Lay Dominicans of Dallas & Fort Worth | Southern Province ~ St. Martin de Porres

Category: Reflections Page 1 of 2

The Nativity Narrative of Luke

Johannes Tauler OP describes the Nativity as a kind of three births.  A trinity that, for Tauler, symbolically reflects the Divine Trinity and finds expression in each individual person who makes herself available to the interior movements of the Holy Spirit. The first is the paternal birth, of God begetting His only Son “within the Divine essence.”  The second birth is of Maternal fruitfulness and purity.  The third is “effected when God is born within a just soul every day and every hour truly and spiritually, by grace and out of love.”  These “three births,” captured within the nativity, bestow upon mankind:

  1. A paternal outpouring of love that holds nothing back.  As Tauler poetically describes in his Christmas sermon, “And so He turns inward, comprehending Himself, and He flows outward in the generation of His Image (that is His Son), which He has known and comprehended.  And again, He returns to Himself in perfect self-delight.  And this delight streams forth as ineffable love, and that ineffable love is the Holy Spirit.  Thus, God turns inward, goes outward, and returns to Himself again.”
  2. The maternal reflection and interiorization of the Father’s Grace.  This manifestation finds perfection in the soul of Mary, as Augustine describes; “Mary was more blessed because God was born spiritually in her soul than because He was born from her in the flesh.”  Her soul was virginal and pure, and this is the state that may bring about God’s birth within each of our souls.  It is a purity concerned primarily with internal movement, bearing within itself invisible fruit—this is the construction of the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit within one’s heart.
  3. Finally, the Nativity, delivered in the silence of our being, where in our humility we make the room necessary to receive our guest, purifies the three faculties of our spirit, as Tauler explains, “memory, understanding, and free will.  With their aid the soul is able to grasp God and to partake of Him.”  In this process the soul is cleansing itself of the temporal things that the fall of Adam has inclined in our hearts to pursue.  This is a necessary reversal, and it is one that Augustine implores in us to, “Pour out that you may be filled to go out of yourself, so that you may enter.”  As Tauler asks, “does God leave anything empty, so contrary is this to His nature and to His ordinance.”

As an historical event, the Nativity arose from the Thundering Silence of a humble manger in Bethlehem.  An event that, in time and space, midwifed more than a decade of peace.  As Saint Bede the Venerable demonstrates from Luke 2:1, “But there could be no greater sign of peace than for the whole world to be brought together under one taxing, while its ruler Augustus reigned with so great peace for twelve years, about the time of our Lord’s nativity, that war having been quelled throughout the whole world, there seemed to be a literal fulfillment of the Prophet’s prediction, They shall beat their swords into ploughshares.”  May the silence in which the Logos was made flesh penetrate our hearts, planting itself in the fertile soil of our souls, and may it usher in an era of peace so eloquently described by the prophet Isaiah:

He shall judge between the nations, and set terms for many peoples. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.

(Isaiah 2:4)

The Visitation

A Prayer to Mary, Mother of Advent from Saint Pope John Paul II

May the Virgin Mary help us to open the doors of our hearts to Christ, Redeemer of man and of history; may she teach us to be humble, because God looks upon the lowly; may she enable us to grow in understanding the value of prayer, of inner silence, of listening to God’s Word; may she spur us to seek God’s will deeply and sincerely, even when this upsets our plans; may she encourage us while we wait for the Lord, sharing our time and energies with those in need. Mother of God, Virgin of expectation, grant that the God-who-comes will find us ready to receive the abundance of his mercy. May Mary Most Holy, “Woman of the Eucharist” and Virgin of Advent, prepare us all to joyfully welcome Christ’s coming and to celebrate worthily his sacramental presence in the mystery of the Eucharist.


The intent of the Advent season, as Catholics, is to prepare for the arrival of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We have begun another Liturgical Church year.

The readings of the Mass at the beginning of Advent prepare us for the second coming of Christ, in his glory, in Easter.

From December 17 to December 24, the readings then focus on preparing us for Christ’s coming at Christmas.

Of course, on December 24, the Christmas season begins. The season ends with Jesus’ Baptism on January 8, 2023. As always, every day we should be ready to receive and recognize Jesus’ presence and hopefully, his reign in the grace-filled moments of our life (and often those painful moments of suffering that we will have in our journeys).

One of the aspects that we should contemplate and, indeed, rejoice in – is Mary’s role in our salvation.

In the Mass readings of the Advent and Christmas seasons, Mary appears more often than at any other time in the Church year because she is the mother of Jesus who gave the Divine Jesus a human nature.

Mary, like her Son, was fully open to doing God’s will. Mary and Joseph remind us of the crucial importance of the family as the domestic Church in the day-to-day process of raising their family.

So many of today’s problems are being brought to Jesus and Mary:

On May 17, 1846, the bishops of the United States proclaimed Mary, under the title of her Immaculate Conception, as the principal patroness of our country.

On May 1, 2020, the bishops of our country and Canada reconsecrated their countries to Mary under the title of Mary, Mother of the Church.

The United States and their brother Canadian bishops especially sought the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, for strength in the struggle against COVID-19, looting, rioting, abortion, worldwide religious persecution, and loss of respect for God and others.

According to paragraph 101 and 102 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, through all the words of sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single word: Jesus.

101 In order to reveal himself to men, in the condescension of his goodness God speaks to them in human words: “Indeed the words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men.”63

102 Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:64

Christ is the Father’s one utterance in whom He expresses Himself completely.

For Christians, Jesus Christ is the unique word of God who is the center of human history.

Mary gave birth to Jesus so that He could redeem us from our sins, teach us how to love as He loved, and offer us the gift of Heaven.

We are all called to be disciples and to share the news of that gift with others. Jesus gave the Great Commission and commanded us “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Mary is considered the first (and many would argue the greatest?) disciple for multiple reasons. One key reason is for a segment in Luke’s gospel.

