In preparation for Christmastide, John Gregory inaugurates a comprehensive meditation on the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary and a renewed perspective of Mary's role in salvation and how, through the Annunciation, only by cooperating with her fiat can we enhance our chance of gaining Heaven.
"In Genesis 18:14 we see why "all generations will call Mary blessed" (Luke 1:45). At least the part of all generations that has the Catholic faith. For Mary, by her obedience of Faith became the mother of Jesus and mother of the mystical body of Christ, His Church. John 19:26-27. The Incarnation which is the conception of Christ in His Human Form can be considered analogous to conception of His Mystical Body, which is the Church that is symbolized by the blood and water flowing from His side on the Cross much as the birth of the Church is the Pentecost in that after the tongues of fire descended on Mary and the Apostles the immediate result was for Peter to have 3000 baptized who would now be members of this Church forming the mystical body of Christ. All must understand that just as there was One Christ, so there is one Church with one Faith. There cannot be contradictory beliefs within the Mystical Body of Christ. Pray that more people who call themselves Christian will one day understand this."
I wanted to share some meditations on the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary that I have come across over the years to help get in the right mindset for this period of the Church year and to help us to start meditating better on the Mysteries if we have become lax in our concentration when praying the Rosary.
Let us consider the moment just before the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Our Lady to bring the good news of the Incarnation and meditate on how God is about to become man.
GOD About to Become Man?
Wow! How do you describe the indescribable? I won't try. But what I will say is that God has always used man as an instrument to do His will. Here, dare we say He uses our Lady, His greatest created instrument to do His greatest thing. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Read John 1 if you get a chance. The Bible is great at describing the indescribable.
Of all the women God prepared Mary from her conception to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word. From when? Her conception. Thank God she was allowed to be conceived. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." But that was before women's liberation. Now the saying would go more like; "After you were formed in my womb I had the 'right' to kill you." Before this role was usurped by man God was the giver of life and the dealer of death. But since our Lady (and our Lady's mother – her mother and back and back and back – look at how many instances where one women deciding to contracept would have completely altered salvation history) is a true lady and not a pro-deather woman or a "responsible parent" who would prefer to wait until she is older and richer before she considers having a child; we now have God being conceived and born and Who will then grow up to be a man and will use the body that was allowed to be conceived and born to redeem us!
And now we are ready for the great salutation:
"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28)
Hail, full of grace indeed! No other created being in the history of mankind has been addressed this way by an Angel. The word in Scripture that was used by the Angel is translated from the Greek word "kecharitomenke". You could fill a page explaining the meaning of this word. But Saint Jerome did well in translating it to the Latin "gratia plena" which is accurately and literally rendered "full of grace" in English. Notice, the Angel gets beyond the surface and calls her what she is. He does not say, Hail Mary, full of grace. He calls her what she is before God; getting past the accidentals to her very essence; "Full of grace."
This is, in part, where we get the Immaculate Conception from. Mary, from the moment of her conception, was, is, and always will be, full or filled with grace to overflowing. She is at great enmity with Satan because she has nothing to do with Satan, she has nothing in common with him, she has no sin, not even Original Sin, this is why there was destined to be, from the beginning of time, a creature conceived without sin through whom the head of Satan would be crushed. This is why Lucifer fears and hates our Lady more than all creatures. After God, there is nothing as pure as our Lady; and this is a great horror to Satan who believes he should be superior to ALL creatures – especially non-angelic beings - those brute animals otherwise known as human beings, fragile, pathetic, worm-food human beings get to take HIS place in heaven due in large part to this lowly handmaid. What a most wretched thought for Satan to have to comprehend for all eternity. Mary, like the original Eve, was created without the stain of Original Sin. It is fitting that this is so, for the first Adam and the first Eve were created without Original Sin but fell. So in the Divine scheme of things there was to be a New Adam and a New Eve that would untie the knot of the original pair's disobedience. Any guesses who they were? Yes - Jesus and Mary.
You see, in the battle that ensued since Original Sin, God wanted a created being to be intimately involved in the defeat in Satan. "Why?" you ask. Because it was created beings whose actions led to the fall of mankind. It would be easy for God to crush Satan Himself, but God's ways are not our ways and as high above the earth as the heavens are, so too are His ways above our ways. God wants it to be a fair fight, don't you see. So through the cooperation of a created being, a lowly woman no less, the head of the Beast, that Ancient Serpent is crushed. (See Genesis 3:15). So Hail!! Hail FULL of grace indeed!!!
Let us not forget the second part of the Angelic phrase. "The Lord is with Thee." I believe I read in the works of Saint Augustine somewhere how he says this means that "the Lord is with Thee more than he is with me" or any other member of the human race. The Lord is with our Lady in a way that is not surpassed or equaled among the human race.
"Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God" (Luke 1:29-30)
Mary "was troubled" at this saying. I would be too. It is not every day that an Angel bows before you and Hails you as being full of grace.
The Angel assures her:
"And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou has found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in the womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus" (Luke 1:30-31) (See Isaiah 7:14)
Consider the state of mind of Mary as she encounters one extraordinary, earth shaking sequence of events after another. Why was she troubled? Why wouldn't she be? If she was not astounded enough by the appearance of an Angel hailing her to be full of grace - her encounter then leads to the Angel saying fear not you are about to give birth to Emmanuel which means God with us. "Conceive and give birth" to God?!!! WHAT?!!! The Jews would not even use His Proper Name and yet she was to give birth to Him Whose name is too Sacred to let pass your lips.
You will notice two key words or phrases in this Scripture verse. "Conceive" and "bring forth" or "give birth".
First of all, our Lady could have decided that she did not want to conceive - thereby contracepting our Lord and our redemption out of the picture. This was our chance at redemption but Mary was completely free to say yes or no. In her case she would not have been engaging in the procreative act while at the same time frustrating its purpose as many do today which is another way of saying to God, "for all we know you want to use this beautiful act you gave us to bring another soul into the world, adding an immortal soul to your family who will have the capacity of knowing, loving and serving You in this life so as to be happy with You for all eternity in the next and we won't let You." She would not have been committing sin if she said no. It would have been a selfish act perhaps, as contraception is but it would not have been a false act as is the mutual masturbation that takes place between contracepting couples.
Then we have the words "and give birth." Another big problem today. "Well if I conceive someone, no big deal I'll just abort him (have him killed.)" This is so contra "gospel" life.
Yet despite this good news we can tell that Mary is troubled when she says:
"How shall this be done, because I know not man?" (Luke 1: 34) for Tradition tells us (as does Scripture, implicitly; as we shall see) that our Lady has made a vow of virginity.
Luke 1:34 is one of the verses that all Christians/Catholics from the Early Church Fathers and before right until after the time of Luther knew showed that Mary is indeed ever virgin. She was around 16 (some say as young as 14) years old, betrothed to Joseph and told by an angel that she is about to have a child. Mary says, "How can this be?" The only possible way this question would make sense would be if she had taken a vow of virginity. Otherwise, that would be a ridiculous question. Mary was well aware of how pregnancies come about.
Mary believed the archangel's words; she did not doubt as Zechariah had. Her question, "How can this be?" shows that she was convinced that God wished her to remain a virgin; yet here was God also announcing that she would become a mother.
The Angel answers that she will conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and her Son will be called the Son of God. In other words, "Yes, Mary, you will still be a virgin." Not only this but your spouse will be the Holy Ghost, and your womb will be the sanctuary of our Lord and you will be the ark of the new and everlasting covenant.
" And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35)
The "shadow" is a symbol of the presence of God. When Israel was journeying through the wilderness, the glory of God filled the Tabernacle and a cloud covered the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 40:34-36). And when God gave Moses the tablets of the Law, a cloud covered Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:15:16); and also, at the transfiguration of Jesus the voice of God the Father was heard coming out of a cloud (Luke 9:35).
At the moment of the incarnation the power of God envelopes our Lady - an expression of God's omnipotence. The Spirit of God-which, according to the account in Genesis (1:2), moved over the face of the waters, bringing things to life-now comes down on Mary. And the fruit of her womb will be the work of the Holy Spirit. The Virgin Mary, who herself was conceived without any stain of sin (cf. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus) becomes, after the incarnation, a new tabernacle of God. This is the mystery we recall every day when saying the Angelus. (Navarre Bible Commentary)
So here we are - the most important moment, up until that time, and perhaps EVER (for if there is not a conception there cannot be a birth and if there is not a birth there cannot be a life spent devoted and conformed to God's will through preaching and miracles, and if there is not life in this world there cannot be death and if there is not death there cannot be a Resurrection) in the history of the world. Can you picture that moment? After it was made clear that Mary could keep her virginity and before Mary answered? Wow! I bet the Heavens and the earth were completely silent - all eyes and ears on the Blessed Virgin - with salvation history hanging in the balance. I say unto thee once again, Wow!!!
