Mary, ever-virgin Mother of the Only-Begotten Son of the Father; let us learn from her to welcome the Child who was born for us in Bethlehem. If we recognize in the Child born of her the Eternal Son of God and accept him as our one Saviour, we can be called and we really are children of God: sons in the Son. The Apostle writes: “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4).

The Evangelist Luke repeats several times that Our Lady meditated silently on these extraordinary events in which God had involved her. We also heard this in the short Gospel passage that the Liturgy presents to us today. “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2: 19). The Greek verb used, sumbállousa, literally means “piecing together” and makes us think of a great mystery to be discovered little by little. Although the Child lying in a manger looks like all children in the world, at the same time he is totally different: he is the Son of God, he is God, true God and true man. This mystery – the Incarnation of the Word and the divine Motherhood of Mary – is great and certainly far from easy to understand with the human mind alone.

Yet, by learning from Mary, we can understand with our hearts what our eyes and minds do not manage to perceive or contain on their own. Indeed, this is such a great gift that only through faith are we granted to accept it, while not entirely understanding it. And it is precisely on this journey of faith that Mary comes to meet us as our support and guide. She is mother because she brought forth Jesus in the flesh; she is mother because she adhered totally to the Father’s will. St Augustine wrote: “The divine motherhood would have been of no value to her had Christ not borne her in his heart, with a destiny more fortunate than the moment when she conceived him in the flesh” (De Sancta Virginitate, 3, 3). And in her heart Mary continued to treasure, to “piece together” the subsequent events of which she was to be a witness and protagonist, even to the death on the Cross and the Resurrection of her Son Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is only by pondering in the heart, in other words, by piecing together and finding unity in all we experience, that, following Mary, we can penetrate the mystery of a God who was made man out of love and who calls us to follow him on the path of love; a love to be expressed daily by generous service to the brethren. May the new year which we are confidently beginning today be a time in which to advance in that knowledge of the heart, which is the wisdom of saints. Let us pray, as we heard in the First Reading, that the Lord may “make his face to shine” upon us, “and be gracious” to us (cf. Nm 6: 24-7) and bless us. We may be certain of it: if we never tire of seeking his Face, if we never give in to the temptation of discouragement and doubt, if also among the many difficulties we encounter we always remain anchored to him, we will experience the power of his love and his mercy. May the fragile Child who today the Virgin shows to the world make us peacemakers, witnesses of him, the Prince of Peace. Amen!

“Mondays with Mary” – A Look Back at the Last Five Posts

For today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I want to provide you with the last five blog posts written on the Blessed Mother. In the case you might have missed one, being that it was the Christmas Season and preoccupied with family or friends, I hope you can check them out today and share them with others who love the Blessed Virgin Mary, those who don’t know her that well, and for those who completely misunderstand her advocating role in Salvation History.

1. Mary, Motherhood, and Sacrament of Baptism

2. Mary and the Word of God

3. Mother of Fairest Love

4. Pope Benedict XVI on Mary and the Mystery of Christmas

5. The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

mary-baby-jesus

“Mondays with Mary” – Pope Benedict XVI on Mary and the Mystery of Christmas

Since yesterday was the 4th Sunday of Advent and in two days is Christmas, I give you the words of Pope Benedict XVI and his explanation of Mary and the Mystery of Christmas from his Angelus on the 4th Sunday of Advent, December 18, 2011. I hope you enjoy it.

“In this fourth and final Sunday of Advent, the liturgy presents this year, the annunciation to Mary. Contemplating the beautiful icon of the Blessed Virgin, when she receives the divine message and gives her answer, we are internally illuminated by the light of truth which shines, always new, from that mystery. In particular, I would like to dwell briefly on the importance of the virginity of Mary, that is, the fact that she conceived Jesus while remaining a virgin.

In the background of the event’s at Nazareth is the prophecy of Isaiah. “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). This age-old promise has found superabundant fulfillment in the Incarnation of the Son of God. In fact, not only did the Virgin Mary conceive, but she did so through the Holy Spirit, which is God himself. The human being that begins to live in her womb takes the flesh from Mary, but his existence is derived entirely from God ‘fully human, made of earth – to use the biblical symbol – but he comes from above, from heaven. The fact that Mary conceived while remaining a virgin is, therefore, essential for the understanding of Jesus and our faith, because it witnesses that it was God’s initiative and above all it reveals who is conceived. As the Gospel says: ” Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Luke 1.35). In this sense, the virginity of Mary and the divinity of Jesus reciprocally guarantee one another.