For this session – to provide for contemplation and reflection for what will I hope, help us in preparation for making the remainder of our Advents as personally fruitful as possible we will be talking about The Visitation.

As a reminder, The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a reference to the biblical event of Mary visiting her cousin, Elizabeth. This event is narrated in the Gospel of Luke. [Lk. 1:36, 39-45]    

The Angel, Gabriel was sent from God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to our Lady. In that Gospel it reads:

“Behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren” ... During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Let’s examine the elements of the scripture as well as relate those lines to our lives in today’s day and age.

Past – Making the Past relevant in today’s Advent

One of the key elements of Mary’s life that many Christians today ignore, don’t realize, or deny (especially those who may be reluctant to draw close to Mary); is that she was deeply present at many (if not each) critical points in Jesus’ life. From his conception to his crucifixion and ascension and beyond. How many people in our lives can we say that about? Our own mothers are present in some of the pivotal moments – but MOST or ALL of them? Give it thought as we progress, but let’s start with Mary’s role as the “First Evangelizer”.

Quite soon after the archangel, Gabriel had appeared to the young teenage girl in Galilee to announce that she would give birth to the Divine Child, the Blessed Virgin Mary left to wait upon her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with Christ’s forerunner.

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste

Mary was early in her pregnancy. I know from participation that the early stages of pregnancy for women can be quite unpleasant. My lovely wife, Renée, suffered with rather severe morning sickness with both of our children for quite some time. We can speculate that Our Lady may not have been plagued with morning sickness (similar to her lack of suffering from labor pains thanks to her immaculate conception – and freedom from sin) – but, putting that aside completely – the journey was about 90 miles from Nazareth to Ein Karem – where Elizabeth and Zechariah lived.  Even in the best of conditions, that would not have been a simple journey (especially for a teenage female). A journey of about a week (even in haste).

Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit

As Elizabeth reported, the unborn child, John the Baptist, leaped with joy in his mother’s womb when he found himself in the presence of our Savior and Our Lady. The Holy Spirit gives us the gifts to speak the truth and continue the work that Jesus began, which is to bring us closer to God. One gift is the gift of prophecy. Elizabeth prophesied, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Because only through the Holy Spirit could she know that Jesus is Blessed – and our savior (her Lord has come to her).

The blessing that Elizabeth pronounces is like two prayers that come from Jewish prayer from the Torah. Judges 5:24 – (“Most blessed of women is Jael”). [Jdt. 13:18] – (“Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies.”). The blessings on the Old Testament heroines set the stage for the blessing on the Virgin Mary. Also, an Echo of the Protoevangelium in [Gn. 3:15].

As a devout Jew, Mary understood this. The important element that Luke wanted to ensure in the writing of this chapter was the understanding that Elizabeth is proclaiming the arrival of the Messiah. John the Baptist started laying straight the path at that moment, and the Old Testament, again, is being fulfilled.

How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Additionally, there is a linkage between Mary as the new Ark of the Covenant from the Old Testament to the New Testament through Elizabeth’s statement “How does this happen to me… and David’s cry in [2Sam 6:9] “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” It’s as if Elizabeth is the role of David and Mary as the new tabernacle. Additionally, when Mary enters the house of Zechariah – it is the fulfillment of the Ark entering the house of Obed-edom the Gittite [2Sam. 6:10), where “David came dancing before the Lord with abandon” [2Sam. 6:14] in conjunction with John the Baptist dancing in utero.

Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled

Elizabeth pronounces a final blessing. It shows that Mary is blessed with her faith. I often think of Mary as exalted and high above us (as is proper) – but ultimately, she has the same virtues that we have access to – she is a creature – especially that virtue of faith. We need to believe in God as she did – and we will be blessed as well.

Our Lady then chants The Canticle:

The Magnificat

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

For He has looked upon His handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is His name.

His mercy is from age to age

to those who fear Him.

He has shown might with His arm,

dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones

but lifted up the lowly.

The hungry He has filled with good things;

the rich He has sent away empty.

He has helped Israel his servant,

remembering His mercy,

according to his promise to our fathers,

Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Mary sings the Magnificat – it can be compared to the Song of Hannah – [1Sam.]. where Hannah conceives a son and sings a song of vindication.

Mary’s song sounds like the Psalms (102 and 103) where God exercises his strength, and his people are protected. The Magnificat is a reflection of Mary’s soul. The victory that she sings about is brought to fruition through Christ in the fulfillment of his ministry.

The Song of Hannah

My heart rejoices in the Lord;

in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies,

for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the Lord;

there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance,

for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.

The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength.

Those who were full hire themselves out for food,

but those who were hungry are hungry no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. The Lord brings death and makes alive;

he brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth;

he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.

For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; on them he has set the world.

He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,

but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be broken.

The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.

Lastly, Mary stayed at Elizabeth and Zechariah’s house for three months, just as the Ark of the Covenant stayed at Obed-edom’s house for three months.

After those three months, Mary returned to Nazareth, most likely accompanied by St. Joseph. By this time, Joseph must have had peace of mind regarding the pregnancy of Mary because of his vision of the angel in a dream. [Mt. 1:19-25]

Why is this all important?

Now one would think that traditionally (I certainly thought), this feast has been officially celebrated since the early days of the Church. But this is not the case. While there are records to show that the feast was adopted by the Franciscan Chapter in 1263 upon the advice of St. Bonaventure, this feast was not extended to the entire Church until 1389.

On November 9, 1389, it was decreed by Pope Boniface IX that the Feast of the Visitation should be extended to the entire Catholic Church in the hope that Jesus and His Mother would visit the Church and put an end to the Great Schism that was taking place.

This schism was also known as “The Papal Schism, the Great Occidental Schism, The Schism of 1378, Magnum Schisma Occidentale, Ecclesiae Occidentalis Schisma, and my favorite – The Vatican Standoff (which sounds like an old Western Movie).

