My church hosts small Eucharistic celebrations on week days. These intra-congregational gatherings follow a slightly altered version of the Western rite. I am one of several of the presiders who rotate responsibility. This has afforded me an opportunity to write many short homilies. These are brief and simple reflections on the texts of the day. I gave this homily this past September.
Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(Twenty third week in Ordinary time)
Is 13:6ab, 6c
Today is the feast day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I have to confess that growing up a child of the Stone-Campbell churches, I’ve always felt an unease about talking too much about Virgin mother of our Lord. This is deeply unfortunate, for she was an exemplary servant of God, submitting her family, her body―her very self―fully to God. She endured pain―social and physical―to participate in God’s plan. Her pain was even compounded when she was called upon to do the unthinkable― to watch her son die. The grace, perseverance, and trust that she demonstrated were remarkable―and they demand something of us. And as we turn to the only command she gives in the Bible―fittingly to servants at a wedding feast―we are even more challenged by her. “Do whatever he tells you.”
I have learned that Mary has more to offer us than a simple good example. For it was in Mary, and not in Abraham, Moses, David or Peter that God became incarnate in the world. This became visually clear to me when I was in Israel this summer. I was in an Orthodox church in Capernaum, just a few feet away from the Sea of Galilee. In the center of the domed ceiling was the figure of Christ, majestically seated, surrounded by a halo, six powerful angels and finally all the Apostles transfixed in adoration. There, he was removed. In the center of the dome he was untouchable.
Yet, behind the altar, there was a small, lower, half-dome. In it was Mary with the child Jesus. Here, in this lower place, Christ was in the very act of coming to the world. She was mediating Christ from the unreachable heights of glory down to where I stood. Around her in Greek was written, “She who is more spacious than the heavens.”
So, today we remember that the author of all of creation, who spoke stars and galaxies into existence, made himself nothing, and came among us, carried, as in a vessel, by a weak and humble servant.
May we who feed here on Christ likewise carry him into the world.