Blessed Virgin Mary’s Birthday

Cam Newton Panthers

Leave it to our Lady to give us a birthday present on her birthday.  Namely football.  Panthers-Broncos re-match tonight!

Let’s ask ourselves this question.  At Holy Mass today we read a lengthy genealogy.  From Abraham to Amminadab to Shealtiel to Matthan, with a lot of tongue-twisting ancient Hebrew names in between.  What does this long list of obscure names have to do with the meaning of life?

A great deal, in fact.  But first, this question:  Does life have meaning?  What makes us think that life has meaning?  Maybe there really is no more to it than the fleeting thrill of seeing Cam Newton rush for a 20-yard carry and possibly avenge the ugly Superbowl, this very night?

bl-virg-detailNo.  Football is fun.  But meaningful?  Not exactly.  A new iPhone can be fun, I guess. NASCAR can be fun.  But enough to make life worth living?  Hardly.

But:  What about this?  What about the idea that all things have been arranged by a mind infinitely greater and more beautiful than our own, Who has revealed His sublime purpose by becoming a man Himself?  What about a woman giving birth to a son, Who is God, the One Who made and Who governs everything, and Who spread out His arms to endure the Roman death penalty, in order to show us that all of this is for love?

All of it, everything–the sun, the moon, the stars, the rivers, the seas, the mountains and hills, time, history, birth:  all an act of divine love.

The Virgin Mary perceived; the Virgin Mary said Yes to; the Virgin Mary co-operated in every way with this:  We find meaning in life by union with Jesus Christ.

The Blessed Mother’s union with Christ involved her body and her soul.  So, by His grace, does ours.  Her union with Christ consumed her entirely, and yet brought out her true self like nothing else could.  So, by His grace, does ours.

She said Yes to the Incarnation, gave herself entirely to it, lost herself completely in it, and became herself by: giving birth to, nursing, helping, feeding, teaching, learning from, following, and suffering with God.

Yes.  We say yes, too.  Yes, we believe that Christ is God, and His cross means that life is worth living.

Abraham, Forty-Two Generations, Christ

Jesse Tree Matthew Genealogy

Everybody know that Holy Mother Church prays all day, every day—celebrating Mass and singing all the psalms and canticles of the Bible in The Liturgy of the Hours?

Everybody know that She sings three particular canticles every day, without fail? Before bed, the Canticle of Simeon. In the morning, the Benedictus of Zechariah. In the evening, the Magnificat of the Blessed Virgin.

What do the Benedictus and the Magnificat have in common? They both mention one person in particular by name. The Lord “swore and oath” to this person, “made a promise” to him, when the great history of our salvation began.

Correct! Abraham.

The genealogy of Christ at the beginning of St. Matthew’s gospel offers us much more than just a series of tongue-twister names. It gives us the true context of Christmas.

Not that we need to memorize all the ancestors from Amminadab to Mannaseh to Shealtiel to Eleazar, instead of decorating the house. But we do need to ponder the utterly ancient tradition of faith that surrounded Bethlehem, and the manger, like an atmosphere.

At the mall, we won’t see signs that read: “Special Deals for the Fulfillment of the Promises Made to Abraham!” But if we want to know what the Bible says Christmas means; if we want to know what the saints of the all the Christian ages have thought that Christmas means, we need to imagine Abraham, forty-two generations earlier, in a world that had forgotten God.

God broke the silence of the heavens then. “Abraham! We shall be friends! I promise your people a glorious future.”

After forty-two generations of struggling to hold on, of believing in good times, and during the exile; believing during the reigns of good kings and bad; during the times of honest prophets and lying false prophets—the time finally came, the fulfillment of God’s promise.

The ancient Israelites didn’t have to hold on for 42 shopping days. They held on for 42 generations. Then, when a few of them had been trained by all this long preparation to have enough faith to grasp what was happening, God Himself became a child of Abraham.