Through Shadows and Images...

A Blog by Tom Gourlay

Month: December 2015

27 December 2015 – Feast of the Holy Family (Day 3 of Christmas)

Gospel Lk 2:41-52
His mother treasured all these things in her heart
One event which would have been incredible formative for Mary was the Annunciation, where the angel appeared before her and announced the good news that Jesus, the Son of God, would take on human flesh within her womb.
  Undoubtedly this event would have coloured all her efforts in raising and caring for the child Jesus.
  The event recounted in the Gospel today, the only story we have in the Scriptures of Jesus’ adolescence, would have been all the more worrisome for her considering the weight of responsibility she would have felt, knowing that this child was the Son of God.
  The absolute horror that Mary and Joseph her husbandmust have felt upon learning that their son was not with the caravan would have been unbearable. The sudden realisation that your child, the Son of God, is no longer with you would come as a tremendous shock. The sick feeling which must have arisen in the pit of their stomachs must have been overwhelming.
  Yet, despite the heartache that they must have endured, and most likely even the anger that they must have felt at having been left to worry over his whereabouts, this event was for both Mary and Joseph, as it is for us, a joyful mystery.
  This is an event which is joyful, not only for the fact of being reunited with Him, but also for the fact that, he has revealed to them plainly and for the first time his Divine Sonship.

  As we ponder this great mystery, still within this Christmas season, we look to Mary, the Mother of God and our mother as a model. Her receptivity of the Word of God, is manifest not only in her physical motherhood of Jesus, but spiritually as ‘she treasures all these things in her heart.’ She who in responding with such total self-surrender to the Word, is like the “good soil” of which Jesus speaks. “These are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance” (Lk8:15). She is what Pope Francis called the ‘perfect Icon of faith’ (Lumen Fidei, 58).

Prayerful Words
May it come about in us, O Spirit of God, as it did in Mary–the mystery of the Word was made flesh in her. It became part of her flesh and one with her expressions. Thus, may the memory of Christ become flesh of our flesh, part of all our actions, counsel for every thought and flame for every affection, and move in us with all our moves, from morning to evening, as we eat and drink, and in all our living and in our dying.
Luigi Giussani, On the Holy Rosary

20 December 2015 – 4th Sunday of Adent

Gospel Lk 1:39-44
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!

Today’s Gospel reading is an interesting selection. While we are eagerly anticipating the coming of the Christ child at Christmas, the Church directs our attention to Mary’s charitable visit to her cousin Elizabeth.
Just prior to this reading we are presented with the story of the Annunciation, where the Angel Gabriel seeks Mary’s consent to be the God-bearer. Upon inquiring how this can be, considering her own state in life, Mary freely gives her consent in an act of dynamic creative receptivity – becoming for all of us a model for free receptive-creative love.
The other piece of news that Mary receives at the Annunciation is that her cousin Elizabeth, previously thought to have been unable to conceive, and now well beyond child-bearing years, has miraculously conceived a child.
Mary’s action here is to immediately take the Word abroad. She travels, pregnant as she is, to the hill country of Judea to be with her cousin in her need. In this too she is a model for us all. In receiving into her body and her soul the very life of the Divine God-Man, she does not selfishly hide him away – but instead takes him out to where he is needed.
This is perhaps a perfect example of what Pope Francis has called the ‘mission to the margins.’ Mary goes out to be with those in need, but her actions are not that of mere philanthropy. She can perfectly give what has she has perfectly received, the divine life of God Himself in human flesh. This is why Elizabeth rightly says of her ‘Blessed are you among women’ and why we rightly echo her greeting in the Hail Mary. She is blessed because she has perfectly received the love of God and borne him to the world.
As this Advent season draws to a close let us look to Mary as a model for how we are to bear Christ to the world. 

Point to Ponder
“Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him, and at the side of her Son, she is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission.”
– Saint Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 37

13 December 2015 – 3rd Sunday of Adent

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people

Advent is a time when we wait.

   This is not supposed to be a boring wait, like for instance when we call a phone company to sort out an erroneous bill. The wait of Advent reminds us not only of the coming of Christmas, but of the final coming of Christ into this world, when he will come in majesty and power as ruler and merciful judge. This is a wait that is filled with joy and expectancy.

   The people in today’s Gospel are very much like ourselves. The feeling of joyful expectancy which had animated the crowd boiled over into an attempt to somehow declare John the Baptist as the long-awaited Messiah. In our own day however the season of Advent, a period of supposed joyful and expectant waiting is glossed over and we live as though it is Christmas already. The season of Advent has something of a prophetic character in this culture of ‘rapidification’, where the virtue of patient waiting is forgotten and the desire for immediate gratification is met with the force of untethered human will, and unprecedented technological power.

   This season of Advent serves as a reminder that patience is a virtue, and as a virtue it must be exercised and cultivated. More than this though, Advent teaches us that patient waiting is not simply a boring time of inactivity, but something that we must actively participate in. We ready ourselves for the coming joy of Christmas, by prayerful almsgiving to those in need, returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, building physical reminders, such as a nativity set, and leaving the crib empty until Christmas.

I pray that this season of Advent will be fruitful for you and for all of us.

Point to Ponder

Among the beautiful prayers of this time let me pinpoint that of the second Wednesday of Advent: “Almighty God, you call us to prepare the way for Christ the Lord, let us not tire of waiting for the consoling presence of the heavenly doctor through the weakness of our faith.” That we may not tire of waiting, that is, that we may not get tired of entreating. Entreating for what? For His presence to free us, making us more affectionate towards Him; and our life will be more whole, outstretched to the Father’s will, and therefore to forgiveness and mutual help.
Our weakness can become an excuse to give up entreating in the face of all our forgetfulness and all our mistakes: as if Christ were not always a present spring of a greater energy than our fragility. – Luigi Giussani, On the Occasion of Advent, 1991

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