Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Handmaid of the Lord

Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

By Melanie Rigney

The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living. (Genesis 3:20)

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.  (Psalm 98:1)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined for us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.  (Luke 1:38)

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.

It was a Friday, December 8, 1854, to be exact, when Pius IX set forth as dogma that Mary “at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God,” was conceived without original sin. The belief had been generally accepted by theologians for a couple hundred years, though earlier, there had been some debate as to Mary’s pre-redemption. 

While any statement of dogma is important to faithful Catholics, it is doubtful a fourteen-year-old French peasant girl had heard of it, much less understood it, four years later. After all, the sickly Bernadette Soubirous was functionally illiterate and had yet to make her First Communion. Yet, it was Bernadette to whom a beautiful lady appeared on February 11, 1858. And it was on March 25, 1858, a Thursday to be exact, that the lady, after being asked four times by Bernadette who she was, answered, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

Bernadette may not have understood all the theology behind what the lady told her, but she knew the lady was love, and that she wanted to do whatever the lady asked. Whether others thought she was a fool was of no concern to her; after all, people had been ignoring or discounting her all of her short life. Interrogations by lay and church authorities could not move her from her account of what she had seen, what she had heard, and what she had been asked to do.

May we learn from Bernadette’s example. May we listen to Mary. May we open our hearts and souls to her beauty.

Contemplate the ways in which Mary, as our holy mother, may lead you closer to her Son.

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