Father John J. Lombardi
Today we not only celebrate a New Year-Anno Domini (A.D. =Year of Our Lord) 2006, but also the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. It's the highest title of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Theotokos, Mother of God.
Angelus Silesisus, Polish priest and convert (1624-1677), wrote many mystical poems about the "wedding of the Divine and human," and about the Virgin Mary, so, volia:
"Virginity is noble, yet mother you must be
Or else you are a field robbed of fecundity."
"O noble Lady, speak, was it humility
That chose you to conceive God, Whose infinity?
Or was it something else? For I would like to know
How to be maiden, bride, God's mother here below."
As we emulate The Virgin Mother of God, let us also not fail to imitate her, each in our own, unique ways. As I reflect on this Solemnity I think of three women-mothers have affected me greatly in life:
Dorothy Day-reading of this raspy and religious woman in college and her conversion to the Catholic Faith, her overcoming of an abortion, her passage from communism and hedonism to Truth; her love of the poor and outcast in the Bowery of New
York City, and her tenacious trust in, and defense of, the Catholic Church and her visible leaders, all impressed me greatly to try, in however a clumsy, human way, to pursue a similar Path.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta-her love of the Holy Eucharist and the Virgin and the poor-showed me they all go together and cannot be separated.
My own mother, Rose Lombardi: I still recall vividly her dressing me, age-five to go out and play in the snow: she was toughening me up for the avalanche ahead in love and strength. I also am thankful for her firm love, her discipline, her
maternal affection, her strength amidst adversity, her marriage and family life all showed me a path of fortitude and loving
All of these women have three things in common: love (as in the needed life-sap of a tree without which it cannot live)-sacred desire-love which is ever evident and radiating, prominent and definitely a priority; they were gritty-not-plastic
people-real, earthy and "in the trenches" of life; and they saw and accepted their dynamic places in God's Plan and in the Church without compromise or protest. They excelled and helped others to excel and thirst for holiness. Mothers mother by smothering love without
suffocation stimulating a spirit towards the Sacred Divine Trinity and love of others. This is what true mothers do best-it's their nature!
The Virgin Mary is honored and venerated but she is not worshipped. To God alone we give, doxa, or worship, and to humans we give dulia, or veneration, and to the Virgin, hyperdulia, super veneration. I once learned, at the Catholic University
of America, while studying theology, that any Doctrine about Mary is really a Doctrine about God. Say what? Translation: this Doctrine-Mary-the- Mother of God teaches us that: God wants to "wed humanity" ("Divine Union") and that Jesus Christ is really God, not just
man. At the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) where this doctrine and title was officially adapted, the Church was saying and teaching that Jesus Christ was, is God, and Mary, a creature, and was the Mother of the Lord! Like many doctrines (like One God Who is
yet-the-Trinity; Jesus Who is both God-and Man, etc.), there is paradox: the Doctrine and reality of the Mother of God-is seemingly impossible--how could the uncreated God have a Mother? -- And puzzling: it is, or should be, fruit for constant prayer and devotion-a
mystery we continually pray over and find endless intrigue in. We cannot totally fathom this Solemnity and Doctrine with our small intellects but, transrationally (reason freed from complexity freed to intuit by the Spirit's help) we can relish it and be led to more
love and devotion in God's Sacred Revelation and Mystery. Once again, we worship God alone-esp. for His Sacred Desire to wed to humanity, and we venerate His choice of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the Birthplace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
At a recent Christmas Eve party I heard the host, Rich, say something very beautiful: He mentioned to his friend that God chose a specific woman, a lady, Mary, not a man, to be the pinnacle of creation and His Tabernacle for Jesus. Rich further
said it's in a woman's vocation and nature to give birth, to be fertile, to make and give life. At the party I had a flash of enlightenment-about God's nature, woman's vocation and Divine Providence. . So, ladies, be proud of your dignity and womanhood, your unique
kinship with the Virgin Mother-Lady, and be fertile and give birth-in one way or another! Here's another poem-about the Virgin, and us:
The virginity of the sky,
Cobalt and blue, redolent:
Latticed by Ornamental stars-
Like a mirror-Palace of your soul:
Embedded with virtues
A Marian atmosphere of love.
You, Lady, offered, as sky does naturally
Your porous femininity to the Mystery
Still: attracting, receiving, conceiving, like the twilight night
Birth and death all-in-one.
Spiritual ecstasy of elegant Virginity
To Trinity's undulations.
