The Solemnity of the Virgin, Mother of God
December 31, 2014 and January 1, 2015
This is the day when we contemplate the year past. We will see news stories about the celebrities that left us, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers; what happened in the world of politics, government, and economies. We will also hear statistics about how many murders, or how much crime. We will listen to the recounting of the riots in Ferguson, and New York. Certainly there will be stories about our Holy Father, Pope Francis and his many efforts to reform the Vatican and reach out to a world so in need of Christ -. so much happened over the course of these last 12 months. This is our day to pack it up and put it on a shelf, take away such lessons as we can and resolve to do better in the coming year.
Today the church also asks us to contemplate one of the great mysteries and indeed the greatest blessing God has bestowed upon humankind, that is the birth of Jesus from the womb of a young woman who simply said “YES!” Isn’t it funny how we accept that there is a supreme being, God, and that God created all that we see, touch and feel, yet the idea that a virgin cannot give birth seems so outside of the power of God?
So today the church asks us to honor Mary in a special way – at the end of the year, and the beginning of the next. Mary, whose heart was to be pierced by a Roman sword, who knew from the beginning that Jesus was miraculous and would do great things. She followed him and held him in her heart even as she watched him so cruelly tortured and crucified. And, it was Mary, who watched Jesus grow in stature and wisdom, who lived her remaining years as the repository of all that had taken place. In her most blessed heart, she held the mystery, the tragedy and the triumph of God’s Word made flesh.
As the year turns the church asks us to contemplate the great mysteries of our faith, and of salvation – many of which are contained in our second reading from Galatians:
Brothers and sisters:
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son,
born of a woman, born under the law,
to ransom those under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
As proof that you are sons,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying out, “Abba, Father!”
So you are no longer a slave but a son,
and if a son then also an heir, through God.
As you consider the year past and the year to come, I would ask you to keep this story in mind:
Several years ago, my wife Barb and I went to Turkey and Greece to walk in the steps of St. Paul. Our journey took us to Ephesus, which is in southwestern Turkey near the Mediterranean Sea. There is a strong tradition, but no proof that the disciple John, the beloved, is buried there and that Mary lived there with him for the rest of her days.
We went to visit a small chapel in the hills called Mary’s House, which is venerated as the traditional home of Mary in Turkey. As I sat in prayer in this little stone chapel, giving way to the urgings of the Holy Spirit, I began to imagine Mary standing at the window of the Chapel looking southeast toward Jerusalem. She looked serious and pensive, as she ran through all that had happened over the last 34 years. What might she have been thinking in her prayer, of a place so far away?
I don’t know that Mary ever lived in Ephesus. No one does. But I suggest that in your prayer, you consider what she might have thought as her mind took her back to the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ; the mystery of salvation, the love of the Father, the sacrifice of the Son and the ongoing Presence of the Holy Spirit.