I really shouldn’t joke – because if it was happening now – I would be furious. Think about it – it lasted 39 years. From 1378 to 1417 – there was no agreement on who the Pope was.

Imagine the confusion that the people had to tolerate in those days. Traveling was by foot or by horse.  Communication was limited. No telegraph, no newspapers, no telephones, no TV, No Twitter, no Facebook, not even a Parish Bulletin. The faithful would hear of one Pope here and another one there and had no idea what was going on.

Consequently, the Lord Jesus and His Mother visited the Catholic Church and resolved the situation to secure that apostolic succession would continue as we enjoy it today. The schism ended – praise God.

This event (and others) can certainly relate to the confusion that we have in our world today.

We can and should look to the Visitation to clear the path for us in our confusion today. The war and tribulation between countries – Russian and Ukraine (and others). The political division – the hatred that is fomented between the political parties of our own nation. The lack of trust we have between so many of our fellow citizens and our political leaders. The division occurring between families because of the discord in society – as well as the friction within our own churches. We have political leaders that publicly and directly disagree with Catholic teaching yet claim to be devout Catholics. I certainly consider today’s day and age to be a confusing and frustrating time.

A grace-filled Advent is one way that we can help counteract that – and bring some peace to our corner of the world. Sometimes, that peace may be hard to reach.

​For many of us, the Mathew and Luke “infancy narratives,” have been read many times and are understood fully – and may even be a bit “dry”. Gabriel’s visit to Mary, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, the birth of Our Lord in Bethlehem — not only do we recall and teach these events every year during Advent and Christmas but also every time we pray the Joyful mysteries of the rosary. We know the stories, we know what they illustrate, and we know why they’re important. But knowing the basic bullet points of the New Testament is not enough. We are called to know our Lord more deeply, more intimately. And contemplating them more deeply during this retreat and throughout the rest of our advent may help bring us closer to Christ, and closer to peace.

There is an excellent reflection in Dei Verbum. As a reminder, Dei Verbum is the shortest but may be considered the most important and influential document of Vatican II. Its purpose was to spell out the Church’s understanding of the nature of revelation – the process whereby God communicates with humans. It summarizes, in less than fifteen pages the most important truths about the Word of God, divine Revelation, and Biblical studies.

Dei Verbum compares the gift of Scripture to the gift of the Incarnation: “for the words of God, expressed in human language, have been made like human discourse, just as the word of the eternal Father, when He took to Himself the flesh of human weakness, was in every way made like men”.

This Advent, let us return to the infancy narratives – and especially the Visitation, with fresh eyes.

So how can we strive for peace in today’s day? With three actions. There is power in three (like the Holy Trinity). The actions we can take are also Mary’s threefold approach in the Visitation – With Reverent Joy, Scripture, and Service: 
With reverent joy: Mary’s joy was evident in her anticipation of the Lord. She travels “in haste” to Elizabeth and when she arrives, begins a joyful song of praise (Luke 1:39). She is “full of grace”. There’s no room for anything but praise and thanksgiving. It overwhelms, overflows, “overshadows” (Luke 1:35) — a word we also hear in association with Mary when the Holy Spirit blesses her with child.

With Scriptures: Remember, when Mary enters the house to see her cousin Elizabeth, she begins her prayer – her song the “Magnificat,” which is so similar to Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving in the Old Testament (1 Sam. 2:1-10). It is considered by some historians that Mary very likely could not read, and yet, it seems that the miraculous story of Hannah’s conception of Samuel is the first thing that comes to mind when Mary sees her pregnant cousin. Mary has been raised in the scriptures. They shape the way she sees the world.

This Advent, let us challenge ourselves on our own journeys toward Bethlehem with some sort of scriptural program as our guide. We should pray parts of the Divine Office, pray with the Sunday mass readings using Lectio Divina, or explore some unique journey that may speak to you directly.

With Service: Serve our family members and those closest to us: One of the first things Mary does when she finds out she is pregnant is hasten to her cousin Elizabeth to help her! Even though Mary is in the early stages of pregnancy herself — and probably feeling sick and certainly tired — she puts all of that aside. How can we serve those closest to us this season? While it’s always good (and we are called) to serve those we don’t know, our loved ones require a special kind of patience and affection from us, especially during the holidays. Let’s consider the ways we can serve those in our closest circles who are forgotten or who have hurt us in the past. Reconciliation goes a long way to helping us see the face of Christ in others.

As we hasten through the commotion of shopping, visiting, and end-of-year work activities that will most certainly fill our Advent and work calendars this season, take that critical time each day to spend time with God in prayer. Contemplate the Magnificat – or if I could be so bold, I would recommend using the Hallow App to help guide you through various and adaptable meditations (this is not a paid advertisement).

As you reflect, imagine a young Mary, happy and radiant before gray-haired Elizabeth – and try to imagine the feelings of joy and wonder that Mary must have felt at that point. Then ask the Lord to help you focus on that wonder as you continue through advent and prepare a place for him. Let your soul proclaim the greatness of the Lord this Advent, through joy, Scripture, and service. 

Ending Prayer

St. Alphonsus De Liguori

Immaculate and Blessed Virgin, since thou art the universal dispenser of all divine graces, thou art the hope of all, and my hope. I will ever thank my Lord for having granted me the grace to know thee, and for having shown me the means by which I may obtain graces and be saved. Thou art this means, O great Mother of God; for I now understand that it is principally through the merits of Jesus Christ, and then through thy intercession, that my soul must be saved. Ah! my Queen, thou didst hasten so greatly to visit, and by that means didst sanctify the dwelling of Saint Elizabeth; deign, then, to visit, and visit quickly, the poor house of my soul. Ah! hasten, then; for thou well knowest, and far better than I do, how poor it is, and with how many maladies it is afflicted; with disordered affections, evil habits, and sins committed, all of which are pestiferous diseases, which would lead it to eternal death. Thou canst enrich it, O Treasurer of God; and thou canst heal all its infirmities. Visit me, then, in life, and visit me especially at the moment of death, for then I shall more than ever require thy aid. I do not indeed expect, neither am I worthy, that thou shouldst visit me on this earth with thy visible presence, as thou hast visited so many of thy servants; but they were not unworthy and ungrateful as I am. I am satisfied to see thee in thy kingdom of heaven, there to be able to love thee more, and thank thee for all that thou hast done for me. At present I am satisfied that thou shouldst visit me with thy mercy; thy prayers are all that I desire.

