Sheep’s Gate Neighborhood

Happy Feast of Stephen!

The home of Sts. Joachim and Ann–our Lady’s parents–was in the northeast corner of ancient Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is less than a day’s journey from Bethlehem. Perhaps the Holy Family rested today in the home where the Blessed Virgin grew up.

St. Stephen was martyred right outside the Sheep Gate of the ancient city. This gate is just steps from the home of Joachim and Ann.

Nobody knows exactly why St. Stephen’s Day is the day after Christmas. It has been his feast day since the early centuries.

Maybe the first Christians all knew that the first martyr died very near the place where the Lord spent his newborn days on earth.

Immaculate Conception Novena

immac-concepOne of the best ways to start Advent is to honor our Lady’s Immaculate Conception.

On December 8, Mary was conceived immaculate in the womb of her mother, St. Ann. Our Lady’s birthday is nine months later, September 8.

The Blessed Virgin was preserved from sin because of the merits of her divine Son.

Our Lady’s perfect friendship with God made it possible for her to consent to the Archangel Gabriel when the time came for the eternal Son to become man.

The Annunciation took place on March 25, when Mary was thirteen or fourteen years old. The Lord Jesus was born nine months later, December 25.

So, by the plan of God, these two incredibly holy days–the day when our Lady was conceived in St. Ann’s womb and the day when the Lord Jesus was born–are in the same month, December.

Here is a link to the Immaculate Conception Novena prayers.

Our Quasi-Omnipotent Lady

 

 

 

          “Who is this that comes forth like the dawn, as beautiful as the moon, as resplendent as the sun, as awe-inspiring as bannered troops?”   Song of Songs 6:10

Today we rejoice in the birth of the Mother of God.  She was conceived immaculate in her mother Ann’s womb, and nine months later, she was born.

When she came of age to bear a child, the Archangel come to propose God’s plan to her, and she gave her consent.  With her Son, she walked down the path of humility and suffering.  After our salvation was won, God exalted her, like her Son, to the highest heaven.

Obviously, the Blessed Virgin Mary is not God; she is not divine.  God made her.  He did not, on the other hand, make Himself.  He made the humanity which He took to Himself, but God the Son always was and always will be.  Christ is a divine Person, not a creature.  We cannot worship the Blessed Mother the way we worship God.  Only God is God.  Our goal is to give glory to God, just like the Blessed Virgin does.  No one worships God better than our Lady worships Him; she worships God in Christ perfectly.

From God’s point-of-view, our Lady is splendidly beautiful, but of course she is infinitely less than He is Himself.  He keeps her in existence at every instant.  If He did not, she would disappear without a trace.

From our point-of-view, though, the Blessed Virgin might as well be God.  Our Lady is in charge of all the angels; they serve and adore her.  All the graces God gives to us come through her.  She is our life, our sweetness, and our hope.  She is the everlasting Garden of Eden.

Let’s not fret and fuss about falling into “Mariolatry.”  Damn the torpedoes, when it comes to Protestants trying to criticize us on this.  We cannot venerate and love our Lady too much.  Why get technical about the difference between worshipping God and throwing ourselves at our Lady’s feet?  The experts who make sure that the prayers we use are orthodox can worry about things like that.

          Here’s a weak analogy:  An expert land surveyor might be able to tell the difference in height between Mt. Everest and K-2, just by looking.  I am sure, though, that if I laid eyes on Mt. Everest and then Mt. McKinley, I couldn’t tell the difference in height.  In both cases, I would say, “Wow, that is an awesome mountain.”  When I think of God, I say to myself, “Awesome.”  When I think of our Lady, I say to myself, “Awesome.”

          From where I am standing, the Blessed Virgin Mary is infinitely powerful.  She is immeasurably more powerful, holier, more excellent and glorious than me.  I rely on her for my life’s breath.  If by “infinite” I mean simply that I cannot measure what I am talking about, I have to confess that our Lady is infinitely wonderful.  I beg her to take care of me.