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Sunday, May 24, 2015

THE MEANING OF THE ASCENSION


  • POPE BENEDICT XVI
What is the meaning of Christ's "ascension into heaven"?
ascensionraphaelIt expresses our belief that in Christ human nature, the humanity in which we all share, has entered into the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard of way.  It means that man has found an everlasting place in God.
Heaven is not a place beyond the stars, but something much greater, something that requires far more audacity to assert: Heaven means that man now has a place in God.  The basis for this assertion is the interpenetration of humanity and divinity in the crucified and exalted man Jesus.  Christ, the man who is in God and eternally one with God, is at the same time God's abiding openness to all human beings.
Thus Jesus himself is what we call "heaven"; heaven is not a place but a person, the person of him in whom God and man are forever and inseparably one.  And we go to heaven and enter into heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him.  In this sense, "ascension into heaven" can be something that takes place in our everyday lives…
For the disciples, the "ascension" was not what we usually misinterpret it as being: the temporary absence of Christ from the world.  It meant rather his new, definitive, and irrevocable presence by participation in God's royal power... God has a place for man!… In God there is a place for us!…"Be consoled, flesh and blood, for in Christ you have taken possession of heaven and of God's kingdom!" (Tertullian).
dividertop

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

MARY SINGS THE PRAISES OF GOD’S MERCY

MARY SINGS THE MAGNIFICAT

   Pope John Paul II


In the ‘Magnificat’, the Blessed Virgin proclaims the greatness of God who called her, his humble handmaid, to be the Mother of his Incarnate Son


At the General Audience of Wednesday, 6 November, the Holy Father returned to his catechesis on the Virgin Mary with a reflection on her song known as the Magnificat.

"With her wise reading of history, Mary leads us to discover the criteria of God's mysterious action. Overturning the judgements of the world, he comes to the aid of the poor and lowly", the Pope said, pointing out that it is humility of heart which the Lord finds especially attractive. Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis, which was the 35th in the series on the Blessed Virgin and was given in Italian.

1. Inspired by the Old Testament tradition, with the song of the Magnificat Mary celebrates the marvels God worked in her. This song is the Virgin's response to the mystery of the Annunciation: the angel had invited her to rejoice and Mary now expresses the exultation of her spirit in God her Saviour. Her joy flows from the personal experience of God's looking with kindness upon her, a poor creature with no historical influence.


The word Magnificat, the Latin version of a Greek word with the same meaning, celebrates the greatness of God, who reveals his omnipotence through the angel's message, surpassing the expectations and hopes of the people of the Covenant, and even the noblest aspirations of the human soul.

He who is mighty has done great things for meIn the presence of the powerful and merciful Lord, Mary expresses her own sense of lowliness: "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden" (Lk 1:47-48). The Greek word "tapeĆ­nosis" is probably borrowed from the song of Hannah, Samuel's mother. It calls attention to the "humiliation" and "misery" of a barren woman (cf. 1 Sam 1: 11), who confides her pain to the Lord. With a similar expression, Mary makes known her situation of poverty and her awareness of being little before God, who by a free decision looked upon her, a humble girl from Nazareth and called her to become the Mother of the Messiah.

2. The words "henceforth all generations will call me blessed" (Lk 1:48) arise from the fact that Elizabeth was the first to proclaim Mary "blessed" (Lk 1:45). Not without daring, the song predicts that this same proclamation will be extended and increased with relentless momentum, At the same time, it testifies to the special veneration for the Mother of Jesus which has been present in the Christian community from the very first century. The Magnificat is the first fruit of the various forms of devotion, passed on from one generation to the next, in which the Church has expressed her love for the Virgin of Nazareth.

3. "For he who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name, And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation" (Lk 1:49-50).
What are the "great things" that the Almighty accomplished in Mary? The expression recurs in the Old Testament to indicate the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt or Babylon. In the Magnificat, it refers to the mysterious event of Jesus' virginal conception, which occurred in Nazareth after the angel's announcement.

In the Magnificat, a truly theological song because it reveals the experience Mary had of God's looking upon her, God is not only the Almighty to whom nothing is impossible, as Gabriel had declared (cf. Lk 1:37), but also the Merciful, capable of tenderness and fidelity towards every human being.

4. "He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away" (Lk 1: 51-53).

With her wise reading of history, Mary leads us to discover the criteria of God's mysterious action. Overturning the judgements of the world, he comes to the aid of the poor and lowly, to the detriment of the rich and powerful, and in a surprising way he fills with good things the humble who entrust their lives to him (cf. Redemptoris Mater, n. 37).

While these words of the song show us Mary as a concrete and sublime model, they give us to understand that it is especially humility of heart which attracts God's kindness.

God fulfils his promises in Mary with abundant generosity
5. Lastly, the song exalts the fulfilment of God's promises and his fidelity to the chosen people: "He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever" (Lk 1:54-55).

Filled with divine gifts, Mary does not limit her vision to her own personal case, but realizes how these gifts show forth God's mercy towards all his people. In her, God fulfils his promises with a superabundance of fidelity and generosity.

Inspired by the Old Testament and by the spirituality of the daughter of Zion, the Magnificat surpasses the prophetic texts on which it is based, revealing in her who is "full of grace" the beginning of a divine intervention which far exceeds Israel's messianic hopes: the holy mystery of the Incarnation of the Word.




Sunday, November 23, 2014

Joseph and Blessed Mary

When Were Joseph and Mary Married?