Pray, then, O Mary, for me, and commend me to thy Son. Thou, far better than I do, knowest my miseries and my wants. What more can I say? Pity me; I am so miserable and ignorant, that I neither know nor can I seek for, the graces that I stand the most in need of. My most sweet Queen and Mother, do thou seek and obtain for me from thy Son those graces which thou knowest to be the most expedient and necessary for my soul. I abandon myself entirely into thy hands, and only beg the Divine Majesty, that by the merits of my Saviour Jesus He will grant me the graces which thou askest Him for me. Ask, ask, then, O most Holy Virgin, that which thou seest best for me; thy prayers are never rejected; they are the prayers of a Mother addressed to a Son, Who loves thee, His Mother; so much, and rejoices in doing all that thou desirest, that He may honour thee more, and at the same time show thee the great love He bears thee. Let us make an agreement, O Lady, that while I live confiding in thee, thou on thy part wilt charge thyself with my salvation. Amen

… And They Laid Him In The Tomb

Yesterday, while waiting for the Good Friday service to begin, I was really struck by the impact the bare altar had on me.  All of the candles were gone. The altar cloth had been removed.  Crucifixes were wrapped in purple cloth. The tabernacle was there with its doors wide open, and it was empty.  It really brought home the fact that we were remembering the day Jesus was crucified and buried for our sins.  

As I pondered sin and its grievous nature, I realized how little I appreciate the depth of my sins.  While a part of me knows that my sin is grievous, a part of me wants to think, I’m a good person. I only do small, venial sins.  I’m only responsible for a thorn in his crown, one that is just scratching his skin.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

I know I’m telling myself a lie, but I have yet to find the eject button that would clear the decks and allow me to more fully appreciate the extent my sins played in his death.  I have yet to find the key to this deeper appreciation for what he did for me, which would lead to a deeper conversion, and a closer walk with him.  I am still too proud to take responsibility for that which I knowingly do. 

I have gotten close a few times.  For instance, yesterday, I was reading from Knowing the Love of God by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange.  He promoted a reflection on the malice of sin, even venial sin. By this he meant that God calls us to live the divine life. He is there beckoning us to him, and we choose earthly treasures over the amazing gift that he offers.  How appalling is that – that I would choose a metaphorical bobble over the glory, power, and might of the Lord our God who created me to be in union with him? He also talks about how sin blinds us to the malice of sin.  Unfortunately, he also talks about the fact that the conscience always knows when we are choosing incorrectly, even when we ignore our conscience.  We are culpable, even though we lie to ourselves about the grievousness of even the slightest sin. 

Still, the part of me that longs to balance between the things of the world and the things of Jesus’ kingdom struggles to admit my guilt. To experience something that leads to deeper conversion requires change, change that I resist.  So, the blindness to the malice of sin continues.  

At the same time, Jesus preaches a message of hope. In fact, he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.  The Holy Spirit is a source of grace, and grace is the answer to our sinful nature.  Grace is something that beckons gently without overriding a person’s will. It is easy to overlook unless we build habits of looking for it and following its lead. So today, let us commit or renew our commitment to relying on grace to lead us from sin; to bolster us in the pain of changing from things of the world in favor of God who is love and the ultimate fulfillment of all of our needs. 

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit sitting in awareness of the stark reality that he died for you.  Invite him to melt your heart at least a little today and every day as you learn to take more responsibility for your sinfulness.  Ask him to show you how to cooperate with grace and move towards a less and less sinful life. Ask him to help you suffer your own crosses as you make changes in your life, and learn to live a life in Christ more and more fully. 

In Him,


Jesus Carries The Cross

Lent Reflection – Part 5 of 6

BY: Mr. Mark Connolly, OP

It is tempting here to focus on The Stations of the Cross – it seems natural to do so given that Jesus carrying the cross takes up stations 2 through 9. But, as I keep asking, what is the mystery here? It was common for the condemned to carry at least the cross beam as one more humiliation to endure – carrying the implement by which you will be slowly tortured to death to the site of the execution.

Jesus was neither the first nor the last human to suffer this ignominy.

You may be surprised to learn that only in the Gospel of John are we specifically told that Jesus carried his own cross. Again, the descriptions are brief.

As they were marching out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry his cross.

Mt 27:32

And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

Mk 15:21

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.

Lk 23:26

In the Gospel of John, however, no mention is made of Simon of Cyrene.

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.

Jn 19:17

If you are familiar with the Stations of the Cross having attended this moving prayer on a Friday during Lent, you may be thinking, “Wait a minute, what about the falling (stations 3, 7, and 9), Jesus meeting his mother (station 4), and the veil of Veronica (station 6)?”

Well, the Evangelists do not mention these things.

The Eighth Station, Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, is in Luke’s Gospel:

And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women, who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’

Lk 23:27-31

Ok, whoa!, what does all that mean?

“For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” According to a Navarre Bible commentary, the green wood refers to innocence and dry wood refers to the wicked. One does not generally burn green wood. In 1 Peter 4:17f we read:

17 For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.

The commentary on this in the Didache Bible, which commentary is based on the Catechism, says, “In order to share in Christ’s Resurrection, we must also share in his Cross.”

Yeah, so much for prosperity gospels. Christ does not promise us wealth, health and happiness. Rather he promises us his cross. Or rather, he invites us to take up our cross: Mt 10:38, Mt 16:24, Luke 9:23, Luke 14:27.

