The Mother of Peace

Lectio Divina: Solemnity of the Mother of God – Year B

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Roman Rite: 

Nm 6, 22-27; Ps 67 Gal 4, 4-7; Lk 2.16 to 21 

Holy Mary, Mother of God[1] 

Ambrosian Rite: 

Nm 6, 22-27; Ps 67; Phil 2, 5-11; Lk 2.18-21 

Circumcision of the Lord – Solemnity 

1) The Mother. 

At Christmas we celebrated the birth of the Son. Today we celebrate the Mother. You cannot separate the mother from her child. 

The Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, to remind us that we have in Her a safe and maternal company in our journey on earth. In Her, in her love and in her obedience we find the path back to God. The Church turns to Her because Mary, the Mother of the Lord, is in Christ the Mother of all humanity because she takes part in the extension of love that God the Father wanted to give us in the Son. 

Amazed by the joy, we celebrate the fact that from the tenderness of the Mother of God comes peace for all. Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, gave to the world the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Redeemer of mankind. 

Our Peace, Christ, is in the arms of a mother, Mary, one of us. Peace, Jesus, born from a woman, is the Christmas gift par excellence put in our arms. He is the face of the Peace that shines to illuminate the faces of all of us, beggars of peace. 

Let us beg the Virgin Mother for this peace and we will get it like the shepherds who “went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them»(Luke 2: 16-20 – today’s Gospel). They had met the Prince of Peace, who made them wise men. 

If we want a world with righteous men, with men who feel and live the brotherhood, we must not forget the way of the nativity. 

The nativity tells us of God who became a Child and a Mother who gives him to us. She gives birth at night because love is always a gift that gives birth to the day. 

In front of the crib man discovers himself loved, awaited and looked for. He discovers that it is worth being a man if God himself became man, and finds the hope and joy of being a brother among brothers. 

In this crib is the Son of God. Without Jesus the Nativity is a small thing: a stable with the beasts that warm the poor parents of a poor baby. If the Son of God, the King of kings had not been there, the Magi would have not entered into a stable. They, like the shepherds, saw, believed, knelt and worshiped. Let us do the same. 

They saw straw and manure and felt the smell of the stable, but above all they saw the Word of God made flesh and were amazed by Love, whose power has no need of violent force to manifest. It «used» a child. 

The wonder of the shepherds, the Magi, and of Joseph and Mary was not aroused by the fact of having been mightily impressed as it happens in the occasions of wonder for something that is beautiful, extraordinary or majestic, but by the presence of the Prince of Peace, the baby Jesus, from whom transpired something special, if everyone started kneeling in front of him laying on straw in a barn. 

2) Mother of all, for every day of the year. 

How did Mary experience the first Christmas? Mary too heard the words explaining the event that she herself saw and lived. Words and deeds that she pondered[2] in her heart, in herself in a conscious, thoughtful and intelligent listening. The heart indicates this. The inner listening of Mary is a prolonged one, not a single moment. The Gospel phrase, “she kept all these things, meditating on them in her heart,” says that the guard of Mary was not a keeping passive or inert, but an active and alive one, connecting and comparing one thing with another trying to understand the profound logic, the direction and the truth of things that may seem unrelated or even conflicting. It is precisely what Mary did, feeling on one hand the words that proclaimed the glory of the Child (words heard from the angel at the Annunciation) and, on the other hand, seeing «a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.” It is the usual tension between greatness and littleness, glory and poverty that is the backbone of the Christian event. Mary’s listening thus becomes a true interpretation that sheds light on the mystery of Jesus. 

Mary is not only the mother of Jesus, she is also his most profound interpreter. She explains Christmas, because it is not easy to understand Christmas. So, let us be guided by Mary, who kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Her heart and her mind were seeking the golden thread that held together the opposites: a stable and «a multitude of angels,» a manger and a «kingdom which has no end.» Like her, like the shepherds and the Magi, let’s save at least astonishment. At Christmas the Word is an infant who cannot talk, the Lord is just in the morning of life, the Almighty is a child capable only of crying. God always starts in this way, with small things and in deep silence. 

God decided to reveal himself born as a child. This is the depth of the mystery of Christmas told by the Nativity in Bethlehem, of our churches and of our homes. 

