The Presentation of the Lord

As we move forward in the joyful mysteries we make our way to the Presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple. It is found in Luke’s Gospel 1:22-40, as Mary and Joseph were fulfilling the ancient rites, Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn son, according to the Torah (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15). Luke points out that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people, sacrificing “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Perhaps this is why turtledove make list of gifts in the song The twelve days of Christmas. While they presented Jesus in the Temple they met with the prophets Simeon and Anna. The fruit of this mystery is Gift of Wisdom and Purity of mind and body (Obedience). Let us all be like Simeon as we keep our minds ever towards the Lord and remember that God always keeps promises as he allowed Simeon to see the Savior before Simeon died.

Nunca Dimittis is one of the canticles in the Gospel of Luke. It follows

Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all people; To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of your people Israel.

The Magnificat

As we near the end of Advent I though we would take a look at the Canticle of Mary. This is one of the eight oldest hymns and perhaps the oldest one about Mary. The words are taken from the Gospel of Luke (1:46-52) at the Visitation Elizabeth greets Mary with the first half of the Hail Mary and Mary’s response is the Canticle or Song of Mary it is also known as the Magnificat (from My Soul magnifies the Lord) and in the Eastern Church it is simply the Ode of the Theotokos. It is typically prayed during Vespers or Evening Prayer in the Western Churches (Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican) Protestants sing it during Advent and in the East it is sung during Sunday Matins. A version of the Canticle in English is as follows.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.

In the Eastern Church after the Canticle itself they add ‘You who are more to be honoured than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim, you who, uncorrupted, gave birth to God the Word, in reality the God-bearer, we exalt you.’ or “More honourable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: true Theotokos, we magnify thee.”


Redemptoris Mater: Part 2-The Mother of God at the Center of the Pilgrim Church

Last week I covered Part 1 of this encyclical, Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on Mary. This week we will look at the second part about how Mary is involved in the Church today.

John Paul II begins the second part by borrowing the analogy from Vatican II as the Pilgrim Church is like Israel in the desert of the Old Covenant. The Church is destined to reach all the ends of the earth but this journey is not only external but also internal. This is where Mary comes into the picture, the Council say that Mary’s role in Salvation history makes her a mirror in which the mighty works of God are reflected. From the beginning of the Church Mary is there at Pentecost with the apostles when the Holy Spirit came down upon them she was praying in the Upper Room. Although she wasn’t given the mission to preach to all nations like the apostles, Mary still plays a huge role as the Church looked at Mary through Jesus, she is always the Mother of Jesus  and he was Mary’s Son. This is a simple place for people to go to as everyone has a mother. The Apostles planted the seeds of faith but it is Mary who was provided the seeds since she is the first believer.

John Paul then moves on to the Church today and say that ecumenism is the key. He pulls from Lumen Gentium which says that Christians must deepen in themselves and each of their communities that “obedience of faith” of which Mary is the first and brightest example. And since she “shines forth on earth,…as a sign of sure hope and solace for the pilgrim People of God,” “it gives great joy and comfort to this most holy Synod that among the divided brethren, too, there are those who live due honor to the Mother of our Lord and Savior. This is especially so among the Easterners.” Mary is the role model for all of us in how to lead our Christian lives and she is a big deal with the Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental churches and offers examples of how Mary plays a role in their church. Then John Paul says that “Such a wealth of praise, built up by the different forms of the Church’s great tradition, could help us to hasten the day when the Church can begin once more to breathe fully with her “two lungs,” the East and the West. As I have often said, this is more than ever necessary today. It would be an effective aid in furthering the progress of the dialogue already taking place between the Catholic Church and the Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the West”.  This is a hope of many people.

John Paul II reminds us of the Magnificat, saying that it links us to Mary. The Magnificat is the Canticle that Mary says in Luke’s Gospel when she visits Elizabeth and is said daily by those who do Liturgy of the Hours at Vespers. For many of us we might hear it sung at a liturgy or read at the Assumption but that’s about it. This prays reminds us that Mary is constantly present with us in our journey of faith.  Let us remember and recite this prayer with the hope of remembering Mary in our lives, this prayer can be our words today as we praise God for all that the Lord has done for us. Let us remember and recite this prayer with the hope of remembering Mary in our lives, this prayer can be our words today as we praise God for all that the Lord has done for us.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.” (Luke 1:46-55) RSV-CE

Next week we will be looking at Part 3: Maternal Mediation as well as the Conclusion as we close out the month of May.

Third Sunday in Advent (Gaudete Sunday)

We take a break from the purple for a week and we light the pink\rose candle and as we rejoice in the nearness of the Lord’s coming at Christmas, it is also known as Gaudete Sunday from the first word in the entrance antiphon, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.”