Your children on this threshing floor of life are all attracted
Never knowing the fullness of the Divine eclipse:
The silence, the embrace--Union: God becoming in you.
As the blue skies fade to darkness and stars appear
So may our human, finite hearts melt, too:
To receive Light, Birth, the Christ.
So teach us courage to give, offer, release submit our souls
Like your inner cobalt blue sky and womb-
To the Fathomless Sun:
Intuition: look at the Gaze of Mary and Jesus in any painting of the Madonna and Child (Madonna comes from the Latin-Italian, mia donna-"My Lady") and you may see a sacred gnosis (knowledge)-a woman's intuition, a knowing of God without the
"rocket science of rationality"-a purity, directness and simplicity of union and love, just as in any mother knows and loves her child. So: You don't need to be a brain surgeon to know and love God: i.e., get out of your head and into your loving-knowing heart….How do
you cultivate loving awareness without complexity-of the Lord's Presence, in sheer wonderment and Love? Pure Receptivity: The Virgin Mary received the Child Jesus by unction of the Holy Spirit into her womb and can thus show all of us-men and women-how to be a
"walking tabernacle" of God here below. But: we must be pure and receptive-esp. in our prayer and contemplation…How do you regularly pray, spend time in deep Love by clearing and cleaning your thoughts to receive the Living Lord into your body and soul-purely?
Mother and Virgin: With such a torrid assault on women today-thru pornography; radical feminism which neglects true femininity; changing roles and customs of women; the neglect or rejection of femininity,etc., we all need help women-of whatever
age-- be this-virginal or mothering, according to their unique calling and roles. Some women are obviously single and Mary can help them-be virginal, happy in their state in life without illicit sexuality. If ladies are called to be mothers-we too should help them be
such-allowing their fertility to give birth and proudly defend and define their vocations. Uniquely among all woman, God gave us this Virgin-Mother and can help women be either single or fertile-as she was singularly, paradoxically, both! So, young ladies: guard and
guide your sexuality into elegant simplicity by asking Mary's help. Married ladies, direct your fertility into complete abandonment and "let the Power of the Most High overshadow you" (Lk. 1:35) to become a mother if it is God's Will.
God took Flesh from the Virgin: Jesus became Incarnate (Christmas, remember?!) from the Virgin's body, just like we took flesh from our own moms. So let us thank Mary for giving her body to the Lord: will you-in purity, as a "temple of the
lord" (I Cor.7:19). Do you treat your body like a temple of the Lord? Are you ridding yourself of gluttony, excessive smoking, drinking, and eating? Do you regularly exercise, purify and train your body?
Passing on Knowledge: Women and mothers especially must pass on the beauty of femininity to younger ladies-esp. in this challenging time when their roles are questioned and are even being re-defined. So, teach ladies How to be a mom. How to be
feminine. How to be virginal. Are you a good, holy, pure example to young ladies?
Her Fiat-Yes (St Lk. 1:38) to God's call should lead and inspire us all to be obedient to God-in complete abandonment. Obedience, from the Latin, means "to listen"-and to respond to God and what He asks of us. Since Mary did it-listened and
responded-so can we-even to the hard-but-not-harsh things of discipleship. So: release, abandon, surrender and become, in your own way, a consort to God here below.
Story: I was giving a talk to some drug addicts recently, speaking about Mary and the Rosary and how one drinker-man, Irishman Matt Talbott used and wore a Rosary in his overcoming of his addiction (Pope John Paul declared him "Venerable," the
first step to becoming a saint). . A client-man at the talk, obviously worn by life and drugs, became intrigued by this sacred story, and with the sacred discipline and sacramental beauty of the Rosary. He looked around-seemingly wanting one of these "weapons" and
helps--a Rosary. Then I noticed my friend, Paul, whom I brought with me on this venture, sitting next to the guy, taking his Rosary off his hand-which he kept and had religiously (!)-and then gave it to the man. A selfless act, I remember thinking. The man, a
non-Catholic as far as I know, put it on his wrist and his face registered a spiritually liberating contentment-now more fully empowered and armored for The Battle. So: do what saints do-like that man-both of them-- give the Love of Mary, the Rosary and its prayerful
power--away to others. And: reach out for one. She can help save souls. She, Mary, is Our Mother-and the neediest, drug addicts included, are looking for you to help them -to Jesus thru Mary.
Like Jesus Himself could have felt in the womb, pray:
"Be thou then, O thou Dear, Mother, My atmosphere."
(Gerard Manly Hopkins). Blessed New Year!
Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi