Gospel for Thursday, December 8: Luke 1: 26-38
Immaculate Conception of Mary
26In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed to a man of the house of David, whose name was Joseph. The virgin was called Mary. 28Entering her, he said: “Rejoice, full of grace: the Lord is with you.” 29At these words she was very upset and wondered what sense a greeting like this had. 30The angel said to her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive a son, and you will give birth to him, and you will call his name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.” 34Then Mary said to the angel: “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35The angel answered her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the one to be born will be holy and will be called the Son of God. 36And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, in her old age has also conceived a son and this is the sixth month for her, who was called barren: 37nothing is impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said: “Behold the servant of the Lord: let it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1: 26-38
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).
Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
Talking about Mary correctly is difficult and important. Already in 1980, Cardinal Pellegrino wrote: “It is not a lack of attention to basic needs when, after the Council, sacred buildings are erected where the norms of the liturgy are ignored, not to say trampled upon, where I would not have the courage to guide a Protestant friend, because he would see an expression of mariolatry, which undermines the paschal mystery?”.
“It is probable that Protestants would have to say more things about Mary, if Catholics had not said so many, too many.” This statement by Karl Barth is echoed by the words of Hébert Roux: «What we receive about Mary from the New Testament is little and it is too much; it is little to justify the disproportionate development of Catholic Mariology; it is just to justify the silence of Protestant theology around the Mother of the Lord.” These testimonies are an invitation to sobriety and to never forget that a serious and measured discussion on Mary can no longer ignore, in the Catholic context, the methodological turning point and the criteria established by chapter VIII of Lumen gentium (21 November 1964) and by Marialis cultus ( 2 February 1972), reconfirmed by the Redentoris Mater, this means that a correct understanding of the figure of the Virgin must first of all obey the biblical criterion, taking into account not only the texts themselves but how the different scriptural fragments on Mary are celebrated by the different liturgies of the asked and explained by the holy Fathers and doctors. Secondly, the anthropological or ecclesial criterion must be taken into account, moving from the Mariology of privileges to seeing in this “completely singular member of the Church (the) figure and (the) most excellent model for it in faith and charity”. Thirdly, the ecumenical criterion must be vigorously underlined, removing obstacles and learning to explain the reason for the doctrine and worship of Mary not only to brothers of different Christian denominations, but within the same Catholic confession” (G. Bruni) .
Let’s clarify right away: “Mary is not a peripheral point of the Christian message. Of course, Mary alone is nothing, but she is so connected to the Lord that by diminishing or offending her, Christology itself is impoverished. Talking about Mariology is not remaining in the true faith: it is blasphemy: we should talk about Christology in which the mystery of Mary is inserted because Mary is part of the connection in the announcement of Christ and has no autonomy with respect to this announcement” (E. Bianchi ). This is why on 10/29/1963 with a majority of only 40 votes out of 2200 voters it was decided by the Council not to make an independent document on Mary but to deal with her within the Constitution on the Church, the Lumen gentium.
WHAT THE BIBLE DOESN’T SAY ABOUT MARY
The Bible does not first of all tell us the bibliographical data about Mary (birth, death…), instead told by the apocrypha, or descriptive data (blonde like in Lourdes or brunette like in Medjugorie…?). “To tell the truth, there are three dogmas – immaculate, perpetual virginity, assumption – which refer to the beginning, the existential condition, the destiny of Mary, but this does not find immediate confirmation in the letter of Scripture, in textual materiality. We are faced with an ecclesial reading…, justified “catholicly” by the Spirit who in this case not only does not contradict but, again from the Catholic point of view, is in profound harmony with the heart of the revelation transcribed in documents preserved and commented on by praying communities and reflective, liturgical and theological together, which from them were able to bring out hidden treasures in the Spirit” (G. Bruni).
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT MARY
Scripture presents Mary to us as the Theotokòs, Dei Genetrix, Mother of God: these terms, sanctioned in Ephesus in 431, are biblical. It is she who, through the Spirit (Lk 1.35), in her virginal flesh (Lk 1.27), conceives the Son of the Most High (Lk 1.32), given birth as the firstborn son (Lk 2.7 ).
Mary is also the virgin of listening, the servant of the Word.
She is a woman of conservation and meditation on the Word: “she kept all these things
meditating on them in her heart” (Lk 2,19); “Her mother kept all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:51).
She is a woman of questioning: “Mary said to the angel: “How is this possible?” (Lk 1:34); “Son, why did you do this to us?” (Luke 2:48).
She is a woman of non-understanding: “But they did not understand her words” (Lk 2,50); “they were amazed at the things that were said about him” (Lk 2,33); “When they saw him they were amazed” (Lk 2:48).
She is a woman of praise: “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk 1,46-47).
She is a woman of silence, who never appears in the first person in the evangelizing work of her Son, but who is central to his Christmas, to his death, to Pentecost.
She is a woman of Faith: “Blessed is she who believed that the word of the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45).
She is a woman who deals with Scripture and history: think of the “Magnificat” (Lk 1.46-55), a hymn of biblical wisdom and reading of the signs of the times
She is a woman of the announcement: “In those days Mary set out towards the mountains” (Lk 1,39-45). She brings the Word to the prophets (John the Baptist, Anna), to the righteous (Elizabeth, Simeon), to the poor (the shepherds).
She is a woman of obedient praxis: “Let it be done to me as you have said” (Lk 1,38); “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2.5): she is therefore the type of the true disciple. Her greatness lies not so much in her physical motherhood, but in her full following of God: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of the words of the Lord” (Lk 1,45; cf. 11,27-28; Mt 12 ,47-49) …
She is a woman of martyrdom for the Word, who is immediately prophesied of a sword that will pierce the soul (Lk 2.35), who must make an exodus towards Egypt because she is persecuted by the powerful (Mt 2.14), a wanderer and refugee, Sorrowful under the cross where the Son dies (Jn 19,25-27).
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TYPOLOGICAL READING OF MARY
But Scripture also highlights a “continuity between Israel, Mary and the Church… The Mother of Jesus reveals herself to be walking with the people of God of both alliances” (A. Serra). Mary is the new Eve, mother of believers, the new Israel, the new Jerusalem, and is therefore a metaphor for the Church. Mary “is given as the archetype of what the Church itself is called to be; in the Mother of God the assembly of believers finds its symbol and its projection” (G. Bruni): from this perspective, the prayerful reflection of the Church will see in her Immaculate Conception the anticipation in Mary of the common destiny of intimacy with God, in his Virginity the totality of God’s Presence of eschatological times, in his Assumption the realization for the blessed among women of the plan that God has for all of us. The Second Vatican Council also urged us to this typological reading of Mary, “super-eminent and completely singular member of the Church, figure and most excellent model for her («typus et exemplar spectatissimum»)”.
The typological, profoundly biblical reading of Mary does not exclude the more personalistic one:
“Not the feeling, but the testamentary word of the Lord on the cross established that Mary was the mother of those who are one with him, aware now that they have, alongside a father in faith, Abraham, also a mother in faith, Mary” (G. Bruni). The typological and collective symbolism reading does not resize or diminish the individualistic reading.
Thus rediscovering Mary, our sister and friend, mother in Faith, one of us, in whom the plan that God has for all of us has already been realized, through the grace of the Most High and his “Yes”, fills us with joy and of hope. And she encourages us to become, like her, living icons of the Son, in obedient listening and in agapic practice, in faithful and humble discipleship up to the Cross, so that we too can enjoy the same blessed fate as her.
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org.