Wedding Feast at Cana

As we continue our way through John Paul II’s additional mysteries to the Rosary. The second Luminous Mystery we hear about the first miracle and the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. Here we have Mary and Jesus at some wedding, and they have run out of wine, which is a small problem. As the story goes Mary informs Jesus that the wine is running out he snaps back with “What concern is that to me, my time has not yet come.” Then Mary tells the servants to do as Jesus tells them. Jesus tells them to fill the empty purification jars with water and take it to the chief steward. The remarkable thing here is that Jesus doesn’t touch the water or really do anything to it yet it turns into the finest wine of the evening.

Now, Pope Benedict offers a unique observation of this miracle in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, saying that the miracle of producing  a lot of wine for a wedding can be seen as a sign of the greatness of the love we find at the core of salvation history: “God lavishly spends himself for the lowly creature, man. (…) The superabundance of Cana is therefore a sign that God’s feast with humanity, his self-giving for man, has begun”. This in a way points toward the heavenly banquet where all are welcome. We also have an interesting role for Mary as it is where she always is pointing us towards Jesus. She is our signpost in life on our path toward heaven. I hope that we all can take Mary’s advice and do whatever he (Jesus) says.

Mary in Islam

Last week we looked at the important role Mary plays in the Anglican Church now we turn from Christian religions and explore how Mary is looked at in the Muslim world.

In the Islamic world Mary or Maryam is considered one of the most righteous and greatest women as she is the only woman mentioned in the Quran. In fact she has a larger role in the Quran than in the New Testament and even has an entire surah (chapter) named for her. We are treated to the life of Mary from her birth to the birth of Isa (Jesus). According to the Quran, Mary’s parents, Hannah and Imran, were old and childless yet one day as Hannah saw a bird tending its young her desire for a child grew. Hannah prayed to God to grant her desire for a child and if so the child would be dedicated to God’s service. Hannah eventually conceived and bore a daughter and according to tradition she was born without the touch of Satan. Mary was raised by her uncle Zechariah at the temple. Mary grew up and an angel appeared to her, this story unfolds similar to that in the Gospel of Luke. The birth of Jesus is a bit different as from the birth it is said he was talking from the cradle, but we will get to that at a later time.

So Mary is an important figure in the Islamic world as well, and we all should keep her as an example of how to be faithful to God. Therefore we aren’t all that different from one another as Rumi points out “All religions, all this singing, one song. The differences are just illusion and vanity. Sunlight looks a little different on this wall than it does on that wall and a lot different on this other one, but it is still one light.”

Lady Chapels or Mary in the Anglican Church

In the Anglican Church the Lady chapel is a chapel which is to the east of the main altar in Cathedrals or the side altar in smaller church which is dedicated to Mary. Mary plays a unique role in the Anglican Church.  Since England was a stronghold of Marian devotion before the reformation. It is here where the feast of the Assumption was first celebrated in 1060. The Carmelite Simon Stock is said to have received the brown scapular from Mary at Cambridge, England also is home to Richard of Chichester, Edmund of Canterbury, Thomas Becket as well as the great Anselm of Canterbury who all were devotees of Mary. Anselm wrote books and prayers about “the spotless Ever-Virgin Mother of Christ.” England itself since the middle ages, roughly 1350 or so, has been called Mary’s Dowry and even Pope Leo XIII noted this while he was addressing a group of pilgrims in 1893.

At the time of the English Reformation, devotion to Mary was still big although Mary was no longer a mediatrix with Jesus and overt devotion to Mary ended. However there were still five Marian feast (Conception of Mary, Nativity of Mary, Annunciation, Visitation, Purification/Presentation) on the calendar of the Church of England. In the 16th century the Magnificat was apart of Evening Prayer and lady chapels started appearing. As the 17th century came the writers took a look at the Catholic and Orthodox devotion of Mary and this sort of inspired the Oxford Movement, which saw the Anglican Church as a branch of the Catholic church with the other branches being the Roman Church and the Greek. One of the leaders of this movement was John Henry Newman.  This movement lead to the revival of interest into pre-Reformation ideas like that of Our Lady of Walsingham, which has become quite the pilgrimage site for Anglicans, Catholics and Orthodox faithful. Currently, Mary holds a new prominent place as she is now name in the liturgy and even August 15 has become a feast day for Mary herself. Even some Marian devotions have crept back like the Rosary, Angelus and Regina Coeli.

