Mary Leads Us into the New Year

The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on January 1, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, at the Poor Clares' Monastery in Alexandria.

There is no doubt that the dominant person in today's sacred liturgy is Mary, the Mother of God. The very title of today's solemnity is, in fact, the most ancient title given to Mary: Theotokos — “Mother of God” — the “God-Bearer.” Today's Scriptures refer to Mary, indirectly in St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians, and directly in the Gospel of St. Luke. Indeed, how appropriate it is that we Catholics begin a new calendar year, focused on Mary, the Mother of God, for we are to bring Christ to the world as she did. No better resolution could any disciple of the Lord make than to imitate His Holy Mother and bear Him — bring Him — into each day of 2006.

If this is true for all of us, who are Christ's disciples, how true it is for you, Dear Mother Abbess and Sisters of this Monastery of Mary, Mother of the Church. So, I hold up before you the image of Mary, so clearly depicted in today's Gospel account: “"Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Yes, I hold up before you the image of Mary reflecting on God's Word. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI so beautifully points to this image: “"the image of the Virgin who listens and lives in the Word of God, who cherishes in her heart the words that God addresses to her and piecing them together like a mosaic, learns to understand them” (cf Lk 2:19, 51) (Homily on Dec. 8, 2005).

Are you not called by your very charism to reflect on God's Word in contemplative prayer? Article 27 in the Constitutions of the Poor Clare Nuns states this so clearly: “As contemplatives in the Church of God, we are particularly called to cultivate a spirit of prayer and to be dedicated more than others to mental prayer after the clear example of our holy Mother Clare". ” And, Article 28 echoes: “Prayer will be nourished by the assiduous reading of sacred Scripture, particularly the New Testament where Christ Himself speaks to us as Teacher". ”

Contemplative prayer enables you to deepen the “yes” which you so joyfully made at your profession and which you so faithfully seek to renew each day. In making this “yes,” you imitate our Blessed Mother. Again, I quote our Holy Father: “Mary is holy Israel: she says 'yes' to the Lord, she puts herself totally at his disposal and thus becomes the living temple of God” (Ibid).

Your “yes” to the Lord not only expresses your desire to be drawn into ever deepening intimacy with Him, your Spouse, but also expresses your willingness to continue your particular mission within this diocesan Church: to pray and to do penance for all God's people, so that they may follow Jesus more faithfully, and especially to do this for the priests and bishop. Dear Mother Abbess and Sisters, all of us so depend on you for spiritual strength and energy! In that profound and mysterious communion which binds us together, we are encouraged and strengthened by you to be and to remain faithful disciples of the Lord, each one of us in our own God-given vocation. In all our names and in my own, I thank you for enabling us by your cloistered lives of prayer and presence to be the bearers of the God-Man, Whose birth we are reliving in these holy days of the Christmas season and Whose Dying and Rising we will soon renew on this altar. We seek to be ever more united with you, so that, like you, we too may say “yes” to the Lord within our vocations and imitate Mary, the Mother of God.

Yes, the dominant person placed before us in today's sacred liturgy is Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church. Together, then, we thank God for placing before us on this first day of this new calendar year the image of Mary.

Allow me to quote Pope Benedict XVI. “Mary stands before us as a sign of comfort, encouragement and hope. She turns to us, saying, 'Have the courage to dare with God! Try it! Do not be afraid of Him! Have the courage to risk with faith! Have the courage to risk with goodness! Have the courage to risk with a pure heart! Commit yourself to God, then you will see that it is precisely by doing so that your life will become broad and light, not boring but filled with infinite surprises, for God's infinite goodness is never depleted!' On this Feast Day, let us thank the Lord for the great sign of his goodness which he has given us in Mary, his Mother and the Mother of the Church. Let us pray to him to put Mary on our path like a light that also helps us to become a light and to carry this light into the night of history"” (Ibid).

Yes, Mother Abbess and Sisters, and all my brothers and sisters, let us imitate Mary, the Mother of God, and bring her Divine Son into every activity of our lives and to everyone we meet this new year. Permit me to repeat in our names a section of the prayer to Mary which Pope Benedict XVI prayed before the statue of Mary Immaculate in the Piazza di Spagna on December 8. “Yes, we want to thank you, Virgin Mother of God and our most beloved Mother, for your intercession for the good of the Church. You, who in embracing the divine will without reserve were consecrated with all your energies to the person and work of your Son, teach us to keep in our heart and to meditate in silence, as you did, upon the mysteries of Christ's life.” Amen.

Bishop Paul S. Loverde

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Bp. Paul S. Loverde is the bishop of the Diocese of Arlington in Virginia.

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