Monday, September 8, 2008

Our Lady's Nativity: The Lesson to be Learned

On this Feast of Our Lady's Nativity, Catholics world-wide recall the truth about the Virgin Mary on the day of her birth, "the day for which the prophets sighed and for which the patriarchs prayed for hundreds of years." [1] With thankful awe to the Mercy of God, we think of the birth of the Immaculate Conception (which was not an event, but is a person - Our Lady Mary). Our Lady is the only human soul adorned with the grace of God from the very first moment of her existence in her
mother's womb. That the Virgin Mary was immaculately conceived, "in view of her future merits and future dignity" [2] in becoming the Mother of God, is a doctrine - now a defined dogma - of the Church, a truth imparted by God in Divine Revelation to His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Here is one of God's great mysteries, for this Lady would one day acquiese to the humble Bernadette's thrice-made request for Her name by first lifting Her eyes to Heaven, placing Her hands together as if in prayer, and then responding, "I am the Immaculate Conception." These words of the Mother of God in Her glory reinforce the truth that conception is not an 'event' - but that conception is a human life, body and soul. How much everything about Our Lady teaches us!

"She was born free from Original Sin and, further, during her entire life she never committed even the slightest sin. She received more graces than anyone else who ever lived and she accepted and corresponded to them all." (3)

At the Annunciation, the young Virgin Mary was already "full of grace," for so did the angel address her, "Hail, Full of Grace! The Lord is with thee." (4) So the Angel Gabriel spoke to the humble Immaculate One for, by his words, God's messenger revealed the name by which the Father called her: "Full of Grace."

The Virgin Mary is "the woman" foretold by God in Genesis 3:15; it was her "Fiat!" to God's Will which made possible the Incarnation of the God-Man, Our Savior. It is only fitting that She who was to give the world the Savior, the maiden Who would be His Mater et Magistra, the Woman to whom the Son of God would subject Himself in perfect charity and obedience, must be like Him, "full of grace." Her words to the Angel Gabriel, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word" manifested Her free-will consent to God's Will...(5)

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,
(and we saw his glory, the glory as it were
of the only begotten of the Father,)
full of grace and truth." (6)

At the moment of the Incarnation, the Virgin Mother became Theotokos (the Mother of God); at that moment, the second Eve became the spiritual mother of all the living. For that moment was Mary was conceived without sin and, through Her own merits, sanctifying graces only increased in Her Immaculate Soul throughout Her entire life. It was for the Birth, Life and Passion of the Savior, Who offers Redemption to each soul born into the world, that the Perpetual Virgin was created, born, lived and passed through this world as the Immaculate One.

"The great lesson to be learned from the birth of Our Lady, [a birth] without any external grandeur, is the importance of the possession of God's grace....The birth of Mary brings to us the meaning of the interior life. Our external works are only of value in proportion to the state of grace in our our union with God. This is why the actions of some of the saints who never appeared in public but lived in the cloister or away from the tumult of the world were raised up to great heights of holiness. This arose from their interior life or their eagerness to increase the state of Sanctifying Grace in their souls. Mary led the interior life in all its activity and all its beauty. She is really the model for all those who wish to acquire sanctity. Mary increased the state of Sanctifying Grace by her great purity of intention. Her whole life was spent in forgetfulness of self and in doing God's Will. No child of Adam ever thought less of herself than Mary. Her thoughts were constantly occupied with God and she only thought of how she could give glory to God." (7)

"We can imitate Mary here at least by saying frequent aspirations and by offering each little action or each little sacrifice in union with the works and sufferings of Jesus and Mary for the salvation of souls. As a preparation for this feast, let us offer our Holy Communion that we may obtain that purity of intention and that zeal for souls that characterized the whole life of Mary. If we consecrate to this tender Virgin our purity of soul, she will preserve it for us, and if we ask her to protect us from all the snares of the devil, she will shield us with her mantle. May this sweet Mother be more loved in the years to come, and she will then bring all her children to the feet of Jesus." (8)

On this day commemorating Our Lady's Nativity, may we remember the Sweet Name of Mary, and all that it means, as expressed in the lovely poem below:

"The Names of Our Lady"
by Adelaide A. Proctor

Through the wide world thy children raise
Their prayers, and still we see
Calm are the nights and bright the days
Of those who trust in thee.
Around thy starry crown are wreathed
So many names divine;
Which is the dearest to my heart,
And the most worthy thine?
Star of the Sea! we kneel and pray
When tempests raise their voice;
Star of the Sea! the haven reached,
We call thee and rejoice.
Help of the Christian! in our need
Thy might aid we claim;
If we are faint and weary, then
We trust in that dear name.
Our Lady of the Rosary!
What name can be so sweet
As what we call thee when we place
Our chaplet at thy feet.
Bright Queen of Heaven! when we are sad,
Best solace of our pains;
It tells us of the badge we wear,
To live and die thine own.
Our Lady dear of Victories!
We see our faith oppressed,
And, praying for our erring land,
We love that name the best.
Refuge of Sinners! many a soul,
By guilt cast down, and sin,
Has learned through this dear name of thine
Pardon and peace to win.
Health of the Sick! when anxious hearts
Watch by the sufferer's bed,
On this sweet name of thine we lean,
Consoled and comforted.
Mother of Sorrows! many a heart
Half-broken by despair
Has laid its burden by the cross
And found a mother there.
Queen of all Saints! the Church appeals
For her loved dead to thee;
She knows they wait in patient pain
A bright eternity.
Fair Queen of Virgins! thy pure band
The lilies round thy throne,
Love the dear title, which they bear,
Most that it is thine own.
True Queen of Martyrs! if we shrink
From want, or pain, or woe,
We think of the sharp sword that pierced
Thy heart, and call thee so.
Mary! the dearest name of all,
The holiest and the best;
The first low word that Jesus lisped
Laid on His mother's breast.
Mary! the name that Gabriel spoke,
The name that conquers hell;
Mary! the name that through high heaven
The angels love so well.
Mary! our comfort and our hope,
-O, may that word be given
To be the last we sigh on earth,
The first we breathe in heaven. (9)

(1) Fr. H. O'Laverty, The Mother of God and Her Glorious Feasts (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, 1977. Originally published between 1908-1915 under the title The Mother of God's Glorious Feasts): p.10
(2) Ibid.
(3) Ibid., p. ix
(4) Lk 1:28
(5) Lk 1:38
(6) Jn 1:14
(7) O'Laverty, op. cit, pp.11-13
(8) Ibid. p. 14
(9) "The Names of Our Lady" by Adelaide A. Proctor, The Art and Literature Reader (Book IV), Copyright 1904.

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