Hail Mary – the Trinity’s Love Song

Crowned statue of the virgin Mary carrying a child with a diffused vegetation background
Crowned statue of the virgin Mary carrying a child with a diffused vegetation background

The infancy narrative is the foundation for one of the great prayers of the church—the Hail Mary. The words of the first part of the prayer originate in the Trinity itself.  The Trinity’s goal for man has always been to bring them into the circle of Trinitarian love.  Here in the relationship between the Trinity and Mary you see God’s love and the perfect human response to that love. Just as the Song of Songs is a duet between the Bridegroom and the Bride.  At the beginning of the Infancy narrative you see a love duet between the Trinity and Mary.

Annunciation Mary AngelStained Glass Old Basilica Guadalupe Mexi
Annuciation Angel Gabriel Tells Mary She Will Give Birth to Jesus Stained Glass Old Basilica Guadalupe Mexico City Mexico. Also known as Templo Expiatorio a Cristo Rey. Basilica construction was started in 1531, finished in 1709. This basilica is the location where the Virgin Mary appeared to the Meixcan peasant Juan Diego. The old Basilica is where Juan Diego’s original cloak with the picture of the Virgin Mary first appeared.

The angel Gabriel who was sent from God the Father called her, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Those words are also translated, “Hail, full of grace!”  These are words of love for Mary that originate from the Trinity, spoken to her by an angel. Mary was troubled not knowing why an angel should address her with such honor and to what purpose.  Her heart already belonged to God and her humility made her wary of personal praise. Eve’s pride left her vulnerable when Satan sought her opinion.

Next the angel Gabriel like Abraham’s servant laid out the riches of the Father before her and asked her to be the mother of God the Father’s Son. Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  Marvelous, marvelous news, but does it remind you a bit of when Satan showed Jesus all the nations of the world that could be his?  Or when the serpent promised Eve equality with God?  Mary’s heart is still ever true to God. If this greatest honor of all time involves her breaking her vow of virginity to God, she wants none of it.  “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?

Mary did not succumb to pride when honored or greed when offered incredible position.  Her relationship with God was paramount.  She was not like Eve at all.

The angel Gabriel responded a third time, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Here Mary recognized the God she loved.  The same God who made Sarah pregnant has made her cousin Elizabeth pregnant.  The same spirit that overshadowed the Ark of the Covenant and entered the Temple will enter her.  Her vow to God rendering her body sacred to Him will not be violated but be brought to its highest level of sanctity.  Now she believed what was said earlier that the child will be the Messiah who will sit on the throne of his ancestor David.  Now she understands why she was called highly favored.  She gave love’s perfect response to God–perfect submission to His will. “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”

This annunciation event of the Father wooing Mary through Gabriel is remembered in the first lines of the prayer, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”   The next line of the prayer originated with the Holy Spirit who sang His duet with Mary through Elizabeth.

Antwerp - The Visitation of Virgin Mary to Elizabeth by Francken
ANTWERP, BELGIUM – SEPTEMBER 5, 2013: The Visitation of Virgin Mary to Elizabeth by Frans Francken (1581 – 1642) in Saint Pauls church (Paulskerk)

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting she was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave utterance. “Most blessed are you among women…”  This exclamation recalls the titles given to Judith and Jael the women warriors. “and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  This reaffirmed that child was the Messiah the one who would take the throne of His father David.  The Holy Spirit through Elizabeth gave her the title that had belonged first to Bathsheba, the queen mother.  “For the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”  This recalled David’s dance before the Ark of the Covenant when he brought it into Jerusalem.  The Holy Spirit affirmed her as the New Ark of the Covenant and gave her and her son the reception the world should have given them.  “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah the priest had failed in that and was mute because of it.  Under the Old Covenant, the nation of Israel represented by Zechariah had failed.  Mary was the faithful remnant of Israel, the daughter Zion who responded with faith.

Mary responded in the duet of love with the Holy Spirit. Overwhelmed by the expressions of love and honor given to her by the Holy Spirit through Elizabeth, Mary responded by declaring her nothingness without God.  Any greatness she had was because of what God had done for her. She wanted her very being to magnify God for the world. Gratitude, humility and a desire to glorify God were all blended in her heart’s response.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my savior. 

For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. 

The Mighty One had done great things for me, and holy is his name.

