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Nativity of Holy Mary

Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO [1]

23rd Tuesday in Ordinary Time
Feast of the Nativity of Holy Mary

What we celebrate today is not so much an anniversary as a mystery of faith. Nine months after her Immaculate Conception, Mary is born; and with her, our life, our sweetness, and our hope is born, as we sing every day in the Salve.

At the birth of Mary, the contemplative life is born, for today she began a life of continual union with God. Already at her birth, Mary possessed God in an interior solitude, for no one else was free from original sin as she was. Today she began to develop the gifts God gave her, and in so doing she learned the essential virtues of the contemplative life.

Today our sweetness, or perhaps our gentleness, is born. One monastic author has said that this dulcedo, this gentleness, is the summing-up of all the Christian virtues. It consists, above all, of patience and kindness, of respect and love for other people, and even for all creatures, as Pope Francis has reminded us. Gentleness is a unique grace which penetrates a person’s whole being, and influences everything they do; a gentle person does even the simplest things in a different way from those who are not gentle. Gentle people are forgiving and merciful to others, and also to themselves, because they know that all that they have comes from God and belongs lovingly to him.

As we grow in the spiritual life, our monastic vocation is a kind of mirror of Mary’s. She had no need to condemn the world. As Thomas Merton put it, it was the world that broke its strength against her gentleness. It’s the same with contemplative monks. Our mission is not to judge other people, but to live with God.

Finally, with the birth of Mary, our hope is born. With her birth, the story of the human race is begun again: it is from that perfectly pure and receptive body that the new Adam will be fashioned. It will be the same way with us, if we allow ourselves to be born again. Our hope which is born today is that, what was given first to Mary, will also be given to all of us.. That is what happens with spiritual gifts, since their Source is infinite and their essence is charity. When we use our gifts for the good of the community, we strengthen the spiritual life of everyone in the community.

At this Eucharist, we will receive him who was born of the Virgin Mary, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. That will be a sign of what it means to be a contemplative: to be receptive of the divine Word, to possess him spiritually, and to live a life of union with him. May she who is born today show us how to receive the Body and Blood of her Son, so that he may nourish our life in God.