Wednesday, September 8, 2010

For Those Who Love God, And Are Called According To His Purpose, Everything Works Out For The Good.

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Reading I
Micah 5:1-4a
The LORD says:
You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah,
too small to be among the clans of Judah,
From you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel;
Whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.
(Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time
when she who is to give birth has borne,
And the rest of his brethren shall return
to the children of Israel.)
He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock
by the strength of the LORD,
in the majestic name of the LORD, his God;
And they shall remain, for now his greatness
shall reach to the ends of the earth;
he shall be peace.


Romans 8:28-30
Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good
for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Psalm 13
With delight I rejoice in the Lord.
Though I trusted in your mercy,
let my heart rejoice in your salvation.
With delight I rejoice in the Lord.
Let me sing of the LORD,
"He has been good to me."
With delight I rejoice in the Lord.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23 or 1:18-23
The Book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
"Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means "God is with us."
The Gospel reading is the genealogy of Jesus as given by Matthew at the beginning of his gospel. It is largely an artificial composition divided into three sets of 14 generations – 52 altogether. It begins with Abraham, the Father of God’s people and there follow many names from the biblical account in the Hebrew Testament.

It is a very mixed group of people, including the very good and the not good at all. There are also four women in the list, each of them with a special interest of their own. It represents the very diverse history of loyalty and infidelity which was the story of God’s people. Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, is truly identified with our world. “The Word was made flesh and lived among us” – all of us, the good, the bad and indifferent. Mary, too, was born into this world and, with her Son, and, though, like him, without sin is fully part of it. The ancestry leads down to Joseph, the “husband of Mary”. But it is of Mary that Jesus the Messiah is born.

There is a choice of texts for the First Reading. The first comes from the prophet Micah. He has been speaking against the rulers of Israel who are paying dearly for their sinful ways. In today’s passage he is speaking of the restoration of Israel through a Messiah. Just before today’s passage he speaks against Jerusalem (called Bat-gader) which is under siege by the Assyrians. But in today’s passage he contrasts the powerful ruler of Israel under siege with the tiny city and clan of Bethlehem-Ephrathah, “too small to be among the clans of Judah”.

For, from this tiny, insignificant place will come “the one who is to be the ruler of Israel”. His origins are from of old, from ancient times, from the royal Davidic line.

The Lord will give up these people until the time “when she who is to give birth has borne” – a clear reference to Mary, mother of the Messiah. And that Son with the strength of Yahweh will “stand firm and shepherd his flock”. And “his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth, he shall be peace”. The gospels will show how all of these predictions are fulfilled in Jesus. And the birth of the Incarnate Messiah comes through Mary. It is not surprising, then, that we celebrate the birth of such a person in a very special way. And that she herself, in preparation for this, should be blessed with special favours and graces.

The second choice for the First Reading is from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. He speaks of how all are picked out specially by God. We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. This is an important statement for us to take on board. We see it in Mary’s acceptance of the angel’s invitation, even though she did not fully understand its implication at the time.

Like Mary, all of us have been called to be “conformed to the image of the Son”, so that he becomes the first among many brothers and sisters. Mary, too, of course was, even as Mother, totally conformed to the Way of her Son.

The last words also apply in a special way to Mary: “Those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.”

Mary, from the first moment of her existence, was totally conformed to the will of her Son, and so deserves the special glory which she merited after her death.*
Clearly there is no historical record of the birth of Mary. The Church does believe, however, that from the very moment of her conception she was totally free from sin and remained free of sin for her whole life. It was not acceptable that Jesus, the Son of God, should be conceived in a body tainted by sin. Her birth, then, is clearly something to celebrate. The Church, too, has given names to her parents – Joachim and Ann, whose feast is celebrated on 26 July.

The Churches both in the East in Constantinople and in the West in Rome have been celebrating Mary’s birth since the 6th and 7th centuries.

The liturgy traces its origins to the consecration of a church in Jerusalem, known as St Ann’s Basilica, in the 6th century. Before that there had been a 5th century basilica in honour of Mary on a site known as the “Shepherd’s Field” and supposedly the home of Joachim and Ann. It was replaced by a new basilica in the 6th century which was consecrated to St Ann.

Monks from the East brought the feast to Rome in the 7th century. From there it spread through the western Church. By the 13th century it had been raised to a solemnity with a major octave and a vigil which was a fast day. Pope Sergius I (687-701) instituted a procession from the Roman Forum to the basilica of St. Mary Major for the feast.

Following the liturgical reforms of Pope St Pius X, the feast had just a simple octave for the feast and in 1955 Pope Pius XII abolished the octave altogether. The liturgy now has the rank of feast.

The date, September 8, was chosen as the octave day of the former Byzantine New Year. Although the feast was celebrated on various dates over the centuries, September 8 predominated. The feast celebrating Mary’s conception without sin on December 8, was later set to correspond to nine months preceding Mary’s birth (just as the Annunciation precedes the Birth of Jesus by nine months).

In the Eastern Church, Mary’s birthday is celebrated as one of the twelve great liturgies. The title for the liturgy in the East is: “The Birth of Our Exalted Queen, the Birthgiver of God and Ever-Virgin Mary”.*

The Irish Jesuits

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

'since he was a righteous man'

I just quickly read the Protoevangelium of James for the traditions around Mary's birth. I was struck by how much people worried about whether their sins were forgiven. They might appear righteous before men, but were they righteous before God? Had their sins been forgiven? Joachim is shown as worrying about his righteousness because, in the past, righteous men and women (like Abraham) had always received a child eventually - like a divine seal of approval. There is also a strange test of righteousness that Joseph and Mary have to undergo. God's gift of Mary to Joachim not only puts Joachim's mind at rest regarding his righteousness, but also leads us to Christ, the source of our own confidence.

Before Our Lord, people really had to make a show of their righteousness, while privately they worried about whether in God's eyes they were really righteous at all. Jesus teaches us that we should not be concerned about appearing righteous before other people. In Him, we can be righteous before God:

'being delivered from the hand of our enemies we may serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.'