Mary knew that God had already won a great victory over Satan.  God had called her to be “the woman” who with her son would crush the head of Satan. She responded as Miriam did when God delivered Israel from the Egyptians, as Deborah did when God delivered Israel from Sisera, and as Judith did when God delivered Israel from Holofernes.  She sang a song of victory, but unlike them she sang her victory song in advance of the battle.  This second part of her song of love extolled the might, mercy and faithfulness of God.

Judith Shows the Head of Holofernes

 

His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.

  He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. 

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. 

The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.

 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,

 according to his promise to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever. Amen.

In Song of Songs the bride and bridegroom extolled the physical characteristics of their beloved.  Here Mary and the Trinity extol the character and spiritual beauty of each other.  A soul that seeks God alone delights the Lord, the way a bride’s beauty ravishes her bridegroom’s heart. All of this duet between Mary and the Spirit is referenced in the second line of the Hail Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.”

At the center of the prayer is “Jesus”.  He was at the center of her life and devotion.  It was He that made her holy, set apart for God alone. The Father was truly Jesus’ Father. Jesus was truly the Son of God, but Jesus was also truly the son of Mary.  The title Mother of God encapsulates the mystery of the perfect unity of Jesus’ humanity and divinity.  He became our brother in the flesh, so we might become His siblings in the spirit.  He did this through His mother.  The next phrases of the Hail Mary refer to the mystery of Christ’s incarnation.

Holy Mary, Mother of God

The Queen Mothers of the courts of Judah were advocates and intercessors for the people.  If you remember how Bathsheba and Esther had to enter the king’s presence with trembling, and they were their wives, then for an ordinary person to approach the king would be terrifying indeed.  The queen mother was different. She could speak freely to the king and he would listen to her.  People could approach her.

We do not have to fear to approach God because Jesus our brother has sanctified us. But if we were to truly see him as He is, and truly see our sinfulness, we would faint like John in Revelations, or bid Him depart from us because we are sinful men like Peter.  The Holy Spirit led Elizabeth to proclaim that she is “the mother of my Lord” because God wanted her to act as mother not only for her son but for the other members of the Kingdom of God as well.  The Trinity is weaving us into a family with God as our Father, Jesus as our brother, and Mary as our mother.  This honor is encapsulated in the last words of the Hail Mary. Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen

Ruth declares her love for her mother-in-law

Just as Mary was there for Jesus during His suffering on the cross, and she was there for Elizabeth during her labor, I believe that no Christian is alone during their hour as they are born into heaven.  Stephan looked up to heaven and saw Christ in his glory.  Joseph was surrounded by Mary and Jesus when he died.  He is the patron saint of a happy death because of it.  I believe that in a special way Mary is present at the hour of a Christian’s death just as she was at her son’s.

Why would God so honor a human being in this way?  For the same reason God honors us by calling us brother or sister.  The love of God is beyond reason in its generosity towards humanity.  By giving Mary this position Jesus is fulfilling the commandment.

“Honor your father and your mother, that you may have long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”[1]

For those afraid to pray the Hail Mary lest they offend God, the Trinity should not be offended by us echoing the Spirit’s own words of praise and offering our own Amen to them.  Nor should God be offended in our asking for her prayers.  For Jesus said,

Again, [amen] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.[2]

The Hail Mary is a celebration of the Trinity and celebrates the Incarnation of Jesus.

[1] Ex. 20:12

[2] Matt. 18:19-20

#trcot #Hail Mary #Mary #Trinity #Rosary #tcot

 

Moses and Jesus – a Life Comparison

Church of St. Anne - Transfiguration
The internal painting of the church of St. Anne, an illustration of the Transfiguration. The author – Ivan Protsiv.

Moses and Jesus’ lives are linked from the very start. Their stories both begin with the death of innocent children. In each case, Satan sensed that someone of importance was coming and inspired the leaders of the nation to execute small children to thwart the plan of God.

With Moses, Pharaoh ordered that the Hebrew newborn males should be thrown into the Nile River. Moses mother, Jocabed, while obedient to the letter of the law fashioned a basket and placed the child inside.  Moses floated on the Nile until he was saved by none other than the daughter of the Pharaoh!

With Jesus, King Herod sought to find and destroy the newborn King of the Jews. So he ordered every newborn child under the age of two killed. St. Joseph was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt and the Holy Family escaped.

When the Holy Family escaped to Egypt they passed through the tribal lands of Simeon, which means “God heard”.  This is a reminder of what God said to Moses at the burning bush.  If you adapt it to Jesus, it is apparent that the mandate was the same.