This is why that one question that Mary, ‘very upset’, addresses to the Angel ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man? ‘(Lk 1.34) is so important. In her simplicity, Mary is wise: She does not doubt the power of God, but wants to better understand his will, to fully comply with this will. Mary is infinitely surpassed by the mystery, yet perfectly occupies the place that, at the very heart of it, she was assigned. Her heart and mind are fully humble, and, because of her singular humility, God expects the “yes” of this young girl to achieve His purpose. He respects her dignity and freedom. Mary’s “yes” means both motherhood and virginity, and her wish that her everything be for the glory of God and that the Son who will be born to Her may be a gift of grace for al.

Dear friends, the virginity of Mary is unique and unrepeatable, but its spiritual significance concerns every Christian. It, in essence, is tied to faith: in fact, those who trust deeply in God, welcomes Jesus and his divine life within, through the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of Christmas.”

“Mondays with Mary” – The Immaculate Heart of Mary

This past Saturday was the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It’s a devotion similar to the Sacred Heart of Jesus but with less fervor. However, St. John Eudes, who is also a “Saint of the Sacred Heart”, helped popularize this devotion during his time.

Miraculous MedalIt became very popular after the apparitions at Rue du Bac where St. Catherine Labouré had visions of the Blessed Mother. The devotion to the “Miraculous Medal” developed from this same apparition. A society loyal to the Immaculate Heart of Mary began in Paris during the year of 1836 at the Church of Our Lady of Victories.

To learn more about the Immaculate Heart of Mary, please read from last year – “Mondays with Mary” – The Immaculate Mother and Pope Benedict XVI. To learn more about the “Miraculous Medal”, please read – “Mondays with Mary – The Miraculous Medal.”

As we saw with Pope Francis on Day 1 of his Papacy, he has a strong devotion just as his Pope Francis kneeling at St. Mary Majorpredecessors did to the Blessed Mother of God. On Saturday in Rome, Pope Francis said the following about Mary, pondering the Word of God, and using our memory to remember the Word of God:

“Keeping the Word of God: what does this mean? Do I receive the Word, and then take a bottle and put the word into the bottle and keep it there? No. Keeping the Word of God means that our heart opens, it is open to that Word just like the earth opens to receive the seed. The Word of God is a seed and is sown. And Jesus told us what happens with the seeds: some fall along the path, and the birds come and eat them; this Word is not kept, these hearts do not know how to receive it”.

“John Paul II said that, because of this work, Mary had a particular heaviness in her heart, she had a fatigued heart. But this is not the same as tired, it is fatigue, this comes from effort. This is the effort of keeping the Word of God: the work of trying to find out what this means at this moment, what the Lord wants to say to me at this time, this situation of questioning the [meaning of] the Word of God is how we understand. This is reading our life with the Word of God and this is what it means to keep it in our hearts”.

“We would do well to ask ourselves: ‘With the things that happen in life, I ask myself the question: what is the Lord saying to me with His Word, right now?’. This is called keeping the Word of God, because the Word of God is precisely the message that the Lord gives us in every moment. Let us safeguard it with this: safeguard it with our memory. And safeguard it with our hope. We ask the Lord for the grace to receive the Word of God and keep it, and also the grace to have a heart that is fatigued in this effort. So be it”.

Immaculate Heart of Mary

 Let us ask Mary to help us ponder the Word of God in our hearts as she kept all her experiences of the Word Made Flesh in her heart. For further prayer, please learn the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

“Mondays with Mary” – Pope Benedict XVI on the Blessed Virgin Mary

This coming Thursday is the final day of the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, as many of you know. Over the past 9 months, I have written 45 “Mondays with Mary.” Nine of those forty-five have been written on Benedict’s understanding and writings on the Blessed Virgin Mary. To honor his papacy and great theological writings he has given us on Mary, I present the blog posts from Mondays with Mary.

Please continue to pray for Our Holy Father, the Cardinals who will gather in the conclave, the successor of Pope Benedict XVI, and the universal Church as whole. God is in complete control, so we must trust in this divine economy.

Number 5 – “Mondays with Mary” – In a Time of Crisis…Mary Should Not be Forgotten

Number 9 – “Mondays with Mary” – The Immaculate Mother and Pope Benedict XVI

Number 11 – “Mondays with Mary” – Mary of Nazareth and Hearing God’s Word

Number 18 – “Mondays with Mary” – Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI on the Assumption of Mary

Number 22 – “Mondays with Mary” – Mary, Seat of Wisdom

Number 25 – “Mondays with Mary” – Benedict XVI, the Year of Faith, and the Mother of God

Number 29 – “Mondays with Mary” – Mary: The Model of Prayer

Number 40 – “Mondays with Mary” – ‘Leads Us To Jesus’ (Pope Benedict XVI Homily at Altötting)

Number 44 – “Mondays with Mary” – Pope Benedict XVI on the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes