- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

January 1, 2019

Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO [1]

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
Numbers 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21

In today’s first reading we heard God’s instruction concerning the imparting of priestly blessings to his chosen people. In that we are the new Israel, the blessing is also ours. Each verse of the blessing speaks to the deepest longings of the human heart. In times of stress, to be under the almighty protection of God our Savior. In times of loneliness, to enjoy his favor as the smile of a loving Father. In times of darkness and depression, to feel the cheering beams of the sun. In times of guilt to know that he mercifully forgives our sins. In times of need to know that he supplies our wants. In times of grief to know that he consoles the heart. Through every aspect of our life, to know that God is preparing us by his grace for eternal glory. God is gracious, looks kindly on us and wants to give us peace.

As we look forward to the New Year, it is good for us to ponder the elements of Aaron’s blessing. Such a wealth of mercies far outstrips anything worldly joys can offer. The prayer of blessing is exquisitely constructed and elegantly composed. In it the name of God is repeated three times: “May the Lord bless and keep you” (v. 24); “May the Lord be gracious to you (v. 25); and “May the Lord give you peace” (v26). The number three signifies completeness and stability. This number is explained in the New Testament where we are directed to expect blessing from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, from the love of the Father, and from the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is the blessing of God made flesh and he manifests God’s loving kindness towards us. All our happiness comes from God’s infinite mercy and abundant kindness. As we journey through time under God’s watchful care, we have the sure hope that his face will shone on us. Our faith tells us that by his providence God will direct the affairs of the world, so as to bring everything in submission to the beloved Son. The blessing of the Lord takes our lowliness and exalts it to the heights where He is all In all. God manifests his love for us by sending his son into the world to redeem and save us, thereby making us sons and daughters in the Son. When the Word became flesh, God made all time sacred so that all who live might come to know the fullness of life in Christ. The first day of the New Year is opportune time to hear these words of blessing: they will accompany our journey throughout the year and all the days of our lives. They are words of strength, courage and hope.

In the Letter to the Hebrews we read: “Both the one sanctifying and those being sanctified have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to acknowledge them as brothers and sisters” (Heb.2:11). The Father knows the Son and has given him a name that is above all other names. As the Father knows the Son, the Son knows his sheep and calls each of us by name (CF. Jn. 10:14-15). By the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, those he has called know him and are conformed to him. Through the condescension of the Son, the sons of Adam have been exalted. With Mary, we are invited to ponder all these things in our hearts.

The Virgin Mary stands out among all women, who confidently hoped for and eventually received salvation. She looked backward to her Jewish history of God’s blessings and invitations. The Mother of God stands at the crossroads of sacred time allowing the future in as she welcomes the simple shepherds to view the present, the present of the Timeless becoming time-bound. Mary treasures memories as sacred time and while reverencing time-past, learns to watch and wait for the unfolding of the future. Of her own flesh, she gave a human face to the eternal Word, so that all of us can contemplate him. This one woman knew her nation’s history and trusted God’s future for her. Mary is so closely united to Jesus because she received from him the knowledge of the heart, the knowledge of faith, nourished by her experience as a mother and by her close relationship with her Son.

While she had her fears and doubts she was sustained by her faith that enabled her to embrace life to the full, her own as well as that of her Son. In reverence and awe, Mary knelt at the threshold between the past and the future. She gave the world her son who is Life itself and who renews all things in himself.  Embracing God’s salvific will with a heart that was never tainted by sin, Mary devoted herself totally to the person and work of her Son. Her example challenges us to take a step backwards from the rush of our lives to ponder who we are; where we are going and how well we are doing on our journey. With her we are invited to reflect on the meaning of the events we celebrate, mulling them over and putting together the pieces in hopes of seeing the full picture clearly.

The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe (v.104-115) (Gerard Manley Hopkins )
A mother came to mold
Those limbs like ours which are
What must make our daystar
Much dearer to mankind;
Whose glory bare would blind
Or less would win man’s mind.
Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.
Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere.