The Rosary: A True Treasure

December 29, 2016 - 2:06pm
Luke 2 16
Reading Reflections for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Think of a time when you have encountered God in a powerful way...

 

First Reading

The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace! (Numbers 6:22-27).

 

The connection to be made between this First Reading, the Epistle, and the Gospel reading for this solemnity may not be immediately evident, but one interesting theme suggests itself. Each of these readings gives us an insight into the importance of the divine name. In Numbers, Aaron is told to bless the people by putting God’s name upon them. In the Second Reading from Galatians, we are told that our capacity to call God by the name of “Father” is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Lastly, the babe born to Mary, the Mother of God whom we celebrate today, is given the name “Jesus” at his circumcision.

We are told in this First Reading how Aaron and the Levitical priests are to bless the people of Israel. Previously in the Bible, the covenant blessing had been passed from fathers to sons (see Genesis 26 and 27, for example). From Exodus onward, Aaron and his sons are commissioned by God to serve as the priestly fathers of Israel, and they are instructed to pass on the blessing of the covenant with Yahweh by speaking that very name over the people. Just as the ancient patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had passed on the covenantal blessing to their sons, the priests of  the Levitical order are enjoined to pass on the blessing to their spiritual sons. The blessing form we find in this text is still used as a solemn form of blessing at the end of the Holy Eucharist. Our priest-fathers in the Church continue this practice, begun so long ago, of passing on God’s blessing by invoking the holy name of God.

 

Second Reading

God sent the Spirit of the Son into our hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" So you are no longer a slave but an heir, through God (Galatians 4:4-7).

 

Our reading from Galatians highlights the specific entry of God into time at the moment of the Incarnation. “Time” can have an abstract and general meaning (kairos in the Greek), such as “Time waits for no man,” or a more concrete and specific meaning (chronos in the Greek), such as, “The time is 10 p.m.” The Scriptures will sometimes use the more abstract form kairos, as in Ephesians 1:10 when Paul speaks about the “fullness of time.” Other times, the more concrete and specific form chronos is used, as in this text from Galatians.

This suggests that St. Paul is here stressing the actuality of the Incarnation. Some translations of this passage render the “fullness of time” as “the designated time,” making that point even clearer, suggesting also the designs of God’s providence in this timing. Luke in his Gospel shows the same interest in specifying the entry of God into time by anchoring it to the reign of Caesar Augustus and local rulers like Herod in Judaea and Quirinius in Syria. This temporal specificity is accompanied by the added phrase, “born of a woman, born under the law,” which also indicates the actuality of the Incarnation. Jesus took flesh from a particular woman, from Mary, a Jewish woman, and so he was born “under the law” of Moses. The Son of God becomes the son of Mary; and by truly entering into our humanity enables humanity to enter truly into his divine Sonship by way of an adoption worked by the Holy Spirit.

 

Gospel

The shepherds glorified and praised God for all they had heard and seen (Luke 2:16-21).

 

In giving us this solemnity, the Church presents us with many things to consider: the beginning of a new year, the birth of God into our human experience, as well as the important place that Mary plays in the divine plan. When we approach Mary, requesting her prayers, we approach someone who has a sublime and altogether unique relationship with God. Her role as Mediatrix for the Church is something truly singular and deserves our special recognition. That is why we honor her this day. Because Jesus enters into an intimate relationship with each one of us, it is only proper that his mother, the human person to whom he is most intimately united, should have a special place in the life of each of us in the Church, as well. This is not our doing or Mary’s doing; the agency for this is Christ himself.

We approach Jesus in much the same way that the shepherds did, with Mary at his side. Approaching Jesus through Mary is not a denigration of Christ; on the contrary, it was his choice to come to us through Mary, and so we imitate him when we go to him through Mary! A mother is never far from her son, and by knowing her we come to know him better. That is why it is important for us to recognize and honor the specific role she plays in the events of our salvation. In addition to honoring her, we must also imitate her in treasuring in our hearts the events of Jesus’s life and death.

 

Meditation

 

Today’s Gospel reading is about an encounter with God Incarnate and how nothing can ever be the same afterward. We see this both from the perspective of the shepherds who receive the angel’s message and find  the infant, and from the perspective of the Holy Mother of God who carries these things in her heart, pondering and reflecting. We are called to do the same.

Think of a time when you have encountered God in a powerful way. It might have been an answer to prayer, consolation in a time of trouble, physical or mental healing, an overwhelming sense of peace amidst anxiety, or something else. Set aside time each day this week to remember and reflect on that encounter with God and to praise him for it.

 


Reflection by Opening the Word and reprinted with the permission of Augustine Institute. 

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