Monday, September 08, 2014

Behold the Virgin

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  Romans 8:28-29

She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”  Matthew 1:21-23

Father, through the mysteries of the birth and life of your servant Mary, may we imitate what her birth and life reveal and obtain what her life and coronation promise through closer friendship with your Son.

The traditional date of the feast, September 8, falls exactly nine months after the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Some sources speculate that because of its close proximity on the calendar to the feast of the Assumption of Mary, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is not celebrated today with the same solemnity as the Immaculate Conception. It is, nonetheless, a very important feast, because it prepares the way for the birth of Christ. 

Without a willing, humble and obedient vessel, the Nativity of our Lord would not have been possible.  The Gospel today refers to the human lineage of Jesus – a sprout from the tree of Jesse, the father of David the king.  Such ancestry is connected on both the paternal side as well as the maternal side.  So although Matthew goes into great detail of the generations of ancestors for Joseph the carpenter, Mary’s blood lines were more important because they made possible the birth of the virgin who would give birth to the savior-carpenter-king.  

Without the virgin, the prophecy would not have been fulfilled. Christ needed a mother, and Mary's conception and birth, therefore, are events without which Christ's own birth would have been impossible.

Interestingly, we normally celebrate the day on which saints died, because that is when they entered into eternal life.  However, there are three major exceptions. We celebrate the births of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and Saint John the Baptist, because all three were born without Original Sin. 

In Mary, we revere qualities which would be ideal to imitate such as humility and obedience.  By being more Mary-like, we can become more Christ-like and get closer to Jesus in our daily life. As the reading from Romans reminds us, God wants us to be conformed to the image of his Son.  We can take a step in that direction by starting with the example of Mary and her joys, her sorrows and her mission.

“Conform” is an interesting choice of words for St. Paul (and his translators).  It means to act in accordance or harmony.  If we are to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, we need people to mentor us and set an example for the prevailing attitude and standards.  Rather than look elsewhere, Mary is our first guiding light into the way we can conform ourselves and our lives to Christ. As with all things on this journey, it also requires change from what we are doing now and movement away from any behavior which is not in harmony with the life of Christ. 

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