We can do quite the little Bible Study using a Bible with a good commentary and cross references and digging into the meaning of taking up our cross.

I will close with a quote that I think sums up things to consider when contemplating this mystery:

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.

What’s Wrong With the World, V. The Unfinished Temple By G.K. Chesterton


Next, Jesus Dies On The Cross.

The Crowning With Thorns

Lent Reflection – Part 4 of 6

BY: Mr. Mark Connolly, OP

I suppose the easiest reflection to pull out of this mystery is the fact that the Roman soldiers were actually crowning Christ the King. We could spend a lot of pious time examining the irony. But, while in the first two mysteries we looked at Christ’s humanity, in this reflection I suggest we take an uncomfortable look at man’s inhumanity.

Our inhumanity.

It was common for the Roman soldiers to humiliate the condemned. They would often pick out a victim from among those sentenced to death and mock and abuse them. Think about the psychology here. No compassion, no empathy. They’re going to die anyway, so you can exercise your petty need for violence, your need for a sense of superiority, comfortable in the firm knowledge there will be no consequences for your actions. And perhaps that inner voice encouraging, “They deserve this.”

Think next about public executions in general, about how hangings were attended by men, women, and children; about how it was a social event, an afternoon’s entertainment with death the main attraction. The crowd dispersing, nodding and commenting to each other, “He got what he deserved.”

(AP File Photo)

Think about the horrific reality of lynching, a sordid thread woven into the tapestry of our country. Think about the jeering and mocking, the spitting and hitting, the deliberate and heightened animosity.

Yeah, but those were other people in other times. Surely we have grown beyond this.

But it is deeper and more insidious. Look at the Roman soldiers jeering at the helpless victim, and think about how many times we have seen someone that is helpless, scared, “not cool”, other, weird, a dork, being humiliated by a mob of people. Perhaps that someone was us.

Or perhaps we were in the crowd.

No way, you say?

Think about the idea of “mean girls” or the bullying by adolescents. The emotional violence on social media, the mob mentality of cancel culture; notice and ponder the figurative spitting and buffeting, jeering and smug self-satisfaction while participating in ruining someone’s life. Perhaps that inner thought, “They deserve this.”

Think now on the mockery of Crowning Christ the King.

Is it not mockery to go to Church, receive our Lord, hail him as king, leave church and continue in our small meannesses and our larger sins? And how many times have we mocked Christ the King only minutes or hours after leaving the confessional? Sing or shout or pray “Hail, King of the Jews,” from one side of our mouth while spitting out the other?

Why this short and ugly meditation? Because it is too easy to look at what the Romans did to Jesus and think, “They, not I.”

Think again.

We are the Romans.

Ponder this deeply for such pondering has resulted in many saints.


Next: Jesus Carries The Cross

The Scourging At The Pillar

Lent Reflection – Part 3 of 6

BY: Mr. Mark Connolly, OP

Some short observations to start off this reflection. The Joyful Mysteries span approximately 12 years of Jesus’ life. The Luminous Mysteries approximately 3 years. The Glorious about 90 days.

The Sorrowful less than 24 hours.

I got to thinking about this when I was reading the Gospel accounts of the scourging. Here they are:

Then he released for them Barab’bas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Mt 27:26

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barab’bas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Mk 15:15

Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him.

Jn 19:1

The account from Luke does not say Pilot had Jesus scourged. Rather it describes him telling the Jewish authorities (twice) that he finds no wrongdoing and that he would have him flogged (or chastised), and then released.

So, I got to thinking about the compressed nature of the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the very minimal mentions of scourging. Why is it that this seeming afterthought in the account of the Passion of Our Lord is one of the Sorrowful Mysteries? I also wondered whether there was a difference between scourging and “chastising” or “flogging”.

Now, there are a lot of things to read about the scourging from sources outside the Bible, including whether or not it was a common practice, technical details as to how it was done, why it was done, etc. But, I did not want to understand why it was done, or how it was done. I wanted to understand, what is the mystery here; what am I supposed to learn and try to understand?

But, I realized that the how and the why are clues. That I would need to study the how and the why as a means to the end of understanding the mystery in this Mystery.

Some things I learned along the way. It is not explicitly stated how many lashes Jesus received. While many refer to Paul’s account in 2 Cor 11:24 of himself receiving “40 lashes less one”, we cannot rely on this. According to Dt 25:1-3, the maximum number stripes that can be given is 40. In order to ensure they did not exceed 40, they typically stopped at 39. An important point to hold in mind is that the 40 lashes were not a prelude to execution. They were a punishment that intentionally spared the life of the person being punished.

But, Jesus was not given lashes by the Jews. The Romans scourged him.

Scourging is to be distinguished from whipping. The scourge would have balls made of lead and bits of bone designed to both bruise and tear flesh down to the bone. In short, it was a savage beating designed to inflict pain and weaken through blood loss. Scourging was the beginning of an execution. People being punished for less than capital crimes were whipped with leather whips or caned with rods; they were not scourged.

Jesus was given the Roman treatment reserved for the very worst criminals. Worthy of note is the fact that Roman citizens could not be scourged. In other words, even a Roman citizen sentenced to death would be spared the humiliation and degradation of scourging.

Jesus was sentenced to death under Roman law, for the crime of insurrection. Crucifixion was used to degrade the criminal, and was a hideous public spectacle designed to deter future enemies of the state.

It is good here to recall some biblical verses:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

MT 4:8-9

Note, Jesus did not counter that the kingdoms of the world were not Satan’s to give. As prince (ruler) of this world, they were Satan’s to give. Otherwise this temptation would not really be a temptation.

I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me;

Jn 14:30

Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out;

Jn 12:31

A question: Are we citizens of this world, loyal to the prince of this world?

So, what is the mystery in the Mystery of The Scourging At The Pillar?

