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Our Lady, Mother of God and Peace

Lectio Divina: 1st Sunday after Christmas, Year A

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Roman Rite
Nm 6, 22-27; Ps 67; Gal 4,4-7; Lk 2.16 – 21
Holy Mary, Mother of God
Ambrosian Rite
Nm 6, 22-27; Ps 66; Phil 2,5-11; Lk 2.18-21
Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord  
1) Blessed by the blessed fruit.
Eight days ago we celebrated the birth in Bethlehem of the Son of God, who “became a child to make us men” (St. Ambrose). Today, a week after the birth of Jesus, the liturgy invites us to celebrate the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God: the one who “gave birth to the King who rules heaven and earth forever” (Entrance antiphon of today’s Mass). The liturgy has us meditate[1] on the Word made man and reiterates the fact that he is born from the Virgin. He is the “blessed fruit of the womb” of this Virgin, who found in this “fruit” what Eve had desired by eating a fruit in which she  did not found what she wanted. Eve, in fact, in the fruit desired  three things that the devil had falsely promised: 1) to become like God and be aware of good and evil, 2) to have pleasure, because that fruit was ‘good to eat’ and 3) to have beauty because the fruit was beautiful to watch.
By eating the forbidden fruit, Eve broke her image and likeness to God. In the blessed fruit of her womb, Mary, and with her all Christians, have found what Eve was looking for: the union with God through Christ and the likeness to Him. Eve was looking for pleasure and joy, but found nudity and pain. In the fruit of the womb of the Blessed Virgin we find sweetness and salvation: who will eat this fruit will have eternal life.
Eve was looking for the beauty that passes and received a  fruit of death; Maria gave to humanity the most beautiful fruit, whom the angels behold. He is the fairest of the sons of men (see Ps 45,3), because He is the splendor of the Father’s glory (Heb 1,3). Jesus, the Lord.
Therefore “let’s seek in the fruit of the Blessed Virgin that we desire, because this is the fruit blessed by God. The Virgin too is blessed, but more blessed is her fruit, Jesus” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Ave Maria).
2) The swaddling clothes of Christ.
It is true that today, eighth day after Christmas, we celebrate the feast of “Mary Mother of God”, but we cannot forget that today is also January 1. Thus begins a new solar year, which is an additional period of time that Providence gives us in the context of the salvation inaugurated by the Savior 2017 years ago.
Even though the biblical readings of today’s Mass emphasize the “son of Mary” and the “name of the Lord” instead of Mary, the Solemnity of today is dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God to emphasize that the “no-time ” Word that came into time through Mary. The apostle Paul reminds us of that by saying that Jesus was born “from a woman” (Gal 4,4 –  Today’s second reading).
The title “Mother of God” emphasizes the unique mission of the Holy Virgin in the history of salvation: a mission that underlies the cult and devotion that the Christian people reserve to Her.  The Virgin Mary has not received the gift of God only for herself, but to bring him into the world. In her fruitful virginity, God has given to men the goods of eternal salvation, as the today’s Colletta says: “O God, who in the fruitful virginity of Mary you gave men the goods of eternal salvation, make us experience her intercession, because through her we received the author of life, Christ your Son.”
In today’s liturgy the figure of Mary, true Mother of Jesus, God and man, humbly dominates. Today’s solemnity does not, however, celebrate an abstract idea but a mystery and an historical fact: Jesus Christ, a divine Person, is born from the Virgin Mary, which is his real mother.
  This Mother wraps the Son in swaddling clothes and this “baby wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger” (see Lk 2.11 to 12) is the sign given by the angels to the shepherds to recognize the King of kings. Having quickly left, the shepherds came to the cave of Bethlehem and found the baby wrapped not only by white cloths but by Mary and Joseph, the white purity people, who with their pure love warmed the newborn.
Christmas, mystery of joy, mystery of the miraculous generation of a God, who chooses to reveal his face to men not in the embrace of an immense sky adorned with beautiful stars, but in the arms of a young and pure woman, guarded by a pure man, Joseph.
With St. Joseph’s eyes let’s look at Mary, the Virgin Mother, who is the first to believe and the first to see the miracle born in and from her flesh. Her body is the second nature – the human nature – of Christ and her womb is the first throne of the King of kings. Then come the manger, then the cross and today us.
With the eyes of Mary let’s contemplate the Son of God born as a man for the men and entrusted to his mother’s care. She lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring every move of him. To school of Mary’s gaze we can understand with our hearts what our eyes and our minds cannot manage to perceive or contain.
With the eyes of the shepherds, surprised by joy, let’s look at the fact that peace for all is born and is guarded by the tenderness of the Mother of God. Mary gave to the world the Prince of Peace, Jesus, Redeemer of mankind.
Our Peace, Christ, is in the arms of a mother, Mary, one of us. Peace, Jesus, born of woman, is the Christmas gift par excellence put in our arms. He is the face of peace that shines to brighten our faces, beggars of peace.
Let’s beg this peace to the Virgin Mother and we will have it as did the shepherds, who “went, without delay, and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger” (Lk 2, 16). These poor shepherds, beggars of God incarnate in a child, met the Prince of Peace in the child Jesus, who made them men witnesses of the joy of feeling loved and capable of loving and “operators” of the peace that comes from the experience of being loved. Let us ask Mary, Mother of God, to help us to welcome her Son and, in him, true peace.
Like the shepherds let us be beggars of Heaven, hungry for love, thirsty for peace. Let’s go to Bethlehem and kneel before the crib showing a God,who becomes a Child of peace, and a Mother, who gives him to us. This Virgin Mother gives birth to the Son in the night, because love is always a gift that gives birth to the day. She gave birth to the Light. Mary mirrors with particular splendor the Light that has come into the world. May this light guide us to paths of peace, because “the light of Jesus is a mild light, it is a quiet light,  it is a light of peace, it is like the light in the Christmas night: unpretentious “(Pope Francis).
3) Motherhood and virginity of Light and Peace.
This gentle and humble light of Christ is now carried in a particular way by consecrated Virgins in the world. Thanks to the gift of themselves to Christ these consecrated women, who live for the love of God and the others, radiate the same light that their spouse brings to the world. Their life, lived humbly, is the “memory of ‘first love’ with which the Lord Jesus Christ has warmed your heart” (Benedict XVI). These women give themselves completely in virginity, they offer themselves body and soul to be with Christ and to be like him to the service of God and the neighbor. Theirs is a constant journey with the Christ, encountered today in Bethlehem then on the roads of the Holy Land up to Calvary, to be with Him instruments of His peace.

[1]  To help this meditation I take as a starting point some thoughts attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas in his Commentary on the Ave Maria
Patristic reading
Saint Athanasius
Epist. Ad Epictetum, 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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Mgr Francesco Follo

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