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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased" (Mk 1:11) Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

 

Divine Call

Mother Mary - the handmaid of the Lord

By Dr Remila George

Mary’s attitude is one of complete trust in the Word of God. Throughout her life Mary actively co-operates in the Lord’s work.

Life is not always calm for many of us. Some of us are caught in storms, struggling to understand them and wondering how to pray our way out of them. This gospel passage offers some insights for us to experience the salvation and peace that Christ can bring into our lives.

The entire life of the humble handmaid of the Lord, from the moment when the angel greeted her, until the moment when she was taken body and soul into heavenly glory must be described as a life of loving sacrifice. She is given the extraordinary mission of being mother of the King, of the Messiah by the power of the most high. She remains a virgin even in becoming a mother, and more mysteriously still, she becomes as it were a new temple of God, a new ark of the covenant in which God’s glory will dwell.

Familiar as she is with the Word of God, Mary realises the favour that has been bestowed on her and the wonderful things God intends to do in her. She knows God is waiting for her answer. And Mary said, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word” (Lk 1:38). God addresses her as “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), but she speaks of herself as “handmaid.” This means that she sees the extraordinary favour done to her as meaning only one thing—the service of God.

“O LORD, I am your servant” (Ps 116:16)

Her attitude is first of all one of radical spiritual poverty. “He who is mighty has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49). Mary here acknowledges that all she has, she has received from God that in her “everything is grace.” Her attitude is one of profound obedience to the will of God. Mary’s attitude is one of complete trust in the Word of God. Her response is an act of self-giving surrender. Surrender is a necessary grace, but is not a natural one. To surrender, we need the grace of God and the power of His Spirit. God lets Mary know that her motherhood will be the work of the omnipotent Holy Spirit and He makes it known to her.

"Nothing is impossible to God” (Lk 1:37)

Throughout her life Mary actively co-operates in the Lord’s work. She goes to present Jesus in the temple. At Cana her request advances the time for Messianic signs that will manifest the glory of Jesus to His disciples. It is the intervention of the Holy Spirit an action that consecrated Mary’s virginity and rendered it fruitful and transformed Mary into the temple or tabernacle of the Lord.

“A dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph 2:22)

From Pentecost on, the disciples of Jesus gradually learned to see the fundamental part of the Holy Spirit was playing in their lives. It is the Spirit who inspires the profession of faith in Jesus as Lord (I Cor 12:3). It is this Spirit who reminds us of all that Jesus has said (Jn 14:26) and pours out the love of God in our hearts (Rom 5:5). The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Gal 5:22). In short, we live by the Spirit (Gal 5:25).

The Spirit focuses all of this sanctifying action in a very special way on Mary, “full of grace”. Therefore it was to the Spirit that they attributed the faith, hope and love which inspired the Virgin’s heart. The strength which confirmed her in obedience to God’s will and the fortitude sustained her as she suffered by the Cross. When St Paul speaks of the Spirit dwelling in us he likes to use the image of a temple. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you (I Cor 3:16). St Luke sees a parallel between Annunciation and Pentecost, the same Holy Spirit “comes upon” Mary to bring about the birth of Christ and upon the group of apostles to bring the Church into being as body of Christ. At Cana Mary’s confident intervention obtains the sign which manifests the glory of Christ and renders easier the faith of the disciples. On Calvary, Mary with the disciples whom Jesus loved standing near heard the Lord say to her, “Woman behold your Son” (Jn 19:26). “After this Jesus knowing that all was now finished… bowed his head and gave up His Spirit” (Jn 19: 28-30).

Then the mystery of Pentecost and of the Church’s birth has been mysteriously accomplished in the persons of Mary and the disciple, in virtue of Christ’s Word and by a sign of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s presence in the upper room thus takes on a deeper meaning: by the power of the Spirit the group of apostles shares in Mary’s motherhood in the order of grace.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. The Spirit bears witness to Jesus and inspires us to confess that “Jesus is Lord” (I Cor 12:3). The mission of the Holy Spirit is to reveal the mystery of the Father and of the Son to us and makes us “see” that the Lord Jesus is living with us.

“O magnify the LORD with me” (Ps 34:3)

Mary’s life is wholly centered on the person—Jesus, the Son of God. The favour we ask of Mary is to give us her son to “show” Jesus to us as she showed Him to the shepherds and magi; as she showed Him at Cana, as she made Him known to the disciples. The Holy Spirit inspires us to pray like Jesus that is; He inspires us to pray with filial confidence, of praise and thanksgiving to the Father. To pray with Mary is to pray simply trustingly, joyously. “My soul magnifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. He has filled the hungry with good things” (Lk 1:46,53). Mary’s presence in the midst of the community on Pentecost disposes us for the prayer which is beyond ordinary powers and is a gift from the Spirit.

Mary is at the heart of the Church. With her the disciples “all with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1: 14) for the Spirit of Pentecost. Mary is as it were the local sign and “living icon” of the Holy Spirit. Since the Spirit is her life (Gal 5:25), she disposes us in a concrete way to live according to the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of the love between the Father and the Son, the Spirit who causes Christ to be born and grow in us.

Prayer

I ask You Holy Virgin, I ask you that I may receive Jesus from the Spirit by whose power you conceived. Jesus, May I love Jesus in the Spirit, in whom you now adore Jesus as your Lord and contemplate Him as your Son. Amen!

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