For thirty years Christ lived this humble and simple life to save us. His mother embraced this life. This hidden life is embraced today, every day, by the Consecrated Virgins in the world. By placing their hope in the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Consecrated Virgins in the world look to Mary as «the prototype of the consecrated life because she is the mother who welcomes, listens to, intercedes and contemplates her Lord with praise of the heart» (Message of the Synod on consecrated Life). Maria is the model, guide and Mother in all the fundamental elements of the consecrated life: in the evangelical following, in the way of marriage to Christ (Jn 2,4-5. 11 12), with «undivided heart» (1 Cor 7, 32), in evangelical poverty like the life in Bethlehem and Nazareth (Luke 1-2; Mt 1-2), in obedience to the salvific plan of God (Lk 1:38);in virginity spiritually, fruitful under the action of Holy Spirit, to be «the Woman» in union with Christ (Luke 1, 35; Jn 2: 4), in the availability to service and mission for the Church toward a new kind of motherhood (Jn 19, 25, 27; Rev. 12: 1); in the life of the Church as a fraternal bond of communion and help for the spiritual, apostolic, intellectual and human life (Acts 1: 14). 

1 In this solemnity we focus on the mystery of Mary who is the mother of God. The Gospel proposed is that of the dawn Mass on Christmas Day, the visit of the shepherds to the baby Jesus. The text, however, has two small changes: it is removed the mention of the angels who turn away after the announcement to the shepherds and verse 21 is added, which speaks of the circumcision of the Child and the imposition of the name. Jewish children were in fact subjected to this circumcision practice that was the sign of their belonging to the people of Israel and together with it they received the name by which they would be recognized for a lifetime. Before the liturgical reform of Vatican II on this day the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus and the Holy Name was celebrated, as it is still done in the Ambrosian Rite Liturgy. After Vatican II, the Roman Rite moved the festival dedicated to Mary known as the Mother of God, a dogma of faith that had been stated by the Council of Ephesus in 431. 

2 The verb «to keep» is the only verb in the present tense and that, therefore, holds the whole sentence. It does not simply mean to recall, but stresses care and attention such as when you have in your hands a precious thing. 

Patristic Reading 

From a letter by Saint Athanasius, bishop 

(Epist. Ad Epicetum, 5-9; PG 26, 1-58, 1062, 1066) The Word took our nature from Mary 

The Apostle tells us: The Word took to himself the sons of Abraham, and so had to be like his brothers in all things. He had then to take a body like ours. This explains the fact of Mary’s presence: she is to provide him with a body of his own, to be offered for our sake. Scripture records her giving birth, and says: She wrapped him in swaddling clothes. Her breasts, which fed him, were called blessed. Sacrifice was offered because the child was her firstborn. Gabriel used careful and prudent language when he announced his birth. He did not speak of “what will be born in you” to avoid the impression that a body would be introduced into her womb from outside; he spoke of “what will be born from you” so that we might know by faith that her child originated within her and from her. 

By taking our nature and offering it in sacrifice, the Word was to destroy it completely and then invest it with his own nature, and so prompt the Apostle to say: This corruptible body must put on incorruption; this mortal body must put on immortality. 

This was not done in outward show only, as some have imagined. This is not so. Our Savior truly became man, and from this has followed the salvation of man as a whole. Our salvation is in no way fictitious, nor does it apply only to the body. The salvation of the whole man, that is, of soul and body, has really been achieved in the Word himself. 

What was born of Mary was therefore human by nature, in accordance with the inspired Scriptures, and the body of the Lord was a true body: It was a true body because it was the same as ours. Mary, you see, is our sister, for we are all born from Adam. 

The words of Saint John: The Word was made flesh, bear the same meaning, as we may see from a similar turn of phrase in Saint Paul: Christ was made a curse for our sake. Man’s body has acquired something great through its communion and union with the Word. From being mortal it has been made immortal; though it was a living body it has become a spiritual one; though it was made from the earth it has passed through the gates of heaven. 

Even when the Word takes a body from Mary, the Trinity remains a Trinity, with neither increase nor decrease. It is for ever perfect. In the Trinity we acknowledge one Godhead, and thus one God, the Father of the Word, is proclaimed in the Church. 

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Archbishop Francesco Follo

Monsignor Francesco Follo è osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso l'UNESCO a Parigi.

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