Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Marian Musings V

The Rosary of Mary

The term rosary comes from the Latin rosarium which means garland of roses. The rosary can best be described as participation in the life of Mary, whose focus was on Christ.

Originally the use of beads by monks was centered on the Liturgy of the Hours, where the beads were used to keep track of the Psalms, which the monks recited in their entirety over the course of the day. As many of the laity could not read they substituted the Our Father for the Psalms, using a knotted cord to keep count. Eventually the Hail Mary was substituted for the Our Father. The English church first grouped the beads into decades, each of which was begun with an Our Father. The practice of meditating on the mysteries, which were grouped into three sets of five; the Joyful, Glorious and Sorrowful Mysteries, originated in Germany. After the Fatima Apparitions happened in 1917 the addition of the Fatima prayer, also known as the Decade Prayer, to differentiate it from the other three prayers taught the children at Fatima, was added after the Glory Be(doxology).

In 2002 Pope John Paul II instituted the Luminous Mysteries.

The need to pray the rosary has been reported in Marian apparitions for centuries. At Lourdes Saint Bernadette stated that at the initial meeting...”The Lady took the rosary that she held in her hands and made the sign of the cross.” At Fatima the Lady identified herself as “the Lady of the Rosary.”

Names of Mary

There are over 6000 titles and names of Mary. Some are used in prayer and liturgy. Others are associated with specific ministries or locations. Here are but a few:

Blessed Virgin
Blessed Mother
Fairest flower of our race
Consolation of all souls
Comfort of Christians
Hope of Christians
Hope of sinners
The New Eve
Immaculate Virgin
Lady, full of grace
Our Lady of Charity
Our Lady of Fatima
Our Lady of deliverance
Our Lady of Divine Providence
Our Lady of Good Hope
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of New Orleans
Our Lady of MaryKnoll
Our Lady of the Cape
Our Lady, Star of the Sea
Mother and Queen
Mother and Virgin
Queen of Heaven
Queen of Angels
Queen of Apostles
Queen of sorrows
Ark of God
Blessed chalice
House of the Most High

Mary as the model of Christian life

Mary was the first disciple. From the first time we meet her in Scripture she points the way to her Son and shows us how we should respond to God. When the angel visits her with news of the Incarnation Mary's answer should be our answer, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to God's will.”

Upon visiting Elizabeth, who greets her, “Full of Grace,” Mary's answer, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor and his lowly servent...the Mighty One has done great things for me...”

Later at Cana we hear her final recorded words in Scripture, “Do whatever he tells you.” What better guideline could she give us for reaching salvation?

Marian Prayer

Many formal Prayers to Mary have been used by Catholics. The most well known is probably the Hail Mary, which we have already discussed. The Angelus is a devotion in memory of the Incarnation. It is prayed three times a day, at 6 am, noon and 6 pm and is accompanied by the ringing of the Angelus bell. The Magnificat is said as part of Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours, and Night Prayer ends with an Antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, often the Hail Holy Queen (which also ends the rosary) or the Regina caeli (Queen of Heaven) or a simple Hail Mary.

Various litanies have been composed to Mary. Litanies are used in the Eastern Churches as part of the liturgy, but the practice has also become a practice of the Western (that is the Roman) Church. A litany is a series of short petitions and exhortations which are sung or recited. A well known litany used as part of the Mass during certain seasons and occasions is the Litany of the Saints. Dozens, if not hundreds of litanies have been composed to Mary.

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a version of the Liturgy of the Hours which is said in Mary's honor. Certain congregations of religious and Third Orders use the Little Office and it is also prayed by some members of the laity.

We will end with the Memorare. Note: Most traditional formal prayers of the Church were originally written in Latin. In Latin it is the custom to designate a particular prayer based upon its beginning. Hence the Magnificat which begins “Magnificat anima” or the Hail Mary(Ave Maria). Memorare means “Remember.”

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help,
or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins, my Mother.
To thee do I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Marian Musings IV

The Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception is the belief that Mary was born without the stain of original sin. Like the rest of us Mary received salvation through the sacrifice of her Son, Jesus. Unlike the rest of us God applied this sanctifying grace to Mary from the time of her conception. She was created a perfect tabernacle for the incarnation of her Son, free from stain from the beginning.

Like the Assumption, the Immaculate Conception of Mary was a belief held for many centuries, back to even the second century, which was only recently formalized. Pope Sixtus IV established the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1476. The belief was defined as dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

The Marian Apparitions

An apparition is an appearance of a heavenly being, Christ, Mary, a saint or an angel, to a human or group of people. Heavenly apparitions have been recorded throughout history, both in Scripture and in the writings of many of the saints.

