Liturgy & the Spiritual Life
P. Jesus Castellano Cervera o.c.d.
Rev. Mr. John A. Sistare
Mary:Model in Attentiveness, Prayer & Offering
for the Pilgrim Church in Divine Worship
The celebration of the Mass, as an action of Christ and the people of God hierarchically ordered, is the center of the whole Christian life for the universal Church, the local Church and for the each and every one of the faithful (GIRM #1)."
The Holy Mass, the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary, is the center of our Catholic faith.
"Through the ministry of priests the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is completed in union with the sacrifice of Christ the only mediator, which in the Eucharist is offered through the priests hands in the name of the whole Church in an unbloody and sacramental manner until the Lord himself comes (CCC #1369)."
This Sacrifice is an eternal sacrifice in which the Church is united to her spouse, the Bridegroom, and takes part in the Heavenly liturgy. "Then I saw standing in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures and the elders, a Lamb that seemed to have been slain [Rev 5:6]." This Heavenly liturgy reminds us that we, as a pilgrim Church, are on a journey toward our final end. "The visible church is a symbol of the Fathers house toward which the people of God is journeying and where the Father will wipe every tear from their eyes (CCC #1186)." As we go on this journey, the People of God within the pilgrim Church are called to be attentive to the word of God, spoken through the Spirit. We are called to persevere in prayer in the trials and tribulations until that day when all suffering will disappear. We are invited to offer up our lives with the one offering that Jesus offers up to the Father. In attentiveness to the word, prayer, and offering, the Pilgrim Church, has a beautiful model to follow. The Virgin Mary is the model and mirror of the Church. Mary throughout her earthly life was a model of attentiveness to the word of God, of prayer and of offering. In fact, she now sits as Queen of Heaven and earth and is active in the Heavenly liturgy interceding for the Pilgrim Church on earth. It is fitting that she who was inseparable from her Son, even at Calvary, would be with him in eternal life. " there is a unique correspondence between the moment of the incarnation of the Word and the moment of the birth of the Church. The person who links these two moments is Mary: Mary at Nazareth and Mary in the Upper Room at Jerusalem ( RM #24)." Thus it is fitting that she has a prominent place in the Heavenly liturgy as well. Mary is the model of the pilgrim Church in Divine Worship. "But before all others the Church proposes as the model of the disciple listening to the word of God the Virgin of Nazareth, who, because of her faith, was the first person in the new testament to be hailed as blessed - Luke 1:45 (Lectionary, # 7)."
I) Model of Attentiveness:
Mary is the model for attentiveness to the Word of God. "Mary is the attentive Virgin, who receives the word of God with faith, that faith which in her case was the gateway and path to divine motherhood (MC # 17)." In her docility and humility, Mary listens to the word of God. In the same way, in the liturgy, the People of God are called to imitate Mary.
"The Church also acts in this way, especially in the liturgy, when she listens, accepts, proclaims, and venerates the word of God, distributes it to the faithful as the bread of life and in the light of that word examines the signs of the times and interprets and lives the events of history (MC #17)."
In order to illustrate this example of Mary as a model of attentiveness, let us look at Sacred Scripture. By looking at the infancy narratives in particular, we will see how Mary listened to the word of God and thus acts as a perfect model for the Church in liturgy.
"Indeed , at the Annunciation Mary entrusted herself to God completely, with the full submission of intellect and will, manifesting the obedience of faith to him who spoke to her through his messenger and this response of faith included both perfect cooperation with the grace of God that precede and assists and perfect openness to the action of the Holy Spirit, who constantly brings faith to completion by his gifts (RM # 13)."