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

We always begin the year with this Holy Day of Obligation and there is good reason for it. Sure Mary plays a role in the Christmas story but she sometimes get lost, since we’ve got Jesus and the shepherds, Joseph, animals, a little drummer boy, those kings all figure prominently in songs. Sure Mary is mentioned “the babe the son of Mary” but of the songs about Mary vary greatly. We have the Kingston Trio in Mary Mild singing about a child Jesus wanting to play at ball and making a bridge with the beams of the sun. Then we’ve got the song which is from Mary’s point of view, Breath of Heaven, this is a decent song from Amy Grant and is sort of like Michael Card’s Joseph’s Song which is kind of about being the parent of the Son of God. Finally we have the worst in my opinion Mary, Did You Know?, it has been covered by a whole bunch of artist, and the simple answer is that Mary learns of most of this in a vague since at the Presentation roughly forty days after the birth, when she meets Simeon “Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35)

By turning towards Mary as we begin the year is a way for all of us to look towards someone to aspire to since Mary points us toward Jesus. The Theotokos is honored in Eastern Orthodox Church on December 26th as Father Alexander Schmemann, notes “the Church points to Mary as the one through whom the Incarnation was made possible. His humanity—concretely and historically—is the humanity He received from Mary. His body is, first of all, her body. His life is her life.” Honoring the mother and child at the birth is something that we should all do. Sure we all celebrate our birthday but we weren’t the only ones there, our birth partners, our mothers, are an important part of the event. Let us all remember our heavenly Mother this year and especially our own mothers on the date of our birth.

Immaculata prayer

This is a prayer written by Maximilian Kolbe, one of the Saints of World War II. Maximilian Kolbe was a Conventual Franciscan (Greyfriars) who volunteered to die in the place of a stranger at Auschwitz. He is a pretty cool saint and Pope John Paul II named him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”. The prayer is a consecration to the Immaculata, Mary the Immaculate. I hope that we all can remember to turn to Mary of Mother when we are in need. The prayer comes in two forms the long one is:

Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, (name), a repentant sinner, cast myself at your feet, humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases you.

If it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: “She will crush your head,” and “You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world.” Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

V. Allow me to praise you, O Sacred Virgin       R. Give me strength against your enemies

Or there is a shorter version of the prayer for daily renewal of the consecration which is as follows:

Immaculata, Queen and Mother of the Church, I renew my consecration to you for this day and for always, so that you might use me for the coming of the Kingdom of Jesus in the whole world. To this end I offer you all my prayers, actions and sacrifices of this day.

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.”


Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the Patronal Feast day for half the world, as she is the patron of The Americas (North and South). Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego in 1531. At first she appeared on the hill of Tepeyac on December 9 and spoke to Juan Diego in his native language (Nahuatl or Aztec) she identified herself as the Virgin Mary “mother of the very true deity” and asked for a church to be build on this spot.  Juan Diego went to the Archbishop and he didn’t believe what was happening, so Mary again appeared to Juan Diego and insisted that he continue to plead to the Archbishop. On the 10th the Archbishop told Juan Diego that he needed a sign to prove who this apparition was. Juan Diego conveyed the message and later in the day he was told by the Lady to come back tomorrow and the proof would be there. However on the next day Juan Diego’s Uncle had fallen sick and Juan Diego didn’t leave his side until the early hours of the 12th when he went out to fetch a priest to hear his Uncle’s confession and provide last rites.  Juan Diego wanted to make this a quick trip and went around Tepeyac to avoid the Lady, however the Virgin appeared to him none the less and asked where he was going. Juan explained by Mary wasn’t having it and responded “No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?” (Am I not here, your mother) She explained that his Uncle would recover and that he should take some of the flowers (Castillian roses, a flower not native of Mexico) from the top of Tepeyac and bring them to the Archbishop. So he did collected them in his tilma and went off to the Archbishop and when Juan Diego dropped the flowers the ground before the Archbishop there appeared the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this same image is on display at the Basilica in Mexico. This has become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the world.  Let us keep our heavenly Mother in our minds over the upcoming week.

