Monday, May 31, 2010

Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Happy Feast of the Visitation! Here are some resources to help you learn more about Mary's visit to Elizabeth, both of them pregnant with children that will change the world.

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechari'ah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
-- Lk 1:39-43
Note also that the many similarities between the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth and the return of the Ark of the Covenant to David point to Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant (see my earlier post on Mary's sinlessness). For more on Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant, go here.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Woman and the Serpent

Why is the Blessed Virgin Mary sometimes seen standing on a snake?

Mary is often depicted in this way because her entire life has been one of victory over the devil. In the very beginning of the Bible, in Gen 3:15, God says to the serpent:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

A bruise to the head of a serpent is fatal. So, God is saying that the seed, or offspring, of a woman will destroy the devil. In light of the New Testament, we know that this “he” who will bruise the head of the serpent is Jesus Christ. As the Letter to the Hebrews tells us:
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14).

What is interesting is that the Douay-Rheims translation (an older Catholic translation of the Bible from 1609 AD) says that “she” will bruise the head of the serpent, not “he”. This means that it is the woman that will destroy the devil, not her seed.

This is probably where our Marian art finds its inspiration. But, whether it’s a “he” or a “she,” the fact of Mary’s victory over the devil remains. Her “Yes” brought the Savior into the world, and her sinlessness only added insult to Satan’s injury.

We see Mary’s victory again at the very end of the Bible, in the 12th chapter of the Book of Revelation. The serpent, angry over the victory of the woman’s son, tries to defeat the woman. When that fails, he goes after her offspring, who are “those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev 12:17).

That’s us! And, of course, we know that when we unite ourselves to Jesus, through Mary, the devil will fail in his pursuit of us as well. The image of Mary, with her heel pressed firmly on the head of the serpent, is a powerful image of the victory that that can be had through a total
self-surrender of our lives to the glory of God and the fulfillment of His will.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Catholic Q&A: Part 7

What follows are a few short Q&A's that I have recently completed. I do this from time to time when my answer to any one question is not sufficient to warrant a blog post of its own. I get these questions either from the parishioners where I work, the readers of my blog, or whatever happens to be floating around unanswered over at the Catholicism category of WikiAnswers.

For more miscellaneous Q&A's see Parts One -- Two -- Three -- Four -- Five -- Six

What is a paten?

The Catholic Dictionary by Fr. Peter Stravinskas provides the following definition:
“A dish-like sacred vessel used to hold the species of bread and Mass. By custom, the paten was made of gold or silver. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal does allow, however, for other materials, such as “ebony or other hardwoods” to be used in the making of patens — with preference given to those that “do not break easily or deteriorate” (n. 329). Patens should be blessed according to the Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar before they are used.

What is ecumenism?

Again, from the Catholic Dictionary, we read:
“The movement of Christians and their churches toward the unity willed by Christ. The Second Vatican Council called the movement ‘those activities and enterprises which, according to various needs of the Church and opportune occasions, are started and organized for the fostering of unity among Christians’ (Decree on Ecumenism, n. 4).”

What does the white garment in baptism symbolize?

The white garment the person receives is a symbol of new life and of purity. If something is white, it is clean and spotless. So is the soul of the newly baptized clean and spotless, thanks to the sanctifying grace the person has received through the sacrament. This symbolism is very scriptural. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isa 1:18). “He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (Rev 3:5).

What is Vacation Bible School?

Vacation Bible School ("VBS") is typically a week-long program offered during the summer to teach children about their faith in a fun and engaging way. Of course, there is a teaching component, but music, crafts, games, and other fun activities are almost always involved as well. It started out as a Protestant phenomenon in the U.S. in the late 19th century, but Catholic churches soon realized that they too could utilize this format to teach children more about Christ and his Church.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Is the Church Still Referred to as "Holy Mother Church"?

Yes. In the Catechism alone, there are several examples where this language is used. Art. 1683 is my favorite, but I hope that you will read every one of these references. The Catechism speaks beautifully of the Church as our mother, and I think that we can learn a lot about the Church by way of this personification:

36 Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason.

105 "For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself."

167 "I believe" is also the Church, our mother, responding to God by faith as she teaches us to say both "I believe" and "We believe".

169 Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother: "We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation." Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith.

171 As a mother who teaches her children to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith.

181 The Church is the mother of all believers. "No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother" (St. Cyprian, De unit. 6: PL 4, 519).

507 At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church: "the Church indeed. . . by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse."

757 "The Church, further, which is called 'that Jerusalem which is above' and 'our mother', is described as the spotless spouse of the spotless lamb.

808 The Church is the Bride of Christ: he loved her and handed himself over for her. He has purified her by his blood and made her the fruitful mother of all God's children.

813 What an astonishing mystery! There is one Father of the universe, one Logos of the universe, and also one Holy Spirit, everywhere one and the same; there is also one virgin become mother, and I should like to call her "Church."

1141 "Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people,' have a right and an obligation by reason of their Baptism."

1163 Holy Mother Church believes that she should celebrate the saving work of her divine Spouse in a sacred commemoration on certain days throughout the course of the year.

1203 In "faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that Holy Mother Church holds all lawfully recognized rites to be of equal right and dignity, and that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way."

1249 "With love and solicitude mother Church already embraces [catechumens] as her own."

1667 Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals.

1683 The Church who, as Mother, has borne the Christian sacramentally in her womb during his earthly pilgrimage, accompanies him at his journey's end, in order to surrender him "into the Father's hands."

2016 The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final perseverance and the recompense of God their Father for the good works accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus.

2040 Thus a true filial spirit toward the Church can develop among Christians. It is the normal flowering of the baptismal grace which has begotten us in the womb of the Church and made us members of the Body of Christ. In her motherly care, the Church grants us the mercy of God which prevails over all our sins and is especially at work in the sacrament of reconciliation. With a mother's foresight, she also lavishes on us day after day in her liturgy the nourishment of the Word and Eucharist of the Lord.

2103 Mother Church rejoices that she has within herself many men and women who pursue the Savior's self-emptying more closely and show it forth more clearly, by undertaking poverty with the freedom of the children of God, and renouncing their own will

2212 The fourth commandment illuminates other relationships in society. In our brothers and sisters we see the children of our parents; in our cousins, the descendants of our ancestors; in our fellow citizens, the children of our country; in the baptized, the children of our mother the Church

Many of these paragraphs from the Catechism are in turn quoting from the early Church fathers, and from various Church documents, so you can begin to see how widespread and beloved is this image of Church as our mother.

In the words of St. Cyprian, ""No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother.”

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
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