I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt (sin), and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters(Satan); I (Jesus) know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them up out of the land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey (heaven).[1]

Just the Living God spoke in a burning bush before the start of Moses’ public ministry, so Jesus heard the words of the Father at His Baptism.  Jesus was led out into the desert for 40 days paralleling the forty years that Moses led the Hebrews in the desert.  At the end of the forty years, Moses instructed the Hebrews on what lessons they should have learned from that time. Jesus successfully defeated Satan in the desert by quoting from Moses’ instructions.

In another parallel, Moses’ first plague was to turn the Nile’s water into blood.  Jesus’ first miracle was to turn the water in wine. Jesus too performed many miracles, signs and wonders before the people and the unbelieving religious authorities of the day.  The hearts of the religious authorities just grew harder and harder like Pharaoh’s.

At the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus about the exodus Jesus was to accomplish in Jerusalem. [2] This emphasized that everything Jesus had accomplished up to this point was leading toward His people’s deliverance from their slavery to sin. Before the exodus from Egypt could begin, there first had to be the Passover.

During the last plague of Egypt the angel of death killed the first-born of every Egyptian family.  The Hebrew families sacrificed the Passover lamb in the place of their first-born. They placed its blood on the wooden lintels of their doorposts.  They then ate the body of the lamb to participate in its death.

This foreshadowed both the Last Supper and the Passion of Christ.  He ordered His disciples to eat the bread and drink the wine after transforming it into His Body and Blood. He became the Passover Lamb. In this way, they participated in His death.  The first-born of the family of God really did die and His blood spilled on the wooden beams of the cross, the doorway of our salvation.

[1] Ex. 3:7b-8a

[2] Luke 9:31

Don’t Look for the Living Among the Dead

Jerusalem - icon of Resurrection from Church of Holy Sepulchre
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – MARCH 3, 2015: The icon of Resurrection from Church of the Holy Sepulchre by unknown artist.

On Easter Sunday, a very dear nun, Mother Angelica passed away.  She has been in my living room off and on for years on her EWTN television show. Her words were often opportune.  However since her death, she seems to have come in a whole new way. EWTN is running clips of her all day and she has been speaking directly into my world.

My life is at a very difficult point for a variety of different reasons. Yesterday was particularly difficult. I was driving with my severely autistic son when he had a massive temper tantrum in the car hitting and punching himself just in the seat behind me.

I normally drive my van where I have taken out the middle seat so as to keep some distance. He has in the past reached out and grabbed my head while I was driving.  This time I was in my husband’s car.  I reached home safely and sent him to his room but I was very shook up.  I turn on the TV and there was Mother Angelica saying, “Are you afraid of somebody?” She proceeded to give me the council I needed.

We are currently in a predicament which if you look back you can see warning signs that we missed along the way.  There were choices I would have made differently. So Mother Angelica comes on the TV and says, “You can’t live your life thinking, “I would have, could have or should have.  You need to show yourself the same mercy you show other people.”

She spoke to me again. I have been working on a book for years and have gotten very discouraged. I have no qualifications to teach these things yet God has given me a gift for seeing how parts of the Bible fits together.  God doesn’t give you gifts for yourself, it is always for the uplifting of the body, but being told you can’t weighs you down and slows you down.

But yesterday, I heard stories of how Mother Angelica was told she “couldn’t” all her life. She said the one thing she was afraid of was going to Jesus and seeing what her life would have been like if she had only had the faith to believe.  So, she has gotten me started again.  Where did I leave off?  The communion of the saints!  Thank you Mother Angelica.  You are not among the dead, but among those most truly alive.

Jesus said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!”  After His death and resurrection, He was able to send His Holy Spirit upon the earth.  No longer could only a few people be close to Him.  Now He could dwell in everyone’s heart and speak personally to them, guiding them their thoughts, or leading them to scriptures.

When a holy person on this earth dies, they do not leave the Body of Christ! No, they are more intimately connected to it.  Their place in the Body has changed.  They no longer see through a glass darkly, but they God face to face.  They do not love less.  No, their love and concern for other members of the Body is magnified because their hearts are more conformed to God’s.

Much of what St. Paul spoke of regarding the Body of Christ speaks to this.  “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”  All of heaven is not indifferent to our struggles and God’s triumphs in our lives. We might be indifferent to the saints, but Paul says that we cannot say to another part of the Body, “I don’t need you.” Jesus prayed that we might all be one.

Each cell of our body is individually fed by tiny capillaries, so it is with us. Each Christian should have a personal relationship with Jesus and be fed by Him. But the individual cell may be ignorant of how the rest of the body co-operated to bring it that precious blood.  Also, that individual cell is part of a larger organ that has a function that serves the Body as a whole.