Mary in submitting her mind and will totally to God, offers us a perfect example in listening to the word of God in liturgy. "Hence the readings from Gods word are among the most important elements in the liturgy, and all who are present should listen to them with reverence (GIRM, #9)." There may be times when Scripture will seem difficult to understand, but in docility and openness to the word of God we will come to understand the meaning of the Sacred words as Mary did. We are called to have the obedience of faith that Mary had in difficult times. "But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be [Luke 1:29)." In times when the word of God seems overbearing or too much too handle, we can look to Mary, our model of obedience of faith. The humility of Mary stemmed from the grace of God, which was in its fullness within her. In fact, the Greek word, "kecharitomene", means to have been filled with grace in the past, as well as, in the present. Mary is blessed among all creatures and is full of grace. The fiat or yes of Mary to the will of God singles her out above all creation as a model of faith. Mary becomes the model of obedience to the word of God for the new covenant as Abraham was for the old covenant. In fact, "as the Fathers of the Church teach she conceived this Son in her mind before she conceived him in her womb; precisely in faith (RM # 13)!" In the liturgy we are called to listen attentively to the word of God proclaimed and conceive this word in our minds. Mary offers us a perfect model to follow in obedience of faith in listening to the word of God. However, Marys fiat did not end here by simply listening. She took these words to heart and allowed them to transform her entire life. Mary went forth after listening to the word of God and put it into practice as a faithful disciple. The Visitation gives us an example of this going forth after listening to the word of God.
Mary goes forth after hearing the word of God and visits her cousin Elizabeth. This going in haste to meet her cousin is a model of charity for the Church. " the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill Gods will in their daily lives (CCC #1332)." We are called to go forth from the Mass and live in charity. "The word of God that took root in her heart moved Mary to visit her cousin Elizabeth, so that together with Elizabeth she might proclaim the greatness of the Lord for his goodness and mercy toward Israel, his beloved servant (Lectionary, #8)." In fact, Elizabeth responds by proclaiming the blessedness of the Virgin Mary. "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled [Luke 1:45]." Mary, indeed, is blessed because of her obedience of faith, but also because she kept this word all her life. In liturgy we hear the word of God proclaimed, but we are also called to keep this word and ponder it afterwards. This is the desire of Our Lord after we have heard his words proclaimed at Mass. Jesus exalts his mother for keeping this word when he says, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it. [Luke 11:28]. " Jesus was in no way denying that Mary was blessed among creation when he said this. Mary heard the word of God and then kept it, observing it all her life. In fact, she observed this word all the way to her Sons death on the Cross and continues to keep it in the Heavenly liturgy. " the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the Cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect (LG # 62)." Mary is our model in keeping and observing the word of God after we have first heard the word proclaimed.
C) Crib to Cross: Mary ponders the Word
When the shepherds arrived at the manger, they announced all that the angels had told them concerning the child Jesus. Mary, knowing that her Son was the long awaited Messiah, the savior of the world, "kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart (Lk 2:19)." Here Mary offers us an example of reflecting and pondering the word of God. There is a sense of docility and peace that surrounds Mary as the good news is proclaimed to her. We also are called to have a peace of heart as the good news is proclaimed in the liturgy. Even Martin Luther, the infamous Protestant reformer, declared about Mary, "Mary is the Christian Church The Christian Church keeps all Gods words in her heart and connects them, that is to say, she confronts them among themselves and with the Scripture (Cantalamessa, p. 12)." The Sacramentary for Masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary confirms the fact that the Church is called to listen and ponder the word of God found in the liturgy: "The Church joins its voice to Marys and praises God with her song of thanksgiving. The Church wishes to hear the word of God as she did and to dwell upon it ( Intro to Sac, # 13)." In addition, Mary offers the Church a model to persevere in reflecting on the word of God. In finding Jesus in the temple, she had to ponder the words the child Jesus said to her. "And he said to them, Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house? But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart [Luke 2:49-51]." Here, Mary shows once again that in times of trial and misunderstanding, we are called to ponder the words of God. Even at the wedding of Cana, Mary was asked to understand the word of God with a deeper meaning. "(And) Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you. (John 2:4-5)." The Lectionary for Masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary also confirms this deeper pondering of our Blessed Mother. "At the wedding of Cana Mary understood in the reply of her Son something more than the spoken words and she saw more deeply into the meaning of the miracle of Cana (Lectionary, #8)." Marys deeper understanding of the words of God enables her to turn to the servers at the wedding and advise them to do what her Son says. We too are called to ponder the word of God in liturgy and come to a deeper meaning for it in our lives. The Mass is the holy sacrifice of Calvary and we are called to be like Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross. Even here in the darkest moment of human history, Mary kept the word of God. "Standing at the foot of the Cross, she accepted the words of her Son, who, before he died, entrusted his beloved disciple to her maternal care (Lectionary, #8)." As Mother of God, Mary provides for the Church a wonderful example of how to hear the word of God, ponder it more deeply and then put it into practice.