As we enter into the readings we start once again in the prophet Isaiah. In this reading Isaiah is describing his mission from God, he’s been sent to bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives and release prisoners. Now we should remember that Isaiah is talking to people who have just been in exile in Babylon. This mission statement is picked up by Jesus in his live and is something that we should all strive to do. The second half of this reading might be personification of the people of Israel, as the Lord has done great things for them but hasn’t done much in return but the Lord will bring forth justice and praise spring forth before all nations. We can look at this half as an individual as well; this is a bit like the Magnificat, My soul rejoice in God my Savior for God has look upon us with favor. The Canticle of Mary, The Magnificat, is one of the options for the Psalms this week as well “My soul rejoices in my God.”

Turning to the second reading we head from the first letter of Paul to the folks in Thessalonica Paul begins with our theme this week Rejoice always. It is widely believed that this is the first book of the New Testament to be written down. In this reading Paul is giving a rundown of how Christians should be living our lives. Rejoice always, pray unceasingly give thanks, test everything retaining what is good and refraining from evil. Paul was writing to these people with the idea that Jesus would be coming back sometime soon so much of this advice seems absurd to us today who has the time to unceasingly pray in the world today. It is fitting that we hear these words as we grow closer to Christmas since Paul was getting that we must have a reason to be joyful since we know that we are waiting in hope for Christ to come again at Christmas but also to come again for real.
As we reach the Gospel we once again hear about John the Baptist but it is from the beginning-ish of the Gospel of John this week. John was sent by God to testify to the light so that all might believe through him. In the reading the Pharisees and Levites came out to talk with John and they asked him many questions. Are you the Christ? Elijah? A prophet? John reply no to all of them. Then they ask “Then who are you?” to which John replies using Isaiah’s words “I am the voice calling our in the wilderness” This is a question we should all ask ourselves this week “Who are we?” Are we joy filled like Isaiah and Paul talked or like John out there evangelizing the faith? For so many of us at times we would say sure that sounds like us  but not all the time.

Presentation of the Lord

After Jesus was born at least according to Luke’s gospel forty days have passed and Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem so as Mary can fufill the ritual purification after childbirth as outlined in Leviticus, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn, where like Abraham before the firstborn or other offering is offered to God.

While at the Temple they encounter Simeon and Anna, often considered the last two prophets of the Old Testament as they were both described in the Gospel as very old. Anna prophesied about the coming of Jesus in the temple for ages in Jerusalem and Simeon prophesied to Mary about the death of Jesus.  We need to remember that it is a woman (Anna) who is the first to prepare the way for Jesus.

Simeon like Mary and Zechariah has a canticle Nunc Dimittis it is typically recited during Night Prayers. Simeon’s canticle is recited as according to Luke the Holy Spirit had said he would not die until he saw the Savior born. Then Simeon said ” Now you dismiss your servant, O Lord, according to your word in peace; Because my eyes have seen your salvation…” It seems odd but the glory of the Lord is all around us and we barely recognize it.

I hope that in this upcoming year we can be more like Anna and Simeon and bring the words of Christ out into our communities and to do so with deep faith.

The Visitation

Mary after hearing that she is with child and that her cousin Elizabeth is about six months along with her Mary goes up to the hill country and visits her cousin. After traveling a hundred or so miles Mary arrived at  the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  At Mary’s greeting the child, John, leapt for joy in Elizabeth’s womb and Elizabeth responded “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” At this point Mary goes on to recite her canticle, the Magnificat “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Now Mary stays with Elizabeth and Zechariah for about three months and Elizabeth gives birth to a son.

At this point in the story Mary returns to Nazareth from the Hill country but it most likely wasn’t until after the events of the birth and circumcision had taken place. So Elizabeth gives birth to a son and everyone is overjoyed at this happening as Elizabeth had lived through the birth. At the circumcision Elizabeth says the his name will be John not Zachariah but her relatives said there is no one named John in the family.  So Zachariah, who had been rendered mute by Gabriel earlier on as he doubted the prophesy of the birth of John the Baptist, writes down “His name is John” and with the Zachariah can talk again. Zachariah sings his own canticle, Benedictus, at the birth of his son.

These two canticles are used in the Divine Office at morning prayer(Magnifcat) and evening prayer (Benedictus). This mystery is about family and being there for each other. Gabriel didn’t tell Mary to go visit Elizabeth or anything like that it was her own decision. In this digital world that we live in it seem all to often that people are forgetting the connection of family and friends rather opting for some online relationship. I hope that we remember our family and friends this holiday season and those that we have lost touch with are willing and able to reunite. I also hope that we all can trust in the plans of our heavenly father and not be struck dumb by an angel.