Understand three things, and then ponder. First, scourging and crucifixion go together, it is a package deal. Second, this sentence of death was imposed on Christ as a non-citizen enemy of the state. This execution is specifically designed to deter people from following Christ. Third, when Christ says, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” (Lk 9:23) understand that he is inviting us to insurrection against the devil.

Ask, “Am I a citizen of the State and loyal to the prince of this world?”

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.

GK Chesterton


Next: The Crowning With Thorns

The Agony In The Garden

Lent 2022 Reflection – Part 2 of 6

BY: Mr. Mark Connolly, OP

Deep calls to deep at the thunder of thy cataracts; all thy waves and thy billows have gone over me.

Psalm 42:7

As a child, the Agony in the Garden held a special mystery. If Jesus is God, and God knows everything, and is all-powerful, then what was he worried about?

It took many years for me to realize he was not worried. This mystery is not called The Worrier in the Garden. Jesus demonstrated many emotions throughout the Gospels. Anger. Sorrow. Compassion. But never worry.

Ok, so if Jesus is God, and God knows everything, and is all-powerful, then what was He in agony about?

I think the answer to my question is found through the contemplation of the First Sorrowful Mystery. As I mentioned in the introduction to this series, the fact of mystery is the first clue toward understanding the mystery. One of the first things we glean from studying this Mystery is its relation to the mystery of the Incarnation. The Incarnation is God’s response to The Fall. Careful contemplation of the Agony in the Garden will give us some insight into the visceral consequences of that response.

Think about The Incarnation for a moment. Try to think of it as if hearing it for the first time, not having been taught it as a child, not simply accepting an astonishing claim. Let me quote a lengthy passage from GK Chesterton:

We should have a worse shock if we really imagined the nature of Christ named for the first time. What should we feel at the first whisper of a certain suggestion about a certain man? Certainly it is not for us to blame anybody who should find that first wild whisper merely impious and insane. On the contrary, stumbling on that rock of scandal is the first step. Stark staring incredulity is a far more loyal tribute to that truth than a modernist metaphysic that would make it out merely a matter of degree. It were better to rend our robes with a great cry against blasphemy, like Caiaphas in the judgement, or to lay hold of the man as a maniac possessed of devils like the kinsmen and the crowd, rather than to stand stupidly debating fine shades of pantheism in the presence of so catastrophic a claim. There is more of the wisdom that is one with surprise in any simple person, full of the sensitiveness of simplicity, who should expect the grass to wither and the birds to drop dead out of the air, when a strolling carpenter’s apprentice said calmly and almost carelessly, like one looking over his shoulder: ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’

“Everlasting Man” – GK Chesterton

To aid in our study, the readings for the First Sunday of Lent from Cycle A are worth a short review. They can be found here.

Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7 recounts the Fall. Main points to recall:

  • Adam and Eve were created, man from earth, woman from man.
  • They were tempted by Satan.
  • They fell and were expelled from the Garden.

In Rom 5:12-19, Paul explains the consequences of the Fall, and what is necessary to set things right. Main points to recall:

  • Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin death.
  • Death reigned, even over those who had not sinned through direct disobedience as had Adam.*
  • Just as through the disobedience of one man, the rest were made sinners, through the obedience of one, the many will be made righteous

Mt 4:1-11 tells us of the first temptation of Christ by Satan. Main points to recall:

  • Jesus was led into the desert by The Spirit – to be tested by the devil
  • Hungry, he was first tested with food – a basic human need. Subsequent tests addressed the human need for recognition and power. (It is worth pondering how these human needs are perverted by the Devil.)
  • Jesus sends him away. Luke tells us that Satan left “until an opportune time.” (Lk 4:13)

This is a pretty complete backdrop for the Sorrowful Mysteries, and will be referred to throughout this series.

Back to my original questions, “Why was He in agony?”

First, what is “agony?” The word comes to us from ancient Greek, and means struggle. It is the final struggle of a person at the point of death. The struggle to stay alive.

Consider that Jesus was the first complete human since Adam. After the Fall, all creation was out of balance. But Christ, born of an immaculately conceived woman, born of The Holy Spirit and not sinful Man, was perfect. A man in as complete a union with God as a living human being can be.

How much more attuned would Jesus be to the needs of the body? How much more precious would be the gift of life? The gift of existence? How much stronger the human desire to live?! In his hour of suffering He prays in the Garden to His Father. Abba. He calls him Daddy. Please Daddy, he asks, let this cup pass from me.

Consider that death, brought into the world by sin, is an unnatural state. We all sense this. Most people want to live at all costs. The urge to survive is seen all through nature. How much more would this urge, this need, this yearning, be in someone fully and completely alive?

It is thought that Christ, being God and Man, could have suppressed his human suffering, or simply taken it away. Go through the motions, so to speak, but experience no discomfort.

But what kind of cheap God is that?

Jesus experienced agony because He was fully human. He would die as humans do. He would pay the price. He chose to experience it completely and possibly more fully than any human before him. Add in his divine nature, with foreknowledge of what was about to happen, and you can see, this was no mindless fear due to imagination. This was complete recognition, precognition, of what was to happen.

There is another piece to this. Recall that after Christ was led into the desert, specifically by the Spirit to be tested, he passes the test, and as Luke tells us, the Devil left for an opportune time. That opportune time is in the Garden.

As a side note, Gethsemane, the name of the garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives, means olive press. The place where pressure is put on olives to yield olive oil. The place where Jesus felt so much pressure he sweat blood.

You will recall that Jesus prays in the Garden. Perhaps you missed the same thing I missed all these years until I stopped to consider this mystery deeply. There is more to the request of Jesus than the simple ask to let this cup pass. We see in Lk 22:42-43 that Jesus says “…nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.”

I never recognized this part of his prayer, “not my will, but thine, be done,” as Jesus asking for help. But see how his prayer was answered. Jesus prayed, and his Daddy sent an angel to strengthen him. Just like after his first test in the desert.