It was never “just me and Jesus” and  it never will be.  At least have gratitude to the Apostles and writers of the Bible.  Have gratitude also for all those who held onto the faith and passed it down through the centuries until it reached you.  A common mistake is that people think we are praying to the dead.  But Jesus spoke of Jacob and Abraham as living, when He said, “For he is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him.” So I ask as the angels of the resurrection did, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Easter mass in Saint Peter's Square
piazza san pietro

As Mother Angelica has joined the mighty cloud of witnesses who watch as I run my race. I know that she is cheering me on, encouraging me and praying for my spiritual success.  Thank you Mother for what you did for me while I was alive.  Thank you for what you have done for me since.

 

Referenced scriptures; Luke 12:50, 1 Cor. 13:12, Luke 20:38, Luke 24:6, 1 Cor. 12, Hebrews 12:1

#Mother Angelica #trcot #tcot #Communion of the Saints

The Rebirth of Adam – the Resurrection

God creating Adam
Byzantine wall painting shows God creating Adam

Before the original Adam was cast out of Eden, he was cursed.  Read the words carefully and then consider Jesus’ Life, Passion and Death.

“Cursed is the ground because of you!

In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life.

Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; as you eat the plants of the field. 

 By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat,

Until you return to the ground from which you were taken;

For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.”

For the first thirty years of his life, Jesus lived among us as one of us.  He toiled as a carpenter in Nazareth to provide for his mother after his father had died.  For Him labor was not a curse but the will of God and He partook of its rewards.

In his public ministry he took on the work of God alone. Only He who had seen the Father could explain the Father and His Kingdom.  This work too was the will of God, and His harvest was not vegetation but souls.

At His Passion He took on the redemption of the curse that only the New Adam could do.  The blood from the sweat of his brow fell upon the earth redeeming the earth.  The blood of his head soaked the thistles and thorns that crown about his head.  It was by His sweat and blood that we have our eternal bread to eat. Finally in fulfillment of the curse his body was returned to the earth.

A crown of thorns on a white background - Easter. religion.
Crown of thorns on a white background Easter religious motif commemorating the resurrection of Jesus- Easter

Just as the first Adam was drawn from the earth, so at the Resurrection we see the New Adam–Jesus come forth from the earth.  As if to emphasis this point, who does Mary Magdalene mistake Him for but a gardener!

Resurrection of Christ

Mary Magdalene represents the redeemed church–the fallen woman restored.  Jesus’s words to her are similar to Adam’s words to His bride.  Adam had said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;” They were the same.  Jesus’ words to Mary were, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  Jesus and man were the same with the same Father! Finally a bride for the solo Adam!  The Father had brought for the Bride of Christ from the side of Jesus when he died, just as He did for Adam as he slept!

Let me form a hymn of praise to the New Adam!

Blest is the ground because of you!

Blest too is our toil because You shared in it.

You bring forth spiritual fruit from our simple labors!

Blest is the holy sweat that fell from your brow redeeming the cursed earth.

Blest is the fruit of the soil, the wheat and grapes that now have become your Body and Blood.

Blest are the thistles and thorns that crowned your head. You became King and Master of our Curse.

Blest is the ground that received you, Adam’s dirt to which you returned.

Blest is the new creation of Adam.  The first-born who taught us to say, “Our Father!”

 

 

Happy Resurrection! Happy New Creation! Happy Easter!

#Resurrection #Easter #Adam’s Curse #Crown of Thorns #trcot #tcot

Three Visions of the Soul

giant soap bubble rainbow colors
giant soap bubble on the sky background

I am probably on the autism spectrum. My kids certainly are! One reason why I say that is I can think in pictures as well as verbally.  Over the years, I have been blessed with three different pictures of the soul each of which has benefited me tremendously.  Take what you will from them.

Do you remember blowing bubbles as a child? Those beautiful iridescent transparent spheres that moved in the breeze? My first picture of the soul was like that except that there were smaller spinning spheres within. They touched each other like cogs in a machine, except there were no rough edges. The motion of one affected the other spheres and it allowed the sphere to move in absolutely any direction simply by a thought. Beautifully lit from within, it was gorgeous and breathtaking!

This was the picture of a pure soul able to act in perfect obedience to whatever God desired. I thought of the inner spheres almost as organs.  I know that one was our will. Another would have been whatever causes our body to do what we will.  As St. Paul says sometimes we do what we do not want! When everything is in order to know God’s will is to do it.  Mary or Jesus would have had a soul this pure and obedient.

