Friday, December 31, 2010


In my homily for January 1 this year I really wanted to draw attention to the Holy Father's message or better to his theme for the world day of prayer for peace: religious freedom as the path to peace. My underlying thought was that too few of us Catholics position ourselves properly in this world. We don't see ourselves as caught up in a conflict, as having enemies. As important as the message is that we should pray for our persecutors, the "our" referring to those who attack our brothers and sisters and maybe us directly or indirectly too, I felt a bit of regret at having short-changed the great tmystery of this day: The Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God.

This year, in almost extraordinary fashion, I have been living these days of Christmas as an insight into the importance of doing as Mary did in the face of the Mystery of the Incarnation (and not only) as she contemplated the events of Jesus' birth, infancy, childhood and growing up: "As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart." The high holy days of Christmastide and the Octave in particular have struck me this year in their uniqueness, their being so different from the Easter Octave. Easter ponders the Resurrection of Christ in a focus on the Appearances of the Risen Lord, which while focusing also on those to whom He appeared (esp. Mary Magdalen, the Apostle Thomas and the disciples on the road to Emaus) really stands predominantly in awe before our Glorious Lord. It is the Church pondering the Risen One. Mary is present, but in a very different way than she was for us at the beginning of her Son's life here in our world. Christmas, perhaps because of the unobtrusiveness of the Baby Boy, has us with Mary treasuring all these things which happened around the Baby. He is a protagonist as babies are: not saying a word, maybe crying, certainly wiggling and squirming and sleeping in His Mother's arms. Christmas also takes us farther afield, especially in the persons of St. Stephen and the Holy Innocents.  Stephen was neither a shepherd nor a wise man; he was probably not even born yet when the star made its appearance. None of the Innocents had even seen the little Child with Whom they were identified by date of birth and gender, and because of which they were violently plucked from this world to be His vanguard in the next.

Though the Baby is there wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger, we have more time for the shepherds and the wise men than their inclusion post Easter Sunday would have allowed. The pondering of the Mother of God, St. Joseph's obedience to the subtle promptings which granted him access to the meditation of his bride-to-be during her pregnancy and during their time of child rearing, offers us another complement to how Christianity is totally other and not to be lumped together with other religions or forms of meditation. The proximity, the intimacy of the Infancy Narrative calls forth an engagement on our part as extreme antidote to the estrangement from God caused by Adam's sin, as he and Eve hid themselves from the face of God.

Mary the Mother of God: her title is certainly a theological statement. Her solemn feast this year on the Octave Day of Christmas crowns my meditation on the sort of pondering and looking at the Baby which makes Christmas the necessary compliment of Easter, which makes the Infancy Narrative integral to appropriating the impact of the Passion, Death and Glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Savior. "What Child is this who laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping..."

"As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart."

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