17 January 2015
Is 60: 1-6; Ps 71: 1-2,7-8, 10-13; Rom 12:9-16b; Lk 1:39-56
Today we celebrate the solemnity of Our Lady of Arabia, Patroness of the two local Apostolic Vicariates in the Arabian Peninsula. Even though the Blessed Virgin Mary has been venerated for decades in this region of the world and her statue blessed by Pope Pius XII has adorned the altar of the parish church of Ahmadi for almost sixty years, it was only in January of 2011, that official approval from the Holy See was given for her veneration as Our Lady of Arabia with a proper Mass. All of us can now rejoice and give due thanks to God for this special grace, that our local patroness, is none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.
Mary as we know, was chosen to become the Mother of God and she is inseparable from her Son Jesus Christ, yet Mary and Holy Spirit are closely united as well. The Church teaches us that Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time. For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men (CCC, 721). Mary through the gift of the grace of God uniquely became the first tabernacle of Christ and the Holy Spirit in the world. God found a beautiful and worthy dwelling place for his Son and the Holy Spirit in Mary. This was due to the fact that she was full of grace from the beginning of her existence. She was thus able to respond to this grace by faith, in peregrinatione fidei processit, – advancing in her pilgrimage of faith (LG, 58). How wonderful it would be if we were to desire nothing else for ourselves than to receive God’s grace and that the Lord could find our souls in such condition to be noble dwelling places for his Son and the Holy Spirit! A famous preacher once said ‘do not pray for an easy life or to be relieved of your crosses, but pray for the gift of God and the graces you need to accept life’s difficulties with faith, courage and perseverance’.
The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace (CCC, 722). Mary conceived the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit at the moment of the Annunciation. The archangel Gabriel in referring to Mary said to her: Rejoice, full of grace! He called her by her true name – full of grace, which describes her innermost being and her identity. It is only fitting that Mary who was chosen to be the Mother of God, also be without sin. Throughout her whole life, Mary was preserved of original and all personal sin. The Church therefore rightly celebrates her Immaculate Conception, for in her we recognize the perfect fulfilment of the action of God’s grace. Though we are all born with original sin and remain sinners all our lives, Christ left the Church the sacrament of Baptism, through which we are cleansed of original sin and re-born as children of God. He also left us the sacrament of Reconciliation, through which we receive pardon and forgiveness for our personal sins. All of this is achieved through the action of the Holy Spirit who is constantly preparing, shaping and forming us into true sons and daughters of God. God prepared the world for the arrival of his Son, through the action of the Holy Spirit and through his chosen ones, such as Mary. We can now ask ourselves, are we prepared to receive the gift of God and do we want to become his chosen ones, his servants and witnesses today?
In Mary, the Holy Spirit fulfills the plan of the Father’s loving goodness. With and through the Holy Spirit, the Virgin conceives and gives birth to the Son of God. By the Holy Spirit’s power and her faith, her virginity became uniquely fruitful (CCC, 723). Some would consider virginity unproductive and therefore useless, yet through God’s grace in this singular case, the Virgin conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit and thereby enabled the arrival of the Messiah into the world. The gift of the Holy Spirit which we have received at Baptism and Confirmation is constantly working within us to accomplish the Father’s plan of loving goodness in our lives. In order to truly reach this goal we have to be open to God’s grace, seek his Holy Spirit with all our hearts and let ourselves be guided by him in everything we do. Through the grace of God we can regain the innocence we have lost due to our sins and become fruitful again, useful to God, to others and the Church, through our faith and good deeds, thereby fulfilling the will of the Father.
In Mary, the Holy Spirit manifests the Son of the Father, now become the Son of the Virgin (CCC, 724). The great threefold mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord, through the Annunciation, Nativity and Epiphany, was made possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus took upon flesh through his Mother Mary and revealed or manifested himself to mankind in human form, first to the poor shepherds of Bethlehem and then to others. It is through the Holy Spirit that God manifests himself to us by awakening in us his presence, which we can truly sense when we have a longing for God. The Holy Spirit makes us aware of our sins and the need to be cleansed through God’s grace in order to be renewed and then the same Holy Spirit moves our hearts towards loving God for what he is and others as ourselves.
Finally, through Mary, the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God’s merciful love, into communion with Christ. And the humble are always the first to accept him: shepherds, magi, Simeon and Anna, the bride and groom at Cana, and the first disciples (CCC, 725). When Mary conceived her Son she immediately was united to Christ her Son. This is the action of the Holy Spirit, which always brings those that believe into a new relationship with Christ, which we call communion. This is an intimate spiritual bond of friendship with Christ, initiated through faith, maintained by love and persevered through hope, which transforms us into his image and likeness, making us Christ-like.
At the end of this mission of the Spirit, Mary became the Woman, the new Eve (“mother of the living”), the mother of the “whole Christ.” As such, she was present with the Twelve, who “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer,” at the dawn of the “end time” which the Spirit was to inaugurate on the morning of Pentecost with the manifestation of the Church (CCC, 726). Mary was also present at the moment of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, when the new community of the faithful known as the Church was born. Mary is thus rightfully considered the Mother of the Church, which from that moment onward has been continually guided by the Holy Spirit. It is interesting to note that she received the Holy Spirit twice in her lifetime, at the Annunciation and on Pentecost. She was never for a moment without the Holy Spirit who remained constantly with her. On Calvary, Mary was also entrusted to us by her Son Jesus as our heavenly mother. She is the mother of the living, of those that live by faith in God, those who are alive and fruitful through grace and who remain faithful to the Lord no matter what.
The wonderful mystery of our faith is that the same Holy Spirit that was present in the life of Mary and many other saints inspired by God throughout the ages is also present and active in our lives today. Since God is eternal he cannot change and his love towards mankind therefore can never cease. We can take pride and joy in the fact that we too are considered beloved sons and daughters of God and that our heavenly Father, through the salvation received from Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit is constantly preparing us, manifesting himself, fulfilling his will and bringing us into an ever deeper communion with him.
May this solemn celebration increase our love and proper devotion to Mary the Mother of God, who always leads us to Our Lord Jesus Christ her Son. May Our Lady of Arabia continue to help and protect the Church in this region of the world through her powerful intercession, so that we may all nurture the gifts of the Holy Spirit we have received, constantly live in God’s presence, be his witnesses in the world and fulfill the will of our Father in heaven in order to be united with him in eternity.