Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Second Sunday after Easter—4 May AD 2014

The Good Shepherdess
Adolphe-William Bouguereau 1825-1905[*]

[Ordinary of the Mass]
[English Text of Today's Mass]
[Latin Text of Today's Mass]

“When he suffered, he threatened not;
but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly….”[1]

    While today is the second Sunday after Easter, it is also the beginning of the Month of May, the Month dedicated to Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother of God.  That is the reason why we deferred crowning her statue until today, instead of doing it immediately at Easter.

    When I read the scripture readings for this Mass, it struck me that next to Jesus Himself, they are more applicable to His Blessed Mother than they are to any other human being.  We all know from experience—with both the human and the animal kingdom—about how protective mothers nearly all tend to be.  Don’t get between a cat and her kittens; a bear or a raccoon and her cubs;  don’t mess with mother’s children.  The maternal protective instinct is powerful and nearly universal.

    It was, therefore, a pain as excruciating as any martyrdom that the Holy Mother of God must have felt when she encountered Him on the route to the Crucifixion, when she saw Him fall beneath the weight of the Cross, as she heard them pounding the nails and saw them raising the Cross.  The “sword of sorrow” predicted by the holy Simeon, certainly “pierced her heart” as He bowed His head in death.  “Thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”[2] If you look up the Greek word used for “sword” by Saint Luke, it is a vicious sword, translated variously as “scimitar” or as a “javelin” large enough to have to be carried over one’s shoulder![3]  Her sorrow was immense, but she contained herself for the sake of humanity, which was being redeemed by her Son.

    It is reasonable to think of Mary as the “good shepherdess,” sharing the role of redemption with her Son.  The Church has long spoken of her as the “co-Redemptorix.”  Pope Benedict XV, for example, wrote “Therefore, one can say, she [that is, the Blessed Virgin] redeemed with Christ the human race.” [4]

    The old man Simeon, spoke of this piercing of Mary’s soul as “opening many hearts [that] thoughts may be revealed.”  Many that hear of the pain of Mary and her Divine Son, rejoice that the Messias has come, that mankind has been redeemed, and that we can now hope of future glory in the Kingdom of His Father.  But, likewise, many openly reject Him.  This was true in His own times, as He was rejected by the Scribes, and the Pharisees, and the Priests of the Temple.  This is true in our own times as many reject Jesus and the truths that He taught, and even reject the possibility there is real truth which can be known from His Church.  His rejection is true in our times by all those who reject the unique role of His Blessed Mother in our salvation.

    Nearly a century ago (1927), Monsignor Ronald Knox, a convert from Protestantism, wrote about the attitude of many non-Catholics toward the Blessed Mother of God:

    They have said that we deify her; that is not because we exaggerate the eminence of God's Mother, but because they belittle the eminence of God….  They refuse to honor the God-bearing Woman because their Christ is only a God-bearing Man.[5]

    How many times have we heard people say that Christ was a “great philosopher,” a “peacemaker,” a “great thinker,” a “bright beacon for humanity,” or whatever, but then go on to deny His divinity.  They may or may not believe in God, but the idea that God Almighty actually walked the face of this earth is beyond their stingy belief.

    The Catholic Faith does not at all pretend that Mary existed in eternity, prior to God, in order to be His Mother.  That would be rank heresy.  Mary is a God-created being.  Mary is the Mother of God, precisely because, in created time, she gave the substance of her body so that He could unite His divine nature with human nature (in what we call the hypostatic union), and then gave birth to One who was both God and man.  This hypostatic union is real—the real joining of two natures in one person—not something symbiotic like a host creature carrying around a useful parasite.  Christ is God, and not “only a God-bearing Man.”

    But for those who hold the traditional Faith, Mary is indeed the “God bearing woman”—“Theotokos” in Greek.  Found in the earliest traditions of the undivided Church, this belief was defined as part of the Faith of the Universal Church by the Council of Ephesus in the year 431.

    This Wednesday we will celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph.  What could be more appropriate than to celebrate his feast-day during May—for Joseph was the most chaste spouse and protector of our Blessed Lady.  We might think of Joseph as the patron of devotion to the Blessed Virgin—apart from her Son, no one has ever been more devoted to her than was Saint Joseph.

    Let me close now, with just a few more words from Monsignor Knox:

    Touchstone of truth in the ages of controversy, romance of the medieval world, she has not lost with the rise of new devotions, any fragment of her ancient glory.  Other lights may glow and dim as the centuries pass, she cannot suffer change; and when a Catholic ceases to honor her, he ceases to be a Catholic.

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen


[4]   “Therefore, one can say, she [that is, the Blessed Virgin] redeemed with Christ the human race.”  Pope Benedict XV, Apostolic Letter Inter soldalica, AAS 1918, 181.

[5]   Ronald A. Knox, The Belief of Catholics

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