When considering this moment and the possible "anticipation" of the Angels in Heaven I consider how difficult it is to describe Heaven and what Heaven will be like if we are to make it there - for describing Heaven and what it will be like is humanly impossible. What I do know is that the Beatific Vision which is what we attain in Heaven is "the eternal moment", so to speak. There is no time in Heaven. The past, present and future are all present at the same "time" to those who enjoy the Beatific Vision - the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus, His Resurrection and Ascension, the Incarnation, even all the sins we ever committed will be known to all in Heaven in my opinion. All time and events in time present to each and everyone one of us for all eternity. What was whispered in secret will be shouted from the roof tops in a manner of speaking. We will share in God's Divinity knowing (seeing) and loving perfectly - to the degree our capacity for knowledge and love will allow.
The time to increase our capacity to know and love most perfectly in Heaven i.e. the time to increase the degree of glory we will have in Heaven is now, in this lifetime. We increase our degree of glory in Heaven in this lifetime primarily by engaging in charitable deeds during this life for love of God and also to the degree that we learn authentic truths about God. For when we truly KNOW Who God Is and understand what He requires of us the more accurately we can fulfill His Most Holy Will through our charitable acts.
We will not fully comprehend all in Heaven, to the deepest degree possible, as God knows all (no one can be as smart as or know as much as God - otherwise they would be "God" and this would lead to various difficulties such as there being more than one God or there being no God). We all have different capacities and thus we will all have varying degrees of glory in Heaven. "Some will shine like the sun, some like the stars and some like the moon." But we all will be as happy as we possibly can be (to the fullness of our capacity) for all eternity. Because we will see God as He is.
How can we be happy if everyone knows everything about us – when everyone knows all the sins we ever committed and what we said behind each others back? How will we be happy when others have attained a higher light of glory than we have? How will we be happy once we come to know for certain that some of our friends and relatives will spend all eternity in Hell?
Believe me, we'll be happy. Remember, we will be perfected in our understanding of truth and God's Justice and we will be purged of all imperfection and selfish inclinations. We will not judge others in a comparative, worldly manner with all our present insecurities. Nor will they be judging us in such a way. All will see things as they are for all will be Traditional Catholics in Heaven – and yes – the liturgy will be perfect. What a pleasant change that will be - especially for our perfected Novus Ordo friends that make it to Heaven.
There will be no jealousy in Heaven and we will be fully aware of God's Justice and how the people in Hell belong there. What would make us unhappy would be if people who hated God or loved things more than God were in Heaven no matter who they are. The idea of everyone going to Heaven, which is initially pleasing to some, becomes not so pleasing when this idea is logically thought through - for such reasoning would render fighting the good fight in this life meaningless. There would be no need to know, love and serve God in this life if we all went to Heaven. There would be no need to do the good and avoid the evil if no one went to Hell. There would have been no need for Jesus to have been slaughtered like a beast if no one goes to Hell – what a pitiful waste THAT would have been. Yes, we will be even more keenly aware of these facts once we are in Heaven. So knowing that our fornicating Uncle is in Hell will not take away from our happiness in Heaven in the least because we will be more keenly aware that he belongs there and we will be more keenly aware that God does not give anyone a free ride no matter how nice or close to us they were.
We all will be rejoicing in God's mercy because we all will have sinned and have not deserved Heaven. No one can deserve Heaven on their own capacity - though God gives us the grace to merit our salvation. Most, if not all, reading this article would be in Hell now had we died at certain points of our lives. There will be much rejoicing in Heaven, in part, because we will know that we could have very easily ended up in Hell. Our seeing or knowing the torment of those souls in Hell, even if they were close to us in this life, will not make us less perfected or lacking in anything good such as happiness; for we will have a deeper understanding of the Justice of God and we will fully realize how the souls in Hell choose (God does not deny us the right to choose – pro-choicers take heed; choose on my friends - just make it the right choice; you reserve the "right" to keep people out of this planet, all the more does God reserve the right to keep YOU out of Heaven) their own destiny. A contributing factor to our happiness will be our understanding that were it not for the grace of God and our cooperation with that grace 'til the end'; we would be undergoing the same eternal torment. We will be glad alright - infinitely gladder than words can describe. Is it all worth it? Resoundingly yes! And many yeses more!!!
Let us go back to meditating on the Annunciation. I think we all know what the incarnation is. I do not think much error prevails on this subject in this day. It is the Hypostatic Union. God, while retaining his Divinity, becomes man. Not becoming a mixture of God and man, not staying only God apart from man. Not becoming man apart from God. He is, and always will be, the Word made flesh. He will always remain man - the man Jesus Christ, without losing one iota of His Divinity. And we will become like Him – if we are found to be in a state of grace at the moment of death.