Tim Staples 



When the Archangel Gabriel visited Mary and declared unto her that she was called to be the Mother of God, as we see recorded in Luke 1, her response would become the cause of the spilling of a whole lot of ink over the centuries: “How shall this happen, since I know not man?” (v. 34, Douay Rheims, Confraternity Edition).
For Catholics this is an indication of Mary’s vow of perpetual virginity. It’s really quite simple. If Mary and Joseph were just an ordinary couple embarking on a normal married life together, there would be no reason to ask the question. Mary would have known very well how it could be that the angel was saying she would have a baby. As St. Augustine said it:
Had she intended to know man, she would not have been amazed. Her amazement is a sign of the vow (Sermon 225, 2).
But Protestants do not see it as quite so simple. Reformed Apologist James White gives us an example of the most common objection to our “Catholic” view of this text:
Nothing about a vow is mentioned in Scripture. Mary’s response to the angel was based upon the fact that it was obvious that the angel was speaking about an immediate conception, and since Mary was at that time only engaged to Joseph, but not married, at that time she could not possibly conceive in a natural manner, since she did not “know a man” (Mary—Another Redeemer? p. 31.).
Among the errors in just these two sentences (I counted four), there are two that stand out for our purpose here.
Error #1: Mr. White claims Mary was engaged to St. Joseph
There was no such thing as engagement (as it is understood in modern Western culture) in ancient Israel. The text says Mary was “betrothed” or “espoused” (Gr.—emnesteumene), not engaged. Betrothal, in ancient Israel, would be akin to the ratification of a marriage (when a couple exchanges vows in the presence of an official witness of the Church) in Catholic theology. That ratified marriage is then consummated—in the normal course—on the couple’s wedding night. So when Luke 1:27 says Mary was betrothed, it means they were already married at the time of the annunciation. If this were an ordinary marriage, St. Joseph would then have had a husband’s right to the marriage bed—the consummation.
This simple truth proves devastating to Mr. White’s (and the Protestant's) argument. If Joseph and Mary were married—and they were—and they were planning the normal course, Mary would have known full and well how she could and would have a baby. As St. Augustine said, the question reveals the fact that this was not just your average, ordinary marriage. They were not planning to consummate their union.
Betrothed = Married?
For those who are not convinced “betrothed” equals “married” for Mary and Joseph; fortunately, the Bible makes this quite clear. If we move forward in time from the “annunciation” of Luke 1 to Matthew 1 and St. Joseph’s discovery of Mary’s pregnancy, we find Matthew 1:18 clearly stating Mary and Joseph were still “betrothed.” Yet, when Joseph found out Mary was “with child,” he determined he would “send her away privately” (vs. 19). The Greek verb translated in the RSVCE to send away is apolusai, which means divorce. Why would Joseph have to divorce Mary if they were only engaged?   
Further, the angel then tells Joseph:
Do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit . . . When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife (vss. 20-24).
Notice, Joseph took Mary “his wife,” indicating both St. Matthew and an archangel considered this couple married even though they were said to be “betrothed.” “Betrothed” is obviously much more than “engaged.”
Moreover, months later we find Joseph and Mary travelling together to Bethlehem to be enrolled as a family according to the decree of Caesar Augustus, just before Jesus would be born. They were obviously married; yet, even then, they were still said to be “betrothed” (see Luke 2:5).
So let's recap what have we have uncovered. First, Joseph had already taken his espoused “wife” into his home and was caring for her. Second, Scripture reveals him to be her legal husband and to have travelled with Mary to be enrolled with her as a lawfully wedded couple and family. Third, she was called St. Joseph’s “wife” by the angel of the Lord… and yet, they were still referred to as betrothed.
Referring to Mary and Joseph as “engaged” in the face of all of this evidence would be like calling a modern couple at their wedding reception “engaged” because they have yet to consummate their marriage.
Once the fact that Mary and Joseph were already married at the time of the annunciation is understood, Mary’s “How shall this happen…” comes more into focus. Think about it: If you were a woman who had just been married (your marriage was “ratified,” but not consummated) and someone at your reception said—or “prophesied”—that you were going to have a baby—that would not really be all that much of a surprise. That is the normal course of events. You marry, consummate the union, and babies come along. You certainly would not ask the question, “Gee, how is this going to happen?”  It is in this context of Mary having been betrothed, then, that her question does not make sense… unless, of course, you understand she had a vow of virginity. Then, it makes perfect sense.
Error #2: Mr. White claimed, “…it was obvious that the angel was speaking about an immediate conception.” And, closely related to this, Mr. White then claimed Mary asked the question, "How shall this happen...?" because she knew "at that time she could not conceive in a natural manner?"
Really? It was obvious?
There is not a single word in this text or anywhere else in Scripture that indicates Mary knew her conception was going to be immediate and via supernatural means. That’s why she asked the question, "How shall this happen...?" It appears she did not know the answer. How could she? Why would it ever enter into her mind? There would be no way apart from a revelation from God that she could have known. And most importantly, according to the text, the angel did not reveal the fact that Mary would conceive immediately and supernaturally until after Mary asked the question.
But let's suppose Mary was "engaged" as Mr. White claims. There would be even less reason to believe the conception would be immediate and somehow supernatural then there would be if Mary had a vow of virginity (though there’s really no reason to think this in either scenario). An "engaged" woman would have naturally assumed that when she and St. Joseph would later consummate their marriage, they could expect a very special surprise from God. They were going to conceive the Messiah. There would be no reason to think anything else. And there would be no reason to ask the question.
One final thought: When Mary asked the question, "How shall this happen, since I do not know man," the verb to be (Gr.-estai) is in the future tense. There is nothing here that would indicate she was thinking of the immediate. The future tense here most likely refers to… the future. The question was not how she could conceive immediately. The question was how she could conceive ever. The angel answered that question for her. 

Tim Staples is Director of Apologetics and Evangelization here at Catholic Answers, but he was not always Catholic. Tim was raised a Southern Baptist. Although he fell away from the faith of his childhood, Tim came back to faith in Christ during his late teen years through the witness of Christian...