Magnificent facade of the Annunciation Church in Nazareth
MARY OF NAZARETH
- Document: Holy Scripture Readings
1.1. First Reading: The Book of the prophet Isaiah 7: 10-14
1.2. Second Reading: The Letter to the Hebrews 10: 4-10
1.3. Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St Luke 1: 26-38
1.4. Simple Comment: The prophet Isaiah expresses Yahweh’s exasperation in the obstinacy of the heart of his people: must you also weary my God? The prophecy of a virgin who will bear the Immanuel child is happily fulfilled in the person of Mary of Nazareth. With her ready fiat to do God’s bidding she reverses the normal tendency of wearying God; she promptly and humbly obeys her Lord! The second reading shows how her Son takes upon her generosity in similarly stating to the wishes of the Father: I have come to do your will.
- Monument: Mary in Nazareth and at Calvary
2.1. According to ancient local tradition, Jerusalem was the birthplace of Mary. This tradition places her birth-house in the northeastern part of the city, near the Bethesda (Sheep) Pools, which today is commemorated with the Church of St. Anne. An apocryphal writing – Protoevangelium – describes St Anne’s husband Joachim to be an owner of large flocks of sheep, making it logical that he took residence near the pools of Jerusalem. The couple however remained childless and it was reported that Joachim was scorned by one of the bystanders when presenting offerings in the Temple, because God left him without offspring. Feeling deeply offended and downhearted he followed his flocks of sheep in the wilderness and did not return to his wife for a long time. In the rugged terrain of the Wadi Kelt where today rises the Coziba Monastery of St George, it is said that Joachim was informed by a supernatural appearance that a child would be born to him. So when Joachim returned to his wife in Bethesda, inspired with new hope, she became pregnant and gave birth to the girl Miriam/Mary.
2.2. The parents regarded this child as a gift of God, like Hannah and Elkanah’s Samuel. As Hannah and Elkanah had done, Joachim and Anne dedicated the child Mary to the Lord.
- Lenten Reflection
3.1. Endlessly and without falling into weariness, the Church repeats the memory of the wonderful event of the Annunciation. It recounts after all a high point in human history, similar to the Jewish constant remembering of the staunch faith of Abraham. Abraham is the Father of the faith of Israel; Mary is the Mother of the faith of the New Israel. Her yes to God did not however happily-end-ever-after with this event; according to the late Pope, John Paul II, Mary undertook a pilgrimage of faith which entered into ever deeper darkness until it reached its summit at Calvary. There she stood not just beneath the cross of her Son; at Calvary she stood for God – for God’s will, for God’s saving plan, for God’s love towards humanity.
- Contemporary Filipino Question: We hold dearly the title of Pueblo amante de Maria as fitting to our experience of Christian faith. We know that the spread of the Gospel in our islands came about by the Spanish missionaries’ use of the popular devotions – in particular the devotion to the Mother of God. We remember the miraculous defense of Manila against the Dutch through the assistance of Our Lady of La Naval. How many towns and villages everyday resounded with the prayer of the Holy Rosary and the Oracion of the Angelus towards six in the evening! Out of deep gratitude to her, we have dedicated our nation to her patronage under the titles of the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Shrine of our Lady of EDSA is the latest testimony of her undying love. Yet we cannot bask in the glories of our past without feeling responsible to the next generation of Filipinos. We strive to foster devotion to her in our families.