Monday, January 10, 2011

Turning to Mary in the New Year

January 06, 2011
By Louie Verrecchio
Catholic News Agency

On October 11, 1962, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council — the first document of which addressed the reform of the sacred liturgy — formally opened in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It was, according to the liturgical calendar of that day, the Feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary — the same Solemnity that the Church just celebrated according to the current liturgical calendar on Jan. 1.

As one with a deep devotion to our Blessed Lady, I find it fitting is that we should begin each New Year of our Salvation in Christ by honoring the Blessed Mother in hopeful expectation that she will lead the way to her Son amidst the many blessings and challenges that await us in the weeks and months ahead.

Catholics throughout the English speaking world know that one of those blessings (and indeed challenges) lays in the implementation of the third edition of the Roman Missal on the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011. In light of this fact asking Mary to lead the way strikes me as particularly fitting at the start of this momentous New Year.

As some readers may recall, in honor of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception last month I proposed in this space that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Beautiful Gate of the Christian era; the one through whom the Body of Christ entered into the world and likewise the sure pathway for those who wish to enter the Lord’s Holy Sanctuary to avail themselves of the Divine embrace that is offered in the sacred liturgy.

In yet another column earlier last year, I proposed that Mary is the “gateway to liturgical renewal,” and in it I suggested that the Wedding Feast at Cana offers us a wonderful lesson about the gifts that lie in store for those who are humble enough to place themselves in the tender care of the Virgin Mother, especially when we take our esteemed place as the Lord’s invited guests at Holy Mass — the Nuptial Banquet in which Christ renews the covenant with His Bride in the Most Holy Eucharist.

I promised in that column to offer at a future date some reflections as to how one might seek Our Lady in the celebration of Holy Mass that she might lead the way to an ever more profound encounter with her Son. In what for many is the first week of implementing their New Year’s resolutions, now seems like exactly the right time to make good on that promise.

First let me suggest that seeking out Mary for guidance in the liturgy is more than just an optional expression of personal piety; it really is more akin to a fitting expression of the duty that each of us have to “reverence in the first place the memory of the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ,” something that the Council Fathers said “the faithful must” do (cf Lumen Gentium 52).

Responding to this conciliar exhortation requires effort! We must deliberately seek Mary at Holy Mass to contemplate her active presence, and make no mistake about it - Our Blessed Lady is indeed present and active in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, just as she was on Calvary where she “persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, grieving exceedingly with her only begotten Son, uniting herself with a maternal heart with His sacrifice, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth” (LG 58).

With this in mind, I find it helpful to “set the tone” so to speak by contemplating Mary as the Beautiful Gate even before walking through the doors of the church for Holy Mass.

From there, blessing oneself with holy water should always call to mind our Baptism — that which configures us for participation in the sacred liturgy. Contemplating this reality a bit more deeply compels us to consider how our enmity toward Satan, affirmed in the Baptismal vows, necessarily means that we are thus “seeds of the woman” (Gen. 3:15); i.e., we are children of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Dipping ones fingers into the holy water font and making the sign of the Cross, therefore, serves as a reminder that we do not enter Holy Mass alone; rather, we do so with our ever-solicitous Mother by our side.

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