Sunday, December 16, 2018

(213) Living With Christ in the Womb of Mary Through Images of the Holy Land


A statue of Mary in the patio in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.  Different manifestations of Mary from different countries are on the walls.
A street in Nazareth, leading up to the Basilica of the Annunciation in the background.  
       Today is Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent.  That puts us at the half way point in our wait with joyful anticipation for the birth of Christ.  It won’t be long now.

       The Annunciation, the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.  In the fullness of time God sends the Archangel Gabriel to make an astonishing request of a poor obscure teen aged virgin in Nazareth in about the year 3 BC.  Mary is startled, but realizes that the Archangel Gabriel is sent by God.  The deceased prophets and thousands more hold their breaths at the gates of Heaven as Mary has to make a decision that would change the world and open the gates at the Resurrection of Christ.  Humanity has been waiting for the fulfillment of the promise made by God 4000 years before…… that He would send a redeemer.

The Archangel of the Lord declares unto Mary: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women."  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Note that the greeting is the first two sentences of the Hail Mary prayer.
Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus (a powerful name taken from the Hebrew word for, “God is salvation” that defined His mission on earth).
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."  (Luke 1:28-33).  Thus He will be Christ the King, whom the Knights of Columbus serve as we also should do.
But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?"  And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her, who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." (Luke 1:34-37).  Mary does not doubt as Zachary did.  She only wondered how this can be, knowing that nothing is impossible for God.
     Mary said, "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her (Luke 1:38).  This is Mary’s “fiat” or YES to God’s request.  God has given each one of us a special mission, but we have the freedom to accept or reject that mission.  Mary’s decision is YES and at that very instant Mary is conceived by the Holy Spirit.  “The word was made flesh and He dwelt among us.”  Thus Mary becomes the Mother of God the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity, i.e., in His human nature.

Behind the main altar is the spot believed to be where the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary with the epic news and a request.

       Mary is destined to suffer with her son, Jesus.  As God’s servant, Mary accepts anything that He might ask of her. She trusts God without question…….that all will work out according to His plan and thus for the best since she is confident of His great love.  Notice that the principal elements of the Angeles prayer that is said at noon in much of the world is contained in (Luke 1:28-38).  This biblical passage comprises the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, the Annunciation.  Mary can teach us so much when we meditate on that mystery as well as all the other mysteries of the Rosary.

The Visitation, the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.  Mary learned from the Archangel Gabriel that her aging cousin Elizabeth miraculously conceived and is six months pregnant.  Mary sees Elizabeth in need of help, especially at her age.   Thus Mary travels (notice the painting on the façade of the church above) to Ein Karem to help Elizabeth.  The 80 mile journey by donkey is difficult over crude roads and there is a danger of being attacked and robbed.  However, as shown in the mural, Mary is protected by angels.  Let St. Luke the Evangelist describe their meeting.

The Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem.  The façade depicts Mary traveling on a donkey for her visit to her cousin St. Elizabeth who is pregnant with St. John the Baptist.  It’s about an hour and a half by car, days by donkey.

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant (St. John the Baptist) in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Luke 1:39-45).

      The baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy.  Babies in utero can hear what’s going on outside.  The infant in utero must have sensed that something epic was happening or God actually inspired him with the joyous news.  This is a beautiful testimony for a human being in the womb.  The above passage contains the second and third sentences of the Hail Mary prayer.
Inside the Church of the Visitation is a painting of Mary greeting her cousin Elizabeth.
Mary’s womb is effectively a tabernacle of the most high.  Centuries before King David hid the Ark of the Covenant in Ein Karem for three months; Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months.  We look on Mary as the new Ark of the Covenant.  The original Ark contained manna, the Ten Commandment slabs written by God, and the staff of Aaron, shepherd and priest.  

As the new Ark of the Covenant, Mary carries in her womb not manna, but the bread of life; not the slabs, but the word incarnate who will later speak for God; not the staff of Aaron, but the good shepherd and priest who will offer himself in 33 years as the victim to make reparation for all the sins of the world past, present, and future in order to open the gates of Heaven for us if only we follow Him.

And Mary says the most beautiful canticle of all time and a gem of literature, the Magnificat.

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever"  (Luke 1:46-55).


See - (50) Meditations For the Rosary I: The 1st and 2nd Joyful Mysteries, The Annunciation and the Visitation.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

(212) Waiting For Christ's Coming During Advent Through Images of the Holy Land and an Overview of the Old Testament


            We had the privilege of being able to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with 260 pilgrims from the Diocese of Rzeszow-Poland, which made it much cheaper than flying from the United States.  We thought of you all and prayed for you there.  Now we would like to share it with you through the liturgical year as we trace many of the steps of our Lord therein.  Hopefully, we can help you to make the Gospel come alive as we relive the epic events described in the Gospel.  Perhaps some of you could make the same pilgrimage yourselves by living modestly and saving up.  It would be a lot more uplifting and spiritually fruitful than a trip to Las Vegas.

