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.

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