II) Model of Prayer:
Mary also is a model of the Church in Divine Worship in her way of prayer. The Church in Divine Worship is called to pray the Mass. By first listening to the Word of God, we begin to pray the liturgy. Mary is a model of this conversation with God.
The Magnificat is the greatest expression of a human person glorifying God. The whole purpose of our existence on earth is to glorify God and praise him for all He has done. The Magnificat is Marys song of praise and thanksgiving for the mighty works he has done in her life. "In her exultation Mary prophetically declared in the name of the Church: My soul proclaims the glory of the Lord And in fact Marys hymn has spread far and wide and has become the prayer of the whole Church in all ages (MC #18)." The Church in all her members rejoices in the liturgy of the greatness of God. We have a new and everlasting covenant established through the blood of Jesus. Every time the Church gathers to worship, the very body and blood is called down upon the altar by the priest, acting in the person of Christ as Head of the Body, so each person may receive the very life of Christ within them. Indeed we have a God who loves us and we in response sing with Mary in prayer, "The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name [Luke 1:49]."
B) Magi & Cana:
When the magi came from the east to find the king of kings, "and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage [Mat 2:11]." The magi find Mary with Jesus and in turn Mary presents her Son for adoration. Adoration is certainly an element and part of the liturgy. "Adoration is homage of the Spirit to the king of Glory (CCC #2628)." Mary presents her Son in adoration to us as she did to the magi. Mary is a model of prayer in this infancy narrative by way of adoration that she herself gives first and foremost. It was she who was by her Sons side in adoration at the crib and it was she who later was at his side at the Cross.
The wedding of Cana, once again sheds light on Mary as a model. Here Mary is shown asking her Son to help the servants. There was no wine left and the servants sought Marys assistance and intercession. She, knowing her Son would listen, goes to him in complete humility. "At Cana, Mary appears once more as the Virgin in prayer: when she tactfully told her Son of a temporal need (MC #18)." Mary continues to serve as a model for the Church in asking her Son to hear our petitions. She forever intercedes for the Church and remains in conversation with her Son.
In the Upper Room we see Mary as the model of unceasing prayer. Together with the apostles, Mary seeks the intercession of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the last time Mary is mentioned in the Scriptures is while she is at prayer with the apostles. " the last description of Marys life presents her as praying. The apostles joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus (Acts 1:14) (RM #18)." Interestingly enough, "Mary did not directly receive this apostolic mission. She was not among those whom Jesus sent to the whole world to teach all nations (cf.Mt. 28:19) when he conferred this mission on them (RM #26)." Mary was in the Upper Room and remains a model of prayer for the Church. She recognized the importance of the power of the Holy Spirit in prayer. The Church has Mary as a model in imploring the gifts of the Holy Spirit. "In imitation of Mary at prayer in the upper room with the apostles, the Church ceaselessly implores the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Sacramentary, # 13)." In the liturgy we have Mary as a model to follow in seeking the assistance and strength of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the sacrament of confirmation brings out the gifts of the Holy Spirit infused in each believer at baptism to empower them to be public witnesses of the faith. From Pentecost to our own Confirmation, Mary remains a model of the way we should pray, seeking the power of the Holy Spirit.