The second picture was of the same sphere but it was clogged with mud and grit. Some of the inner spheres were spinning without connecting to the other spheres.  Others couldn’t spin at all.  The inner light could not be seen.

This was a soul in the midst of sin and suffering. The mud was sin that obscures the light of God from us. We can neither see it ourselves nor illuminate others.  It prevents us from moving forward.  We are literally spinning our wheels.  The grit was suffering. The tiny rocks were cutting us so we would shrink from moving in that direction because of the pain involved. Pain and suffering can certainly paralyze us and keep us stuck at a particular point.

The light from the last picture was so brilliant I could only gaze at it for a nanosecond. The soul was washed beautifully clean.  The scars from suffering had etched it like fine crystal.  As a result the light within reflected off of it like a brilliant diamond except the light was going out not in.  The dazzling light was too much for the eye to take in.

The mud had been washed by the sacraments. Our forgiveness of others who had hurt us removed the stone but had left the etching behind.  The end result was our ability to shine the inner light of God out to the world was greatly magnified.

Mary and Jesus never had the mud but they did experience suffering in doing His will.  Rather than shrink from that suffering they embraced it.  Their etching runs much deeper than ours so they show the light of God most perfectly and brilliantly to the world.

I hope these three visions help you in understanding the role of suffering in your life and why sometimes we are spinning our wheels.  The answers are always repentance, forgiveness, sacramental grace and embracing the cross. Now go forth and shine the light of Christ out into the world.

Reference scripture: Romans 7:15

#trcot #tcot #Soul

Gehenna was an actual place. It became a name for Hell

Orange and blue flames of fire
Fire flames orange and blue on black background

Gehenna was actually the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom to the south of Jerusalem.  In that valley the fallen away Israelites would burn their children alive to the god Molech. This was one of the reasons given for the nation of Judah going into exile.  The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that Jerusalem would become like Gehenna.  Sure enough it was burnt to the ground as the people were taken off to exile.

After the return from the exile, the people used the area as a dump because of the shame of that place.  People would haul their dead animals, plant waste, and other debris out the southern Trash Gate of Jerusalem to go to Gehenna.

As a result, there were always fires going on in the dump from the heat of decomposition.  It reeked of death and the decomposing animals were covered with worms and vermin.  I am sure there were vultures constantly over the place. To even touch a dead animal would render a person “unclean” according to Jewish law. This place was the “mother lode” of all things unclean.

Jesus used the word Gehenna as a name for hell “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched”.  He was using a very real awful place associated with terrible sin and uncleaness to describe an unseen worse place for His hearers. The impact on His hearers must have been immediate, rather than on those of us today who wonder what those phrases mean. Now, you know!

Referenced scripture Mark 9:48.

#Hell #Gehenna #trcot #tcot

Lazarus at our Gates

Vienna - Last judgment scene - Altlerchenfelder church
VIENNA – JULY 27: Jesus Christ and Last judgment scene by Leopold Kupelwieser from 1860 in nave of Altlerchenfelder church on July 27, 2013 Vienna.

I recently encountered an acquaintance that I knew from school decades ago.  As a child, he did not to fit in. There was an indescribable something off–too shy, too sensitive.  Whatever.  Of course back then and probably today that made you a target.

When I listened to his story, I heard about a dysfunctional family that left him scouring garbage cans for food.  When he was finally taken away into foster care, he was locked in the basement with a couple of other foster kids.  They were fed little and given less to drink.  If they cried, they were beaten. It made me weep to hear his story.

Where could he have learned how to fit in?  His shyness was his only means of protection.  His sensitivity was a sign of the rawness of his soul. Lazarus was sitting at our gates. We were rich with good families and adequate food but we ignored him or abused him.

It was beyond our capabilities to comprehend or to fix his life then, but kindness could have helped. For the most part, I was too self-absorbed to see.  But what about now? Is there a Lazarus at your gate?

In Jesus’ account of the Final Judgement, those rejected by God ask “when did we see you hungry and not feed you?”  I think that is the fundamental problem with a lot of us. We don’t see Lazarus or give aid when we do. To every Lazarus who sat at my gate, I am truly sorry that I did not see you or know how to help you. May God bind the wounds that I ignored.

Referenced scriptures: Luke 16:19-31, Matthew 25:31-46

#trcot #tcot #Lazarus