Psalm 13: Mary’s Trust

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on our Blessed Mother’s birthday, we pray with the beautiful final verses of Psalm 13.

These verses embody an immense shift in form from the psalm’s early lines. Early on, the psalmist cries out four times, “How long, O Lord?”.

How long: 

  • Will you forget me?
  • Will you hide your face from me?
  • Must I carry sorrow in my soul?
  • Will my enemy triumph over me?

Referring to these early verses reminds us that Mary’s life was full of sorrow as well as joy. On a feast like today, we think of Mary in her heavenly glory. But in her lifetime, Mary suffered many sorrows. She was an unwed mother, a refugee, and a widow. She was the mother of an executed “criminal” and a leader of his persecuted band.

The Julian of Norwich, “Her Showing of Love”

What was it that allowed Mary to transcend sorrow and claim joy? Our psalm verses today help us to understand. They show the psalmist turning to heartfelt prayer., trusting God’s abiding protection.

Look upon me, answer me, LORD, my God!
Give light to my eyes lest I sleep in death,
Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,”
lest my foes rejoice at my downfall.


That deep trust ultimately yields not only peace,
but joy.
Mary, singer of the Magnificat,
is the quintessence of that holy joy.


But I trust in your mercy.
Grant my heart joy in your salvation,
I will sing to the LORD,
Who has dealt bountifully with me!

Today, in our prayer, we ask Mary to love and guide us through the challenges of our lives.


Poetry: Three Days – Madeleine L’Engle

Friday:
When you agree to be the mother of God
you make no conditions, no stipulations.
You flinch before neither cruel thorn nor rod.
You accept the tears; you endure the tribulations.
But, my God, I didn't know it would be like this.
I didn't ask for a child so different from others.
I wanted only the ordinary bliss,
to be the most mundane of mothers.

Saturday:
When I first saw the mystery of the Word
made flesh I never thought that in his side
I'd see the callous wound of Roman sword
piercing my heart on the hill where he died.
How can the Word be silenced? Where has it gone?
Where are the angel voices that sang at his birth?
My frail heart falters. I need the light of the Son.
What is this darkness over the face of the earth?
Sunday:
Dear God, He has come, the Word has come again.
There is no terror left in silence, in clouds, in gloom.
He has conquered the hate; he has overcome the pain.
Where, days ago, was death lies only an empty tomb.
The secret should have come to me with his birth,
when glory shone through darkness, peace through strife.
For every birth follows a kind of death, and only after pain comes life.

Music: Magnificat – Daughters of Mary

(To see Latin and English verses, click the little arrowhead just below the picture on the right.)

Psalm 89: Mary’s Echo

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary

June 20, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 89, as the Church celebrates the blessed humanity of Mary.

Yesterday and today, these beautiful “heart” feasts follow one upon the other, reminding us that both Jesus and Mary loved with human hearts like ours – Jesus as God, and Mary as God’s transformed Mirror.

As we pray with Mary today. Psalm 89 offers us a perfect context. The psalm was likely composed during a difficult time, when Israel began to doubt Yahweh’s enduring promise to care for them – some say during the Babylonian Captivity.

The psalm reminds the People of the Covenant and the Promise:

I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.

Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.
I will make his posterity endure forever
and his throne as the days of heaven.


Mary, born of the House of David, is the ultimate deliverer of that Promise in the person of her son, Jesus Christ. When, just before Jesus’ birth, Mary prays the Magnificat, we can hear echoes of Psalm 89:

And Mary said, 
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior….

He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly….

He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.


An extra song for Mary today, written in 1961 for a Firemen’s Choir

In our own times of trouble, or when a long endurance is required of us, our faith in God’s promises might waver too. Mary is a good one to talk to in such times. Her faith was refined from all need to place stipulations on God’s timing. She believed. Period.

And she wants to nurture that gift in us.


Poetry: I think Mary and psalmist would have liked this poem by Kahlil Gibran. I hope you do too. For me, it speaks of how faith deepens, as Mary’s did.

God
In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips,
I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying, 
“Master, I am thy servant.  Thy hidden will 
is my law and I shall obey thee for ever more.”
 
But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest passed away.
 
And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain and again
spoke unto God, saying, “Creator, I am thy creation.  
Out of clay hast thou fashioned me and to thee I owe mine all.”
 
And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings passed
away.
 
And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain 
and spoke unto God again, saying, “Father, I am thy child.  
In pity and love thou hast given me birth, 
and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom.”
 
And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant
hills he passed away.
 
And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain 
and again spoke unto God, saying, “My God, my aim and my fulfillment; 
I am thy yesterday and thou are my tomorrow.  
I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky, 
and together we grow before the face of the sun.”
 
Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness,
and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to
her, God enfolded me.
 
And when I descended to the valleys and the plains God was there
also.