The first testimony of a Marian Apparition was reported by Gregory of Nyssa in 395AD. Since that time over 2200 visions of Mary have been granted official recognition by the Church. The Church never declares that an apparition is real or authentic. After a thorough investigation the most the Church will do is allow that a certain apparition is “worth of belief.”

Some Marian Apparitions are very well known. The most famous probably occurred in December 1531. At that time Juan Diego Cuanhtlatoatzin, an Aztec convert was walking on his way to what would one day become Mexico City to attend Mass. He was met by a Lady who spoke to him in his native language. She asked him to inform the bishop that a church should be built on that hill. The bishop was less than impressed. The bishop demanded a sign. The lady showed Juan Diego a miraculous rose garden. Blooming in the middle of winter. She bade him gather roses to show to the bishop, which he did in his cloak. When he showed them to the bishop an image, a portrait of what became known as Our Lady of Guadalupe was on the cloth. It is as Our Lady of Guadalupe that Mary is patron of the Americas.

A more recent apparition was Our Lady of Lourdes in 1858. In Lourdes the Lady directed Bernadette Sourbirous to dig, revealing a miraculous spring at which many unexplained healings have happened, numbering over 5000. Significantly the Lady identified herself to Bernadette, who was a peasant girl of scant theological training, as the “Immaculate Conception” at a time when that dogma had barely been formalized four years before.

Another well know vision was at Fatima in 1917. There the Lady appeared to three children. Two things made Fatima different from other apparitions. The first is the Miracle of the Sun. Before a crowd of 70,000 people, which included atheists and other non-Christians the sun became a colorless silver disk and danced in a multi color sky while members of the crowd screamed in terror, wept and prayed. It lasted for ten minute before returning to normal.

The second was that the children received three secrets. The secrets were revealed to the local bishop and eventually to the pope. The first 2 were revealed in 1927. The first predicted the Second World War. The second warned that if Russia did not convert it would spread its errors throughout the world and many nations would face annihilation. The third secret was not disclosed until 2000, when it was published by John Paul II. The Holy Father believed it predicted the attempt on his life that occurred in 1981, and credited the Blessed Mother with saving his life.

It should be remembered that the Church holds that any revelation made by even an apparition declared as “worthy to be believed” is a private revelation. Public, dogmatic revelation ended with the death of St. John, the last Apostle. No one is required to believe private revelation.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Marian Musings III

Mary in Tradition

For Catholics Tradition (big “T”) is as important as Scripture. Before we had Scripture (at least New Testament Scripture) we had Tradition. Not everything that was written in the early Church was incorporated into the New Testament. Not everything that was left out was false or even bad, it was simply not inspired. Christians have always known things about Mary that were not recorded in Scripture.

One of these writings, The Protoevangelium of James, is thought to have been written as early as 150 AD. This document was specifically mention by Origen, the late second century theologian. He did not considered it to have actually been written by James. This is the James who according to the manuscript was the son of Saint Joseph by a prior marriage, and the brother of Jesus mentioned in the Gospels, often called James the Just. James was a leader in the early Church in Jerusalem. It was often common at the time for authors to attribute their works to well known saints or religious leaders.

This document contains much of what is now generally accepted about Mary's history which is not recorded in the Gospels. It names her parents Anna and Heli, who is also known as Joachim. He was of the royal family of David. Anna was said to have been of the priestly family of Aaron, so in Jesus was combined the bloodline of both the royal and priestly families.

Mary is also said to have been presented at the Temple. Under Jewish law it was required, under the covenant, that first born males be presented to the Temple to be consecrated to God. And so Jesus was, in what we called the Presentation. Sometimes other very special children were also presented at the Temple to be consecrated to God. So it was said of Mary. Tradition (little “t”) says that Mary was 3 years old at this time and took a vow of virginity.

Tradition also tells us that St. John the Evangelist eventually settled in Ephesus, in Greece. As previously mentioned this was where the Council of Ephesus was held and the synodal letter of that council reads:
Wherefore also Nestorius, the instigator of the impious heresy, when he had come to the city of the Ephesians, where John the Theologian and the Virgin Mother of God St. Mary estranged himself of his own accord...
There are several places in the Eastern world which lay claim to spot where the Blessed Virgin left this mortal pale. No one claims to have her body, nor have they ever. Catholics, from the days of Early Christianity, have venerated and honored the relics of the Saints. The location of the graves of St. Peter and St. Paul are known to us, as is the resting place of St. Steven the first martyr mention in Scripture. Christians have never claimed to have relics of the Blessed Virgin. One of the earliest feasts celebrated by the Church declares that Mary was assumed directly into heaven. In 602 AD this feast was formalized for the Universal Church as the “Falling asleep of the mother of God” as it is still known today in the Eastern Churches. While this has been a belief of the Church from early times Pope Pius XII in 1950 proclaimed it a dogma and created it as a major feast. It is also celebrated in the Eastern Churches on the same date of August 15.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Marian Musings II

Mary in Scripture

The first prophesy in which Mary is mention is in Genesis. Adam and Eve have just been tossed out of paradise. God has described the burdens they will now carry because they have turned their backs on Him. But God does not let the tempter who had lead them into sin go unpunished, and in this punishment is a prophesy and a promise:

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; he shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for his heel.

Now the serpent represents Satan. The woman is not Eve, who has just been banished from the garden and promised the pain of childbirth and death, but Mary, whose seed is Jesus Christ. So just as Jesus is often called the New Adam so too is Mary called the New Eve. Where Eve said no to God, Mary said Yes. Just as through Eve's no were we all cursed with the burden of sin so through Mary's yes were we saved.

The second prophesy about Mary is from Isaiah:

The Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel .

The Third prophesy about Mary is in Micheas:

And thou, Bethlehem, Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Judah: out of thee shall be come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel, and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity.

In the Gospels Luke says more about Mary than anyone else. He starts with the genealogy of Christ. Then St. Luke describes the Annunciation, the coming of the Angel Gabriel to Mary in her home in Nazareth. The Angels words are echoed in the Hail Mary. “Hail Mary, full of grace the lord is with you.” Mary responds to the Angel's announcement with the words “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to Your will.”

After the Annunciation Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth in a city of Judah. This is called the Visitation.

Elizabeth's words to Mary are the basis for the next stanza of the Hail Mary, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of you womb.”

Mary's answer to Elizabeth is recorded by Luke in 2:46-55. This canticle, the Magnificat, is said every evening as part of the Liturgy of the hours. In it Mary points to the Lord God “who has done great things for me.”

The evangelists tell of Mary's betrothal to Joseph. The trip to Bethlehem in fulfillment of the prophesy in Micheas. The Presentation in the Temple and the flight to Egypt. The last we see of the holy family is in Luke when the boy Jesus becomes lost in the temple.

Two events during Jesus public ministry concern Mary directly. The first records the last words said by her in Scripture and are recorded by John.

On the third Day there was a wedding at Cana and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When the Wine ran out the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me. My hour has not yet come” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Once again Mary points to God. Her words directed to us as much as to those first century waiters.

We see Mary for the final time in the Gospels in John standing at the foot of the cross.

Meanwhile standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clo'pas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” and from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

So Mary become our mother and mother of the Church.

In Acts it says that Mary stayed with the eleven in the upper room awaiting the appearance of the Advocate on Pentecost. Mary does not appear explicitly again, Like John Paul never mentions her by name in any of his Epistles.

In Revelations John tells of the Woman

...a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in agony of giving birth.

The woman of Revaluations is at once both Mary and the Church, who both share Jesus' messianic mission. Mary is the symbol of the triumphant Church that awaits and intercedes for us. She is also the first disciple. The first to say yes to Christ.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Marian Musings

Recently I gave a talk on Mary to an RCIA group. I'll be posting parts of it over the next few days.

Mary, Mother of the Church.

For more than 2000 years Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been written about, prayed to and adored. It is important to remember we do not worship Mary, but venerate her. In Latin the term for this veneration is hyperdulia. Dulia is veneration of the saints. Hyperdulia is therefore the highest form of veneration, but does not equate to worship. The word which is equates to the worship reserved to God is Latria. So theologically we differentiate the honor due God from that due the saints, and after God the highest honor is given to Our Lady.

Mother of God (Theotokos)
Though Latin is the official language of the Latin Church, the first language of the Church was Greek. That was the language that most of the new Testament was written in. This was also the language of the Old Testament scripture used by Christ himself, the Septuagint. And this was the language of the educated theologians and Church fathers who met at Ephesus for the Third Ecumenical Council in the Year of our Lord 431. This council was called to deal with the heresy of the Nestorians. Nestorius was the Bishop of Constantinople, which was at that time the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.
Nestorius claimed that Mary was the mother of Jesus, but not the mother of God. He also declared that only Jesus' human side suffered and died on the cross. This belief made of Jesus two different persons and denied the reality of the Incarnation.
This could not stand and so a council was called. At that council it was declared that Jesus, the Word, the second Person of the Divine Trinity was Incarnate, that is he was en-fleshed in the womb of Mary. The divine nature of the Son was united with the human nature, in one undivided person: Jesus.
Since that is so, Mary who was and is the mother of Jesus must be the Mother of God, and so she is. This belief is held to this day by the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and even some Protestant groups. In Greek the word for "Mother of God" is Theotokos.