Italics = quote from the Bible.
Italics Bold = quotes from the Bible.
Bold = Subtitles. Title. And captions for photos.

       Why do we celebrate Advent?  During the liturgical year we relive with Christ the main events of His life.  Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year, is a time of preparation for recalling the first coming of Messiah, Jesus Christ and His final coming at the end of time.  

Thus we should prepare ourselves with extra prayer as the rosary, Bible and other spiritual reading, charity, good works, daily Mass when we can, and an Advent Confession to clean our souls for the coming of the Savior.  Since such preparation involves some penance or sacrifice, the priest wears purple vestments. Still Advent is a more a time of joyful expectation and hope than a period of penance as in Lent.

Let’s go into greater depth in order to better understand and appreciate Advent.  Let us examine the long wait for the redeemer through an overview of the Old Testament and its promise, starting with Adam and Eve in Genesis 1, 2, & 3.  For an excellent time line through it all, click on  It also has links to fascinating maps.
The Garden of Eden. God intended that each person occupy Paradise for a period of time as a test and preparation for Heaven; then at death there would be a seamless transition to Heaven.  God clearly forbade Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  According to St. Pope John Paul II, the Lord used that tree as a test of obedience and to show that He is God and they are creatures. 

God warned Adam and Eve that disobedience would mean death.  However, the serpent said to Eve “No, you shall not die; for God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be open and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  They did eat of the apple and God expelled them from Paradise.

Adam and Eve had a close and special relationship with God and direct communication with Him.  Thus giving in to the serpent’s temptation was a betrayal.  What made their sin even more grave was that they did not believe God, but believed the devil (Do we do the same?); they did not trust God; they wanted to be like God, (i.e., little gods).  They were not satisfied to be created according to His image and likeness.  They doubted God’s word that they would die by eating the fruit, looking upon Him as a liar.   They said no to God; they rejected Him; they turned away from their Creator and what is right.  That defines serious sin.  It was blatant disobedience, a direct affront against God. 

As a result, the gates of Heaven were closed.  By inheritance and association as descendants of Adam and Eve, every person (except Mary and her Son) is conceived with a stigma as a member of the human family.  This we call Original Sin which causes a separation from God and a tendency to sin (concupiscence)…….Adam and Eve’s legacy to us. 

However, in His mercy God left humanity with hope.  He promised to send a Redeemer…….“I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman (Mary), between your offspring and hers; He (Christ) will strike at your head while you strike at his heel” (Gen 3:15).  Only the Son of God could make reparation for the great sin of Adam and Eve and the sins of their descendants in order to open the gates of Heaven for humanity if we repent and follow Him.   

“God created man in His image, in the divine image He created him; male and female he created them.  God blessed them saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:27-28).  They would multiply through God’s gift of sex which He intended for procreation (to create with Him) and bonding.

God created sex to be beautiful and sacred, where a man and a woman that God has brought together give themselves to each other in the marital act and the product of that love is a human being made to the image and likeness of God.  Thus sex is sacred and not to be used for recreation, simply as a toy for pleasure     

Analogous to the enticing apple of the Tree of Knowledge is the enticing, often addicting pleasure and excitement of illicit sex, be it heterosexual outside of marriage or homosexual in all cases whether with an adult or a minor, whether forced (the perpetrator) or consensual.  Objectively all are deadly mortal sins if there is full knowledge and full consent of the will (see on the vocation to chastity (p 561) and offenses against chastity on page 564 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church). 

The devil tempts us as he did with Adam and Eve…….“It’s OK; there’s nothing wrong with it; it’s not a sin because you’re in love and committed to each other; you’ll get married anyhow; everyone does it; it’s only fair that gays should also have sex; it’s legal; etc.”.  Pornography leads one away from God into the darkness.  Our Lady of Fatima revealed to Jacinta on her death bed:  “More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”  We are fallen and Christ came to redeem us and reconcile Adam and Eve as well as us with God, if we repent and follow the Lord.   

During 4000 years of Salvation History after Adam and Eve, fallen man in a fallen world groped in the dark.  “In pain shall you bear children……by the sweat of your brow shall you get bread to eat” (Genesis 3:16 &19).  Some theologians believe that Mary probably did not undergo labor during the birth of the Christ child because of her Immaculate Conception, i.e., she was conceived without original sin.
       Planet Earth was a dark place…….Cain killed his brother Abel in the first homicide.  Because of rampant corruption and injustice, God sent the flood to destroy humanity, but saved Noah and his family.  Yet even after the flood, all kinds of sin and debauchery continued.

Just south of the Dead Sea (above) lay Sodom and Gomorrah.  Water from the Sea of Galilee, the River Jordan, and other streams in the Holy Land empty not into the ocean, but into the Dead Sea which has no outlet.  The water evaporates, but all of the salts and medicinal minerals remain.  Thus the water is much denser than ocean water and the human body.  Therefore a person can float in it without effort.    
Among the darkest places at the beginning of the second millennium B.C. were five thriving sin cities just south of the Dead Sea near Zoar, where immorality and depravity in sins of the flesh, including homosexuality, reigned until God destroyed four of the cities like in a nuclear holocaust.  The most notorious of the five cities were Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18 &19). 