Ineffabilis Deus

Ineffabilis Deus is an Apostolic Constitution from Pope Pius IX. It is one of the two times the Pope ever has spoken ex catherda and officially enshrined dogma in Church history. This is a Papal Bull about Mary the Virgin Mother of Jesus and her own birth, although many people think that this feast day is about Jesus. In the Papal bull, Pope Pius says “We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.”

This is an interesting document as this idea had been around Christianity since the early days with Augustine and Irenaeus talking about it back in the day. In the Middle Ages this idea that Mary was free of sin was disputed by Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure as how could Mary be free from sin and be redeemed by Jesus. It wasn’t until Franciscan Friar John Duns Scotus who leaning on the Early Church Father brought the idea back out into the light, Mary needed redemption like all human being but through the merits of the Crucifixion given early she was conceived without the stain of Original sin,  however the Dominicans didn’t really like the reasoning following the Aquinas logic. This went on for some time and although the idea was taught in school it never was made doctrine of the Church.

Today is the Patronal Feast Day for the United States, Spain, Ireland, Brazil, Korea, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Portugal. So it is a Holy Day of Obligation, if you have some time get to Mass or if you can’t make it perhaps say a Rosary today.

Signum Magnum

Signum Magnum is an Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Paul VI in it which Paul VI renewed the consecration of the World to Mary which was made in 1942. Next year will be the 75th anniversary of  of Pius XII’s consecration, and it seems likely that Francis will be doing something with Mary next year with the huge anniversary at Fatima. The Exhortation focuses on Mary, to put it simply Mary is the Mother of the Church, we should pray more and renew our personal consecration to the Immaculate Heart.

Paul VI begins with highlighting the past doctrine on Mary and sums it up as “without wishing to restate here . . . the traditional doctrine of the Church regarding the function of the Mother of God on the plane of salvation and her relations with the Church, we believe that, if we dwell on the consideration of two truths which are very important for the renewal of Christian life, we would be doing something of great utility for the souls of the faithful.” He them moves to the idea that Mary is the Mother of the Church and goes into great detail on this. This is followed by eight points of focus. The point are pretty obvious if you’ve read any Marian literature. Like how we should imitate Mary in our lives and how prays are Through Mary to Jesus. Paul VI hopes that Mary can be used as a key in our relationship with the Eastern Churches as Mary seems to have long been the key to the faith.

Let us bring Mary into our life and try to be Mary to the world around us. Hopefully, Our Heavenly Mother can help guide us in time of trouble. As she is always there for us.

Magnae Dei Matris

Magnae Dei Matris is another encyclical of Pope Leo XIII focusing on the Rosary this one is a bit more indepth than other which are basically asking/reminding people to pray the Rosary in October.

Magnae Dei Matris (Great Mother of God) begins like the other encyclicals on the Rosary saying that at a certain time “occasion arises to stimulate and intensify the love and veneration of the Christian people for Mary”. It then turn to our Heavenly Father, who was the first to love Mary and raised her above all creation naming her his mother. This is key concept of the Encyclical. We in turn must put all of our filial trust in her. Here is where we get the classic pray the Rosary since October is coming up soon, Pope Leo gives some reason why we need to turn to the Rosary in which he mentions public institutions that science and art where there is hardly a mention of God as well as “the consequent laxity and apathy in the practice of the Catholic religion”, this sounds like something that some super conservative would say knocking on the Cafeteria and Secular Christianity that has grown up in the US and Europe. Pope Leo insists that the remedy for this is praying the Rosary. As we pray through the events of Mary’s life we grow closer to Jesus. It goes on and reflects on the idea that Mary is the perfect model of living the Christian life. It continues talking about how constantly praying the Rosary serves piety and is a  source of comfort. Eventually the encyclical ends with Pope Leo once again asking (us) his brother bishops to pray the Rosary.