MARY DOES NOT CEASE TO BE “THE STAR OF THE SEA” FOR ALL THOSE ON THE JOURNEY OF FAITH
(A biblical reflection on [the Feast of] the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Wednesday, September 8, 2010)
Background: The data of Mary’s birth is not identified in scripture. The feast of Mary’s birthday probably originated in Jerusalem about the 6th century (See G. Mealo, “Natività di Maria”). But from about the 5th century we have evidence of a church dedicated to St. Anne north of the Temple in Jerusalem. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem asserted in 603 A.D. that it marked the birthplace of Mary. The choice of a September day came about from the fact that in Constantinople the year began on September – as it still does in the Eastern Church. The 8 September would latter fix the date for the Immaculate Conception as 8 December, that is nine months earlier. The feast of the birthday was introduced in Rome towards the 7th century and it was well enough established for inclusion with the other three marian celebrations for which the Syro-Sicilian Pope Sergius I (687-701) laid down a procession (litania) from Roman Forum to St. Mary Major. Source: Christopher O’Donnell O.Carm., AT WORSHIP WITH MARY.
Biblical reflection on the ‘First Reading’ in the Holy Mass:
The Scripture Text:
We know that in everything, God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom He predestined He also called; and those whom He called He also justified; ant those whom He justified He also glorified (Rom 8:28-30 RSV).
In line with the background explanation above, traditionally, the Church celebrates her birthday on the 8th of September, nine months after the commemoration of the Immaculate Conception. This child, Mary, like all of us, was “called according to His [God’s] purpose [and was] … predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:28-29).
Mary was to have a unique place in God’s plan of salvation for His people – a plan for freedom from condemnation and of restoration to the likeness of God: “When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those wo were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-6). This likeness to God, preserved in its highest form in Mary, would be restored to all God’s children through the saving death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. But the actual fulfillment of the divine plan awaited Mary’s humble and faithful acceptance of God’s will for her: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
As the “handmaid of the Lord”, Mary accepted in faith the message of her divine motherhood, the awe-inspiring words of Simeon (see Lk 2:34-35) and Anna (see Lk 2:38), and the agony of Jesus’ passion and death, events which, to the human mind, seemed incomprehensible. In his encyclical MOTHER OF THE REDEEMER (REDEMPTORIS MATER), Pope John Paul II writes, that Mary was at all times on a “ ‘pilgrimage of faith’ …… faithfully preserving her union with Christ” (Redemptoris Mater, 5). The Holy Father further said that it is not “just a question of the Virgin Mother’s life-story, of her personal journey of faith and ‘the better part’ which is hers in the mystery of salvation; it is also a question of the history of the whole People of God, of all those who take part in the same ‘pilgrimage of faith’ ” (Redemptoris Mater, 5). The Pope continued stating that “though Mary has already crossed the threshold between faith and the vision which is ‘face to face’ (1Cor 13:12), …… Mary does not cease to be the ‘Star of the Sea’ (Maris Stella) for all those on the journey of faith” (Redemptoris Mater, 6).
By God’s loving mercy we are called to that journey of faith from the darkness of sin to the light, joy, and presence of God’s glory. This journey takes place as the likeness of God is restored to us through faith in Jesus’ saving death and resurrection and cooperation with His work in our lives.
Short prayer: Holy Spirit, help us to believe, hope, and love as Mary did, to be faithful in following the plan You unfold for us. Amen.
Jakarta, September 4, 2010 [Memorial of Saint Rose of Viterbo, Virgin – Secular Franciscan]
A Christian Pilgrim