The reason why I went in to all that is because I think (when you see the words "I think" in my articles know that this means what follows may not be theologically sound (but I think it is – otherwise I would not share it) and that I have not conclusively studied what the experts have concluded on the topic) that through a supernatural ability given by God to the Angels that enjoy the Beatific Vision the Angels in Heaven knew/know what was going to happen regarding the Incarnation before it actually happened – not through a natural knowledge but through a supernatural knowledge. The demons have many of the same abilities as do all angels and they have the same natural knowledge as the good angels have but they do not have the supernatural knowledge that results from enjoying the Beatific Vision and therefore the fallen angels did not, in my opinion, have the same absolute assurance that Jesus was God or the knowledge of what exactly was happening at the time of the Incarnation and why. Granted, when some of the fallen angels were confronted with Our Lord's power during His ministry on earth such as when He cast them out of people they possessed, they seemed to have an idea of Who He Was but they certainly did not know that His Crucifixion would lead to the redemption of all and the salvation of many, so too I do not believe the fallen angels understood the implications of the Incarnation. I believe that the good Angels, knowing what was going to happen at the Annunciation, paid particular attention to the Incarnation when it was actually happening with a certain reverential awe, having an incredibly high esteem for our Lady during and after this process through the supernatural knowledge imparted to them by God. The Incarnation is truly one of the greatest mysteries of our faith. Worthy is the Lamb. And unworthy are we except by His grace and our cooperation in utilizing the grace/gifts He freely bestows upon us. He makes us worthy. May God's name be praised throughout the earth!!!
"And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Thy word. And the angel departed from her" (Luke 1:38)
This makes me think of the vitalness of Faith and the "obedience of Faith". (Romans 1:5) I have read or heard somewhere that when Paul speaks of the "obedience of faith" apart from the obviousness of it requiring something of us other than just "believing" that this "obedience" is almost another word for "faith" in the way that Saint Paul uses it here. Much the same way we would speak of the city (obedience) of Chicago (faith). There are countless instances in Scripture that point out the necessity for faith in action and the correlation between faith and obedience and the consequences of obedience (or lack thereof) to God's Will; James 2, the obedience of Abraham in the Covenants between Abraham and God in Genesis, the obedience of Jesus during His life and death are but a few examples in Holy Writ that come to mind here; Old Testament and New - we realize that this equating of obedience with faith is not just an off the cuff interpretation. If you love your spouse (we see elsewhere in Scripture the necessity for "faith working in love") and believe you owe her your fidelity you "act" accordingly right? It is love that motivates us to willingly act according to our beliefs and if we believe "as the demons do" but do not have love we will not willingly act accordingly. When we read Genesis 18 we will see how Abraham and Sarah responded to the Angel's proclamation. Abraham immediately starts interceding to God on man's behalf. Here we see the importance of the obedience of Faith that results form an authentic love of God and the correlation of the one word (obedience) to the other (faith).
If we look in Sophonias or Zephania 2:3 we have illuminated for us the importance of the beatitudes - especially humbleness and meekness that many "types" or foreshadowing's of Mary embodied during the course of salvation history. Women like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith, Esther and Elizabeth come to mind.
In Genesis 18:14 we see why "all generations will call Mary blessed" (Luke 1:45). At least the part of all generations that has the Catholic faith. For Mary, by her obedience of Faith became the mother of Jesus and mother of the mystical body of Christ, His Church. John 19:26-27. The Incarnation which is the conception of Christ in His Human Form can be considered analogous to conception of His Mystical Body, which is the Church that is symbolized by the blood and water flowing from His side on the Cross much as the birth of the Church is the Pentecost in that after the tongues of fire descended on Mary and the Apostles the immediate result was for Peter to have 3000 baptized who would now be members of this Church forming the mystical body of Christ. All must understand that just as there was One Christ, so there is one Church with one Faith. There cannot be contradictory beliefs within the Mystical Body of Christ. Pray that more people who call themselves Christian will one day understand this.
Most importantly for us, I believe, is our obedience to the will of God (John 9: 31) and what might result if we are not obedient. For disobedience to God could be likened to "the disobedience of sin" for disobedience to God is sin as Adam, Eve, Satan and so many others can testify. They believed but did not act in accordance with their belief which ultimately led to a bad result (John 5: 14) much suffering; and in Satan's case – eternal damnation.
Once the Blessed Virgin learns of God's plan, our Lady yields to God's will with prompt obedience, unreservedly. She realizes the disproportion between what she is going to become - the Mother of God - and what she is - a woman. However, this is what God wants to happen for with God nothing is impossible; therefore no one should try to stand in His way whether it is through fornication, contraception, abortion or any other sin (or disobedience to the Commandments inherent in the Natural Law and written on the hearts of those who have not destroyed their conscience through long-term sinful lifestyles) to the degree it is possible for us to avoid in our fallen human nature. So Mary, combining humility and obedience, responds perfectly to God's call:
"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to Thy word."