SEPTEMBER 15, 2007: O. L. OF SORROWS: HEB 5:7-9; LUKE 2:33-35


THIS CHILD IS DESTINED TO BE THE DOWNFALL AND THE RISE OF MANY IN ISRAEL. Rightly to conceive the inner life of the Holy Family during the thirty years that preceded his active ministry, the prophetic words of holy Simeon are essential. St. Luke well grasped that the relations between Jesus, Mary and Joseph can be understood properly when viewed in the context of this prophetic revelation. That Mary was intimately familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures is evident from her Magnificat. This exclamation of joy is a hymn of praise whose words are derived from the Sacred Writings and reflect the action of God in the history of his chosen people. AHis mercy is from age to age for those who fear him@ she exclaimed, and added AAs he spoke to our Fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.@ That God=s mercy as shown in his dealings with his people included chastisement and suffering was familiar to her through the words of the prophets and through the history of Israel. However, at the encounter with the saintly prophet Simeon Mary came to keen awareness that both she and her Son were to realize in their life all the suffering and the glory of the people of God. In the process of carrying out his destined role, Jesus would engage his mother; his suffering would be a sword that pierced her own heart. That in the end this sorrow would prove a source of new life she also understood and wholly believed. Jesus would occasion  not only the fall but the rise of many in Israel, and she would be so intimately associated with him that his triumph as well as his suffering would penetrate to the center of her heart.

Taking place as it did when Jesus was but forty days old, this prophecy colored the whole of their relations throughout the hidden years and the time of his public ministry. That her son held a unique role in the life of the people of God she never doubted from the time of his conception. She knew him as belonging to God his Father more than to herself, and yet also, very much as belonging to her and shaping her knowledge of herself as well as of the Father. She understood as well that, since his person and his life would mark the destiny of many in their rise or fall, her personal participation was significant for the lives of future generations. She had already anticipated this role in God=s plan. In her Magnificat she acknowledged that Aall generations shall call me blessed.@ Now, she came to perceive with fresh distinctness that the glory she shared in was to be had in its fullness by accepting the sufferings her son was destined to undergo.

Having once become sharply aware of this destiny, Mary would never altogether lose consciousness of the painful path she was to follow in her adherence to her son. Nor did she attempt to put it out of mind; rather, she pondered over their meaning in her attempt to carry out her role in God=s saving plan. Sorrow as well as joy was to mark her life and from the time of this prophecy she sought with a more deliberate awareness to accept it in her heart. Her character took shape in light of the early prophecies and revelations she had experienced in connection with the conception, birth and early years of Jesus= life as her son.

When Mary stood at the cross of Jesus on calvary, unheeding of the hostility and shame surrounding the two of them, she was sustained by the strength dcrived from her having taken to herself the message from the Spirit through Simeon. Having assimilated the sorrows that were associated with her motherhood, she was able to remain faithful even in the extremity of the final act, the suffering and death of her son. Sorrow taken to heart proved a purification of love; more, it was a condition for true, redemptive love that leads to the rise of many to that divine life which    is stronger than death; such love is eternal for it effects an inseparable union with God who is love itself. Ω    

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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