In closing this reflection, please consider that Jesus Christ, God made Man, suffered, and when he suffered he asked for help. There is no shame in suffering, no shame in being overwhelmed, no shame in asking for help. Consider that He experienced a complete suffering, mind, body, and soul. When we break our arm, we go to the doctor for help, and we don’t count it as weakness. When we break our union with God, break our souls, if you will, we go to the priest who in the person of Christ repairs that break, and we should not count that as weakness. When we have any brokenness of any kind, we can and should ask for help, and never count it as weakness. Jesus asked for help in his hour of need. So too should we.

Next up: The Scourging At The Pillar


It is a Dominican practice to contemplate the mysteries of God, and to share the fruits of our contemplation. I hope you found this fruit tasty and good to eat. But I ask for your help. If contemplation is the nurturing and harvesting of this fruit, then the comments and additional thoughts of others are the fertilizer, the water, the weeding. This is part of the pillar of Community. Please help deepen my understanding of this mystery with your comments.

*This will be explored further in the subsequent mysteries.

Lenten Reflection – 2022

A 6 part series

BY: Mr. Mark Connolly, OP

I am writing this on Fat Tuesday. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and so I decided to do a personal Lenten reflection by doing a deep dive into the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. Since Lent is focused on Christ’s Passion, and the Sorrowful Mysteries are about Christ’s Passion, it just seemed to make sense. (Well, actually the Triduum is focused on the Passion and Lent leads into it. So, in preparation for the Triduum…)

I plan on an introduction (this post) and the 5 mysteries as subsequent posts, The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and finally the Death of Our Lord.

Have you ever wondered why the mysteries of the Rosary are called mysteries? What do we think of when we hear the word mystery? Usually, it depends on the context. In a mystery novel, we know that something has happened but the explanation is hidden. The hero/detective, a very observant and rational person, slowly figures out what is hidden through research and careful consideration of clues. In the best mystery novels, the clues are there for us as well as the detective in the novel, and when he or she figures it out, we think, “Ah hah!” and it all makes sense. Mystery solved. The key point is this: We know there is an answer, we know that the mystery can be solved. And, we enjoy the search and discovery. I think in the most successful mysteries, we figure it out at the same time as the protagonist, and when all the pieces fit together we feel satisfied and think, “That was a good mystery.”

When we think of mystery in the context of religion, we generally have a different experience. We hear or read something that we don’t understand, and when we ask about it, all too often we are told, “Well, it’s a mystery.” By this is meant, “I don’t know either, we can’t figure it out, we shouldn’t try to figure it out, so just accept it on faith.”

But, isn’t this dissatisfying? Why can’t we get answers to our religious questions? Why can’t they be solved? Are we really supposed to just turn off our brains and accept things on faith? This seems dangerous to me, but mostly it just seems wrong. If there is Truth with a capital T, shouldn’t we strive for understanding?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a hiddenness to reality. Let’s face it. Reality is mysterious. We probe reality—this is a defining human characteristic, and this is what drives all discovery—the desire to know, and equally, to understand.

And what do we want to know, what do we want to understand? While our minds and hearts are young, the answer to that question is “Everything.” But as we get older, we begin to suspect something troubling, something maybe even a bit scary.

Reality is too big.

Some are defeated by the fact that all of reality is beyond their grasp and stop questing. Losing their child-like wonder at the world, they live with a vague sense of loss and a certain weariness. Jaded and cynical, they dissipate themselves with idle diversions and ask, “What is the point?”

So, what is the point?

The point is just this: There is a point.

While we will never have complete grasp of the mystery that is life, we can always know and understand more. We can read the mystery book of life, and begin to see the clues. Rather, we can intentionally participate in this mystery. And while we may not figure it all out until the end of the story, we can always know more tomorrow than we do today.

Some recognize that this desire to know everything is simply the desire to know God. They understand that while reality is what we must work with, reality isn’t the goal.

Reality is the clue.

Mystery is the subject of knowledge. Mystery, the kind of religious mystery that we are talking about here, is not so different from that of a mystery novel. The clues are there, they need to be studied. Rather, they need to be lived. For in this particular mystery, we are not reading about characters. We are the characters.

As is always the case with mystery, the fact of mystery is the first clue. What do I mean by that? Oddly, mystery is in some ways self-revealing. It announces its presence, it says,

We will never be aware of all the mysteries, we will never see all the clues, but that’s OK. We can work with the clues we have, the ones we see in a sunset and find in the spring thaw, and the ones we have been given through Revelation. We can pursue these clues, study them, and hope to have those “Aha!” moments when we suddenly understand some piece of the grand and glorious Mystery of our lives. And what is this mystery? It is the Mystery of who we are in relation to God—it is the Mystery of Salvation. And it is this Mystery that is the subject of the Rosary.

The Rosary offers several mysteries for our consideration. Think of them as clues, insights into Revelation, insights into reality. Traditionally there have been 15 mysteries, three sets of five, known as the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries. These mysteries date back at least 400 years. In brief, they in turn focus our attention on the Incarnation, the Passion, and The Resurrection of our Lord. In 2002, Pope St. John Paul II offered a fourth set, the Luminous mysteries. These mysteries focus on Christ’s public ministry, aka the Gospel.

Succinctly, these four sets of mysteries offer us opportunities for meditations and contemplations on the birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. As Jesus is God made Man, they also offer us an opportunity to reflect on our own birth, our own life, our own death and our own resurrection. And in solidarity with our fellow man, we can enter into the births, lives, deaths, and yes, the resurrections of our family and friends. One more thought on mystery and knowledge: there is no theoretical limit to how much we can know. And, if to know someone is to love someone, then there is no theoretical limit to how much we can love God. Yet the question remains, “How can we know God?” The answer is obvious when you understand it—we can know God because he has revealed Himself to us.

He has revealed Himself to us.

Join me, if you will, and over the next 5 weeks we will dig into the Passion of Our Lord, beginning with next week’s post: The Agony In The Garden.


