Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Third Joyful Mystery

Him, Virgin, To Whom You Gave Birth
The Nativity
The Nativity by Gerard David, ca. 1510-15

Much todo is made about the presents and the family gatherings and the like around Christmastime, but often we get "Christmased out" by the 26th, even before the actual end of the Christmas season rolls around at Epiphany.  

This event is so important, that every Sunday, except during Advent and Lent, we proclaim the Gloria, the song of praise the angels sung in the skies outside Bethlehem, and yet we often feel overwhelmed by the stress of finals, travel, finances, and I for one feel so unprepared for this feast year after year.  The gift of this being a mystery of the rosary is that we can detach from the stress associated with that time of the year, and we can take a few minutes to really enter into the meaning of this event.

There are two scriptures that I wish to drawn on for this reflection, both from John the evangelist.  The first passage is the beginning of his Gospel, and the second is, perhaps surprisingly, from his Apocalypse - Revelation.

Before we read the first passage, I invite you to put yourself in the mind of Mary.  So often, when she appears in the scriptures, it is said that she watches, listens, and holds the events in her heart to ponder upon.  She is our model of contemplation, and it might be nice to think of these words as being from the fruit of her reflection.  After all, John the Evangelist, the beloved disciple, took Mary into his home, and cared for her until she died.  It is not much of a stretch to believe that living in her presence bore great fruit for this author of scripture.

John 1:1-4,12-14,16-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race;  the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name,who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God.
And the Word became flesh  and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.
From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him.
The Greek word Λογοσ (Logos) is what is translated as "Word."  It means a little more in Latin and Greek than it does in English, conveying the sense of not just the letters or sounds, but the meaning, the essence, the reality behind what is expressed.  This is another name for Christ, the Second Person, the WORD of God.  

In verse 14, we find one what I believe to be the most beautiful verses in all scripture, "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."  There's a sense in the original of "making one's abode," or "pitching one's tent" in the word that translates to "dwelt" or "made his dwelling."  

God is on our team.

Let me say that again.  The God who we disobeyed in the garden, Whose law we ignored, lost, disregarded, is for us, in our camp, on our team.  Et habitavit in nobis.

Emmanuel - God With Us.  The Word of God, the Second Person, taking on a human nature, to lead us out of bondage by lowering himself.  That's the truth of Christmas, about the mystery of the nativity, we're talking about God being born as an infant to a virgin.

While we know the nativity story, and are given by this an insight into what this means for us, there is still another aspect about this mystery which John tells in Revelation 12,
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
The  whole of this chapter tells the spiritual side of the Nativity, because from the very beginning, Our King in exile was under attack.  He was born in the dark, and within his first two years of life had the king of Judea (Herod) out for his blood, resulting in the massacre of all male children under the age of two.

The "Revelation Nativity," as it is sometimes called, goes on to describe another sign in the heavens, the huge red dragon who waited to devour the woman's child, and his rage when he was denied.  Imagine the great rage of defeat that Satan must have felt as he watched his Lord, against whom he has been in rebellion from since before the creation of the world, coming to these pitiful humans to redeem them, and bring them to Himself.  

There is a line from verse 17 here that is particularly interesting.  Verse 17 reads, "Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus. "

I think it is very hard to deny that this woman is Mary, but it then speaks of "the rest of her offspring," whereas we know that Mary remained a Virgin inviolate after the birth of Christ. So who are these other offspring John speaks of?

The next line tells us: "...those who keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus."  Literally, the rest of the Body of Christ.  It is important to remember that when on the cross, Christ gazed upon his mother, and John, and said to Mary, "Behold your son," and to John, "Behold your mother."  He was not just giving John His mother to take care of, but was giving all of us to Her, and her to all of us.

The offspring that John speaks of are us.  Mary was given to us as our mother, that just as she gave Christ His body, bearing Him to the world, we may be born of her into the Body of Christ, born by her, to her Son.

Mary, Mother of the Word Incarnate,
Let us be born of you into the mystical body of your son,
that you would be our mother, 
as you were mother to Christ, 
and mother to John.
Mary, Mother most Loving,
Pray for us!

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