Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Whenever we read the beginning of Matthew or Luke’s Gospel, we may be struck by how tenuous, in one sense, our salvation was in its tender beginnings. In Luke’s account it seemed that salvation depended upon the “yes” of a young maiden; praise God she had already received every grace she needed to offer that all-important fiat! In Matthew’s account things are even more tense: Joseph already has plans of divorcing Mary. Yet God intervenes, sending an angel to him in a dream to assure him that there has been no infidelity; in fact Mary has been faithful not merely to Joseph, but to God. In this dream we see God making the first move toward reconciliation between Himself and His people: the God who made us is now one of us in the virgin’s womb; the God who named Adam has now deigned to permit Joseph to name Him. Thus God is not merely among us but is, truly, one of us. In Christ we see God’s words to Moses reach their greatest fulfillment: I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. (Exodus 6:7) Now we are His people not merely because He has chosen us but because He belongs to us; we are completely His because He is completely ours.

The reconciliation of man and God began in Mary, and if we consider the Mother of God a little more we can learn something else about God’s saving work. Not only does He intend to reconcile Himself and mankind—and each of us individually with Himself—and not only does He intend to reconcile us with one another, but He intends to reconcile us to ourselves. Sin disrupts not only our relationship with God and others but also or relationship with our very self; how often does our culture downplay a sin because, in its words, “It doesn’t hurt anybody?” Unchaste fantasizing (Mt. 5:28), gluttony, interior dispositions of hatred and loathing (Mt. 5:22), and other solo-sins are reflections of the division sin causes within our own being, a division our Blessed Mother did not inherit, as we did, from her parents. Many people see the Virgin Mary as being “virgin” because, as she herself attests, “she knew not man.” But virginity is far more than sexual purity or inexperience; virginity is the holy integration of the entire person, a purity that pervades the whole being. Mary is the first of the redeemed; in her we see the human person as we were meant to be: a whole being, completely united with self, God and other. She is the first stone of the Kingdom, a perfect stone which we might seek to emulate.

As we go about our work of building the Kingdom of God and healing the wounds of sin in the world, let us prayerfully call upon Mary and Joseph to assist us: Mary, conceived without sin and Joseph, the righteous man whose faith overcame his doubt.

September 8th, 2014