As Dominicans we contemplate and bring the fruits of our contemplation to those we know. I don’t know about you, but my contemplation is helped by the thoughts of others. Please share your thoughts in the Comments.

The Visitation

4th Sunday of Advent

BY: Mr. Mark Connolly, OP

The reading for this coming Sunday is from Luke and is commonly referred to as “The Visitation.” It is in the Visitation that we find the second Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary and also part of the prayer known simply as the “Hail Mary.” What can we find in this mystery? Reflection will provide much food for thought. Mary has just been told by Gabriel that her kinswoman, Elizabeth who was called barren, was in her sixth month, “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk 1:37). Straightaway Mary hastens to her. And something amazing happens.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. (Lk 1:39-44)

There is a lot happening here. When Elizabeth heard the greeting, so did her son, John the Baptist. Consider that John, at around 24 week’s gestation, leapt at the sound of the voice of the mother of God. How could he possibly know that voice, given that this would be the first time he had heard Mary’s voice? Consider that part of the Annunciation story is that Mary left straightaway to visit her kinswoman. She could only have been a week or so into her pregnancy. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit asks, “And why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” What tipped her off? Mary would not have been visibly pregnant.

What tipped Elizabeth off was John leaping for joy in her womb. John recognized Jesus, even though Jesus Incarnate was less than a handful of cells.

Pause and let that burrow into your mind and heart.

Suffice it to say that this was not one “blob of tissue” responding to another “blob of tissue.” This was a creature recognizing his Creator and responding in joy! Elizabeth is “filled with the Holy Spirit” and shouts what she cannot otherwise have known, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”

How fitting this is the second line in the Hail Mary. We first have the announcement of the Incarnation by the angel Gabriel. Then we have the first recognition by Creation (Elizabeth and John) that their Creator has entered into His Creation. Next, Mary responds with a song of praise. We will look at the first two verses. Depending on the translation that is read, you will hear different versions, and, because words matter, they will have different flavors. In the King James Version we have:

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. (Lk 1:46-47)

Other translations will use “proclaims the greatness” instead of “doth magnify” or “magnifies.” Since Latin is the root of most English multi-syllable words, it is sometimes useful to look at the Latin for some clues to depth of meaning. In Latin it goes like this:

Magnificat anima mea Dominum,
et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salvatore meo,

We can see where magnify comes from. Dominum is a form of Deo which is God. We can see where spirit comes from. One can see the idea of salvation in salvatore and perhaps pick up the idea of “God my Saviour.”[1] But where does “rejoice” come from? Perhaps you can see the idea of exultation in exsultavit? What about “soul”? The Latin word is anima[2].

Coupled with anima, the interesting words are magnificat and exsultavit. Mary says her soul magnifies the Lord. If God is so great, how can any puny human magnify God?

Think about what happens when you use a magnifying glass. You see details you could not see before. Remember the hiddenness of reality? The magnifying glass is the iconic tool of Sherlock Holmes, used to bring the hidden into the open. Mary’s soul is just such a lens, and what does her soul do? Participates in making God visible. Jesus is coming into the world as living flesh and blood.

All through the Old Testament we hear that no one can look on the face of God and live; that no one has seen God. Later, we have this exchange in the Gospel of John:

If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father? (Jn 14:7-9)

If we see Jesus, we see the Father. “My soul doth magnify” indeed.

That translation seems much more appropriate than “My soul proclaims the greatness…” Why do I say this? Because “proclaiming greatness” does not require or even suggest active participation. Proclaiming greatness is simply acknowledging a truth. But Mary’s soul magnifying the Lord is a visceral earthy participation and how else can you describe giving birth? To make God visible, to make God present to the world, requires active participation in God’s plan. Let’s face it, how many saying “God is great” are viscerally making Jesus present to the world? There is a difference between a cheerleader on the sidelines and a player on the field.

Mary also says her spirit rejoices. The Latin word is exsultavit. It is the source of the word “exult”, which is to show or feel elation or jubilation. The Latin means to leap up, and the context is one of excitement. Mary’s soul leaps for joy as does John the Baptist’s. What for?

“…for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; 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. 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. 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 1:48-55)

That’s what for. This song of praise, Lk 1:46-55 and known as the Magnificat, is both prophecy and fulfillment of prophecy. There is cause for great joy. A leaping exultation at centuries of prophecy coming, literally, to fruition. And, as with all new life, the hope for the future.

What else can we learn from thinking about Mary visiting Elizabeth? How about solidarity, how about selflessness? Mary had just been told, in practically the same breath, that she was to carry the Lord even though she knew not man, and that her kinswoman, thought to be barren, was with child. Of all the things a young woman might do in such a situation, she immediately went to Elizabeth? Why?

Perhaps she sensed that Elizabeth would be the only one that could understand her unique situation? Perhaps she knew that Elizabeth, an old pregnant woman, would need help? Perhaps because they both knew this news would be jarring to the public at large? Perhaps the simple need for loving companionship? Perhaps because they both had something to celebrate?

Perhaps the simple instinct for family.

[1] Please note, Mary also required salvation.

[2] Permit a very brief and inadequate excursion into Greek and Latin and overlapping concepts along with some related philosophy. All of this can be found googling the words, and usual warnings about reliability of the internet apply. But, just consider the interrelated ideas. The Latin word anima and the Greek words pneuma and psyche, all translatable in English as soul all also have the concept of wind or breath in common. What separates the living from non-living, oversimplified, is an exchange of air. Even plants do this exchange despite the fact they have no lungs. In this way you can perhaps see how the Latin anima becomes the basis for words like animated, animal, etc. It is the animating principle. For the Ancient Greeks, there were three kinds of animating principles: vegetative, sensitive, and rational. By this they distinguished between plant, animal and human life. This animating principle, this life force, is what we call the soul and it is God breathed (Gen 2:7).

Life from life.


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