Archive for category Saints

Devotion as Mother to Christ As Old As The Church

The first affirmation Jesus Christ intended for those who do the will of the Father to be His mother is found in the Gospels.  Three of the Gospels recount when Jesus once being informed that His brothers, sisters, and mother are outside.   Jesus responds by raising His hand over His disciples while stating that, “Anyone who does the will of the Father are my brothers, sisters, and my mother.”  See Mark 3:31-35, Matthew 12:46-50, Luke 8:19-21

 

Blessed Isaac of Stella (ca. 1100AD – 1169) entered the Cistercian Monastery of Citeaux of France.  Isaac be became an abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Stella.  He was known for his holiness and the teachings he gave his monks on the spiritual life. (See http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_author/90/Isaac_of_Stella.html and the Liturgy of the Readings)

 

Blessed Isaac of Stella is one who later highlighted this statement of motherhood to Jesus when in a sermon of his he wrote the following:

 

In a way, every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God’s Word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister, at once virginal and fruitful. These words are used in a universal sense of the Church, in a special sense of Mary, in a particular sense of the individual Christian. They are used by God’s Wisdom in person, the Word of the Father.
     This is why Scripture says: I will dwell in the inheritance of the Lord. The Lord’s inheritance is, in a general sense, the Church; in a special sense, Mary; in an individual sense, the Christian. Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell forever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul.  

 

Here Blessed Isaac of Stella relied on what Jesus said.  Blessed Isaac of Stella saw the reference in physical terms for the Blessed Virgin Mary while he saw this comment in spiritual terms for the rest of the members of the Body of Christ, the Church.  Clearly this is further validation for a devotion to the Preborn Christ who Christians bear Liturgically and Sacramentally and are destined to become the on-going incarnation of Jesus Christ.

St. Gregory’s Parenting of the Preborn Christ

St. Gregory of Nyssa (330 – 395) was a Father of the Church who recognized that the Church did teach that the Christian is a Christ-Bearer who must be concerned with the growth of Christ Who dwells within.  A passage from his writings address the importance of this concern as he explains failure to cultivate Christ within the Christians results in not only the loss of Christ’s interior presence, but the spiritual self-abortion of the individual.  St. Gregory’s passage from a homily found in the Liturgy of the Readings that explains just this understanding is as follows:

 

Birth is likened to salvation by the prophet Isaiah. Salvation reaches its full term

and is not stillborn when, having been conceived by the fear of God, the soul’s

own birth pangs bring it to the light of day. We are in a sense our own parents,

and we give birth to ourselves by our own free choice of what is good. Such a

choice becomes possible for us when we have received God into ourselves and

have become children of God, children of the Most High. On the other hand, if

what the Apostle calls the form of Christ has not been produced in us, we abort

ourselves. The man of God must reach maturity. Hom. 6:PG44, 702-703

 

St. Gregory describes the need to become like one’s own parent, speaking particularly in terms of the practicing the spiritual disciplines in life.  These disciplines lead to the forming of Christ within each of us, or rather lead to Christ becoming greater while I become lesser.  These are not only to be described as the means to parent or mother the preborn Christ, but also for one to grow in Christian maturity.

 

This is a very good passage to read every day as a means for one to re-focus on the responsibilities one has as a Christ-Bearer to the Preborn Christ and to oneself.

Motherhood in Light of Bearing the Preborn Christ

As St. Francis of Assisi highlighted in his Letter to All the Faithful, “We are His mothers when we bear Him in our heart and in our body through pure love and a clean conscience and we bring Him forth by holy work which ought to shine as an example to others.” (Matt 12:50) It is awesome to think that we may be mothers to Christ, bearing the one whom we obey as Master because He is the one who can save souls. But this grace is also a concern of responsibility. What is a mother and how does one fulfill the role of mother for those who do the will of Father?
For today, let us consider what John Paul II has written on motherhood from Evangelium Vitae, Section 99:

In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” which rejects the temptation of imitating models of “male domination”, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.

Making my own the words of the concluding message of the Second Vatican Council, I address to women this urgent appeal: “Reconcile people with life”.133 You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of that acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship. The experience of motherhood makes you acutely aware of the other person and, at the same time, confers on you a particular task: “Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb … This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings not only towards her own child, but every human being, which profoundly marks the woman’s personality”.134 A mother welcomes and carries in herself another human being, enabling it to grow inside her, giving it room, respecting it in its otherness. Women first learn and then teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person: a person who is recognized and loved because of the dignity which comes from being a person and not from other considerations, such as usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty or health. This is the fundamental contribution which the Church and humanity expect from women. And it is the indispensable prerequisite for an authentic cultural change.

Roots of Praising the Preborn Christ

There is a rich history within the Church of its saints and people giving honor to Christ in the womb. Such honor began with St. Gabriel’s appearance to Mary to announce His coming and to seek her fiat. He began calling, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Luke 1:28

It was followed with the Visitation of Mary and Jesus to St. John the Baptist and Elizabeth. Upon realizing the proximity of Jesus by Mary’s greeting, John the Baptist leaped in his womb and Elizabeth in turn praised both Jesus and His mother, Mary. Elizabeth exclaimed, “Most bless are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Luke 1:42

Between the two, they have provided us with great praise to Jesus and His mother, Mary.  John the Baptist demonstrated the joy one can feel when Christ is near.  And Elizabeth has provided us with the first half of the Hail Mary.  Every offering of a Hail Mary by us brings anew to Mary the Annunciation and the Visitation, two moments of great mystery and joy for her. We share in her joy and praise for her Son whenever we pray the Hail Mary.

We further acknowledge our creatureness and dependence on God when we turn to the conceived, but yet Preborn Christ as our Master who we obey because he can save souls.  Let’s offer Hail Mary’s today with a renewed fervor for the one who loves us first.

Spiritual Adoption Leads us to Divine Life

Saint Gregory of Nyssa once wrote: “Man, as a being, is of no account; he is dust, grass, vanity. But once he is adopted by the God of the universe as a son, he becomes part of the family of that Being, whose excellence and greatness no one can see, hear or understand. What words, thoughts or flight of the spirit can praise the superabundance of this grace? Man surpasses his nature: mortal, he becomes immortal; perishable, he becomes imperishable; fleeting, he becomes eternal; human, he becomes divine”.

The importance of our adoption by the Father through the Sacrament of Baptism can not be overstated. It is our salvation, the hope and means of eternal life for each of us. This is made possible and certain for the faithful by means of Jesus sharing our human life through His assuming human flesh in the womb of Mary and beginning as a single cell person. Jesus claims solidarity with us all and shares the Divine life of the Trinity with each of us.