III) Model of Offering :
Presentation in Temple & Cross
Finally, Mary is a model in Divine Worship by way of her offering.
"The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christs faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators They should give thanks to God. Offering the immaculate victim, not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, they should learn to offer themselves (SC # 48)."
Offering is part of the liturgy, not only for the priest, acting in the person of Christ, but also of the faithful present in worship. They bring their offerings (sufferings, intentions, etc.) to be offered up with the one sacrifice of Christ, offered by the priest, in persona Christi capitas, to the Father. Mary once again serves as a model in this action of offering for all of us in Divine worship. "Mary is, finally, the Virgin presenting offerings (MC #20). The Presentation in the Temple is a perfect example of Mary offering her firstborn son. This moment in her life , in which Simeon prophecies, "(and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. [Luke 2:35]", is connected intimately with the Cross of her Son. Mary was deeply connected with her Son on the Cross and in this way she shares in his passion. Mary offers the infant Jesus to be adored in the crib by the shepherds and magi and later offers and presents him in the temple to Simeon. However, it is on the Cross, that she offers herself totally to her Son to share in his passion. "At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self-emptying. This is, perhaps, the deepest kenosis of faith in human history. Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in his redeeming death; (RM # 18)." In this total offering and emptying of her self, (kenosis) she provides us with a model in the liturgy. We are called to present ourselves and offer our whole being at Calvary, as Mary did. In this way we share in the redemption of Christ. St. Bernard stated in regards to the offering of Mary, "Offer your Son, holy Virgin, and present to the Lord the blessed fruit of your womb. Offer for the reconciliation of us all the holy victim which is pleasing to God (MC # 20)." Mary offers her Son all her life and now offers him to each of us. In the liturgy we are asked to take her Son and unite ourselves with him and with each other as one family. Together as one family we offer ourselves to the Father with the one true sacrifice of Calvary, re-presented on every altar in which Holy Mass is offered.
Mary, as Mother of the Church, provides us with a perfect example to follow in Divine Worship. We are like little children being led by the hand of Mary. She teaches us how to listen and be attentive. She also teaches us how to pray with the Spirit and offer ourselves as she herself did. The Church is a mirror of Mary as Mother. The Church, by listening to the word of God, praying unceasingly, and offering all she has to the Father in the one true sacrifice of the Son, follows the example of Mary as mother. " so too the Church becomes a mother when, accepting with fidelity the word of God, by her preaching and by her baptism she brings forth to a new and immortal life children who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God (RM #43)." The Church is called to bring forth new life in her members by proclaiming the Word of God. The faithful in listening and being attentive to this word will be renewed and animated by the Spirit. In addition, the Church follows Marys lead in seeking the power of the Holy Spirit in prayer. The faithful will learn to pray and draw closer to the triune God. Finally, the Church looks to Mary as she offered and emptied herself at Calvary to share in the one sacrifice of her Son on the Cross. The faithful are invited to offer and empty themselves at Calvary, to unite their sufferings with the sufferings of Christ. In Mary, the Church in Divine Worship has a perfect model to follow as she journeys toward her final end. Mary is a sign of hope. In her Assumption and Coronation as Queen of heaven and earth, the Pilgrim Church and all her members, look to reach their final end. "In her (Mary) the Church admires and exalts the most excellent fruit of redemption, and joyfully contemplates, as in a faultless image, that which she herself desires and hopes to be (SC #103)." Mary is the model in attentiveness, prayer, and offering, for the Pilgrim Church in Divine Worship.
(RM) Redemptoris Mater
(MC) Marialis Cultus
(LG) Lumen Gentium
(SC) Sacrosanctum Concilium
(GIRM) General Instruction of the Roman Missal
Catechism of the Catholic Church
(S.C.D.W.) Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship
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