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Terrance KleinDecember 30, 2021
Sandro Botticelli, 1580 (Wikimedia)

A Reflection for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Readings: Numbers 6:22-27, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:16-21

We remember so little of our lives. We might not think ourselves short of childhood memories, but those we retain are such a small sampling of those years. Do you know who remembers more about your childhood than you do? Your mother.

Men have memories, but we tend to turn to mothers and grandmothers when we want to know our past. They have stories, even about us, that we cannot recall.

For example, my mother told me that as an infant, I caught an infection that wasted me. My grandmother prayed that the good Lord would take me. And I have no memory of wanting to surprise my mother with a gift of flowers, which I piled into my little red wagon. She tells me that the neighbor, who had just planted them, was terribly kind about my uprooting them.

We seldom see the Holy Spirit approaching. Most often we discern the Spirit in the wake he leaves.

St. Luke’s infancy narrative twice mentions Mary’s memory. When the shepherds withdraw from the manger, we are told, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (2:19). And when the boy Jesus is discovered teaching the sages of Israel in the temple, he obediently accompanies his parents to their home in Nazareth. Again, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (2:51).

This may be why early church tradition presumed a living link between the Virgin and the Evangelist. Did St. Luke gain access to a mother’s personal memories?

That question cannot be answered, but we do know that the Evangelists only record material they judge necessary for the training of future disciples. We are those disciples. Why are we twice told that Mary, whom St. Luke and later St. John consistently present as a model disciple, “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart”?

We discover God in the world, but how is it that we see what another cannot? Because, like the Virgin, we have prayerfully reflected and pondered.

The answer is quite salient come a new year. Disciples are meant to examine their lives. That is where we discover the Holy Spirit. We seldom see the Holy Spirit approaching. Most often we discern the Spirit in the wake he leaves. That is why it is important for us to look back. Are we growing or diminishing as human beings? Are we more or less loving than we were? Are we closer or more distant to the Lord whom we love?

We are always changing, but trying to observe ourselves doing it is a bit like watching a philodendron grow. It surely does, but you do not see much as you watch. It is helpful to periodically assess who we are, where we have come from and where we are going. Comparing yourself today to a year ago is much more revealing than say, yourself and yesterday. We need that “fullness of time” of which St. Paul speaks (Gal 4:4).

In the preface for Christmas Mass during the night, we pray:

For in the mystery of the Word made flesh a new light of your glory has shone upon the eyes of our mind, so that, as we recognize in him God made visible, we may be caught up through him in love of things invisible.

We do indeed discover God in the world, but how is it that we see what another cannot? Because we have looked again with the eyes of our mind. Because, like the Virgin, we have prayerfully reflected and pondered.

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