      The word sodomy is their legacy.  The same sins are common today.  What was sinful then is just as sinful today because morality flowing from the natural order created by God is absolute and unchanging.  Robert Bork, President Ronald Reagan’s nominee for the Supreme Court rejected by a Democratic Senate, indicts our society as a culture in moral decline in his 1996 book, “Slouching toward Gomorrah”.  Does he have a point?  If so, will the consequences of widespread depravity destroy America?

Thus the Ten Commandments and basic Church moral teaching (the magisterium) --as written in the official Catechism of the Catholic Church and handed down to us by Christ through the apostles-- cannot be changed.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church can be accessed at  The user can quickly access any part of the catechism by clicking on the desired item in the Table of Contents at the beginning of the book. 

The Muslim Mosque, called the Dome of the Rock where Abraham demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice his beloved son to God.  Some 50 yards away is the Temple Mount, site of the first and second temples.  The first built by King Solomon in about 940 BC was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC The second temple was built in about 515 BC, but was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

In about 2000 BC God chose Abraham as the first patriarch and father of nations after he showed his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac to Him.  God intervened and rewarded Abraham for his obedience by making him the father of nations.  Two millenniums later God the Father gave His only Son to be sacrificed for us and our sins.  His son Isaac begot Jacob, the third patriarch who begot Joseph.  The latter brought his kin to Egypt to escape from a severe famine in about 1700 BC. 

Eventually, their descendants were enslaved by the pagan Egyptians.  After 400 years (1280 BC), God sent Moses to bring them out of Egypt to the promised land of Canaan that was originally settled by Abraham centuries before.  God let the Jews wonder in the desert for 40 years because of their rebelliousness, complaining, and idol worship.  During that time God gave the Jews the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai between today’s Israel and Egypt.

Map of Ancient Palestine
       The Jews finally settled in Canaan, the promised land in about 1240 BC and were ruled by God through Judges, the last being Samuel.  It was during this period that Boaz married Ruth, whose great grandson was King David, who continued the line to St. Joseph and probably Mary as well.  By 1050 BC the Jews demanded a human king, rejecting God as their king and against the advice of Samuel.  Nevertheless, Samuel chose King Saul who betrayed God through disobedience and killed himself to avoid capture.  

    King David and King Solomon, who built the great temple, followed.  The latter betrayed God through idol worship.  The Lord punished him by allowing infighting to occur between his son Rehoboam and the ten tribes of the north under Jeroboam.  They then became two separate kingdoms, Judah (south) and Israel (north) in 930 BC.

The Promised Land as viewed from Mt. Tabor in Galilee.

       The Jews of the Old Testament followed a cyclic pattern.  When they were close to God as during the reign of King David and most of the reign of King Solomon, Israel was prosperous and powerful.  When corruption and idol worship crept in toward the end of King Solomon’s reign, Israel lost its power and prosperity until they returned to God and became powerful again before falling again as the cycle would repeat.
Assyria defeated the Jews and then the Babylonians conquered and took them to Babylon (in Iraq) as slaves.  The exile lasted almost 200 years from 722 to 538 BC.  During the Babylonian Exile, the Jews kept together as a people and slowly came back to God.  The Lord sent Cyrus of Persia to free the Jews to return to their lands and rebuild the temple.  In about 330 BC, the Greeks led by Alexander the Great conquered Palestine.  In 167 BC, Rome with Pompey in command drove the Greeks out and took Israel.

       Of all the peoples of the world only the Jews believed in the one true God; the rest practiced some form of idol worship.  There was human sacrifice to these false gods, who often were demons.  Even the Romans placed little value upon human life.  If a Roman woman did not want her baby, she would simply trash the infant.  Later Christians buried many of them with dignity as they do today with abandoned aborted babies.

There is a statue of the prophet Elijah at Mt. Carmel where he demonstrated the power of God against the false god Baal in bringing down fire from Heaven (1 Kings 18).
The Promise of the Old Testament. Even God’s chosen people, the Jews often fell into corruption, sin, and some idol worship.  God raised up prophets to speak for Him to the people in order to teach them and help them to turn away from sin and come back to God.  They often prophesied the coming of the Redeemer, particularly Isaiah (especially in chapters 7, 9, and 11), as well as Zechariah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Malachi, David, and Nathan.  Christ was to be born of a virgin in Bethlehem in the line of David (from Abraham to St. Joseph in Matthew 1:1-17). 

Humanity already had to wait 4000 Years for the fulfillment of the promise.  Each Sunday in Advent and each candle in the Advent Wreath represents 1000 years of world history since the fall of Adam and Eve.
     The promise of the Old Testament will yield to the fulfillment of the New Testament.  Let us prepare our hearts for Christmas.  To grow spiritually do more reading of the Bible…...the most read book of all time.  The promised Messiah will come soon.  Be ready!