Music: Psalm 89: Forever I Will Sing the Goodness of the Lord – Brian J. Nelson; cantor David Adams

Let Mary Be Mary

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(December 9th this year because the 8th fell on the Second Sunday of Advent)

Click here for readings

Today, in. Mercy, we celebrate one of the many feasts honoring Mary, Mother of Jesus.

Today’s feast can be confusing to people. It is sometimes mixed up with the Virgin Birth – the moment when Jesus was born. What we celebrate today, however, is the moment Mary was conceived by her parents, Anna and Joachim.

275px-Santi_gioacchino_e_anna

From a young age, I have had a tender devotion to Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Some of my local readers will be familiar with the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Established in 1915, the Shrine promotes this devotion through its well-known novena and other means.

medal

My Mom and Dad said that novena every day. Most Monday evenings, Mom and I would walk to our parish church where the community gathered to pray the novena together, celebrate Benediction, and sing the rousing hymn to Mary entitled, “O Mary, Conceived Without Sin”. ( I know some of my old friends are humming the tune right now🤗) When I received my First Communion, I was given my first Miraculous Medal which I treasured.

( A little reminiscence about that coming later today. Hope you enjoy it.)


These remembered devotions were the foundation on which the legacy of faith was planted in our young hearts. But as with any good foundation, a rich garden of understanding has grown from that early soil. Over the intervening years, many graced theologians have helped me grow in understanding of, and relationship with Mary.

One powerful impetus for this growth has come from Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, a Sister of St. Joseph and Professor Emerita at Fordham University. Her magnificent work Truly Our Sister opens with this sentence:

“ This book proposes that one fruitful approach to the theology of Mary, historically the mother of Jesus, called in faith the Theotokos or God-bearer, is to envision her as a concrete woman of our history who walked with the Spirit.”

Tanner Annunciation
Annunciation – Henry Ossawa Tanner

Reading Johnson and others has let me see Mary more fully, allowing Mary to move from an isolated perfectionism to a womanly humanity transformed by the Holy Spirit. Johnson says:

“ I am proposing that one fruitful way to work out a liberating feminist theology of Mary is to locate her in the communion of saints and there to remember her, dangerously and consolingly, as a woman with her own particular history among her contemporaries and before God. At first glance placing Mary in the company of the saints may seem strange to those accustomed to more traditional Catholic practice, even though the title ‘Saint Mary’ adorns many churches, schools, and other institutions. It may even seem a diminishment of the honor that is her due as the Theotokos, or bearer of God. But at root it grants her the greatest honor the Christian tradition acknowledges for a human being, namely, the core dignity of being created in the divine image and likeness and gifted, in community with others, with a graced relationship to the living God.”

Today, as we pray with our many images, devotions and understandings of Mary, may we open our hearts to be inspired by her singular witness to God’s desire to be among us.

Music: The Magnificat – Mary’s radical prayer for justice and mercy, sung here in Latin by the Daughters of Mary (English below)

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their seat s
and has exalted the humble and meek.
He has filled the hungry with good things.
And the rich he has sent empty away.
Remembering his mercy, he has helped his servant Israel
as he promised to our forefathers Abraham, and his posterity forever. 

A Women’s Feast?

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

May 31, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation, when a newly-pregnant Mary travels to be with her shockingly pregnant older cousin, Elizabeth. Although a universal feast, it is certainly a feast for women to treasure.

Visitation
The Carmignano Visitation, a unique masterpiece by one of sixteenth-century Italy’s greatest painters, Jacopo da Pontormo (1494-1557)

The Gospel is replete with the quiet but powerful understandings women share with one another:

  • the haste to support one another
  • the blessing and bolstering of each other’s faith
  • the shared joy to cause a baby’s leap in the womb
  • the desire for mercy and justice for the suffering
  • the “staying with” until need’s end

Of course, men too experience many of these holy sensibilities, but today most certainly invites women to celebrate the gifts of God within their bodies, minds and spirits.

Perhaps we might pray on these things while watching this movie clip of the imagined scene:


Music: Two selections for this wonderful Feastday:

Ave Maria (Schubert) sung in German, as Schubert wrote it, by the incomparable Marian Anderson


Magnificat (Bach) Imagine composing this powerful first movement based on only a single word: “Magnificat”

Magnificat

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/053118.cfm

Visitation

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that sacred act of hospitality to Elizabeth and to all of us who long for the coming of Christ in our lives. In this Gospel, Mary offers the most lyrical masterpiece of theology ever delivered – the Magnificat. For our prayer today, we might simply savor these words, replete with meaning and challenge. 

The Magnificat, a song of hope and encouragement for those who are poor and disenfranchised, is considered a sacramental prayer among Nicaraguans. Let’s pray for them today as their country once again experiences tremendous political turmoil.

Music: Latin Magnificat sung by the Daughters of Mary

 

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

the promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.