On the eight day of Christmas my true love gave to me, the Blessed Virgin, Mother Mary- Luke 2:16-21

On the eight day of Christmas my true love gave to me, the Blessed Virgin, Mother Mary- Luke 2:16-21

Even as we slip into a secular new year, the Gospel continues to proclaim the Christmas story though clearly with one purpose, to honour our Blessed Mother who co-operated with God’s plan of salvation that gave us so great a saviour.

The spotlight falls on Mary today as we celebrate, on this the eight day of Christmas another gift from our true love; God. In 1970, Pope Paul VI instituted the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. In his encyclical on devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, ‘Marialis Cultus’ (1974), he wrote, “This celebration, assigned to January the first is in conformity with the ancient liturgy of the city of Rome. It is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the holy Mother … through whom we were found worthy … to receive the Author of life.”

The gift of Mary is not just a gift given to us by God alone but a gift that Jesus, the second person of the divine trinity also gave us from the cross when he said to John, “behold your mother.” Yet from the cross we were not just given ‘a gift’ but an inheritance. Here was Jesus dying on the cross and from the cross he was dictating his last will and testament given not just by his own hand but in his own blood.

Inheritances can be stolen but this was given to its legitimate heirs; to you and me, for we are the brothers and sisters of Our Lord. This inheritance cannot be usurped yet it is so great that many more can share in this inheritance especially those who freely become children of God. They then share in this inheritance by virtue that they accept the name of Jesus (John 1)

What do we do with a gift?
This is a question we need to ask ourselves. Gifts come wrapped in lovely ribbon and paper. A gift invokes a certain sense of curiosity, you want to know what is inside. No one takes a gift and leaves it on a shelf hoping that someday the wrapper will fall off miraculously. You need to open it and behold what lies behind the sheets of paper. On this Holy Day, God gives us Mary under the title of Mother of God. While our Blessed Mother is loved by many, there are still so many who have left her like an unwrapped gift on a shelf. You have to discover her by pondering like she did on what might seem simple and ordinary and yes perhaps repetitive and as some say boring; namely the rosary.

Recently an artist who painted a portrait of Pope Benedict was given access to his personal effects in order to get the details right. The staff around the Holy Father gave even his pectoral cross to be studied but when it came to his rosary, they were unable to give it. “How can we give you something that he never let’s go of throughout the day and night?”

The Gospel of today wants to draw our attention to the fact that while many were left in awe or amazement, Mary treasured and pondered what she saw and heart. The amazement of many at the time of Jesus was just a transient moment. The Greek word for amazed is used in this text in the aorist tense but Mary’s pondering was in the imperfect tense. Here pondering was not transient it was an abiding habit. While both the IMPERFECT and AORIST tenses refer to past actions, and so are past tenses, they differ in aspect. The aorist tense always conveys a single, discreet action (i.e. simple aspect). This is the most common tense for referring to action in the past. The imperfect tense always conveys past activity that was more than a single action in some way (i.e. ongoing aspect)

Not only was her pondering a habit we are told that she treasured all these things. The Greek word for “treasured,” synetērei has several nuances and one of them means to “kept safe.” The word synetērei is used once more in the Gospels, in Mark 6:20. Herod protected John the Baptist (kept him safe) for a time.

Elsewhere, “treasured” is translated as dietērei meaning “to keep carefully.” There is a slight difference here between keeping carefully and keeping safe. Dietēreidia is derived “from dia and tereo; to watch thoroughly, to observe strictly, or to avoid wholly—keep.”

With synetērei, we see Mary protecting Immanuel; she realizes He is in danger which is confirmed in Joseph’s dream (Luke 2:13) after the Magi leave. The Gospel wants to make a point. She is not just a woman with her head in the clouds, she is a woman with her feet on the ground. She has a heart that ponders and a being that acts in protection of the treasure she has been given. We are called to have both, the pondering before the lord and the protection of the faith from men.

Finally, our Blessed mother shares her son with all of us. Jesus is not tied to his mother’s apron. She is willing to share Jesus with all of us if we but come to the manger to worship him. There is a beautiful little story about a long, tedious train journey, made one Christmas day by some elderly residents of a nursing home who were on their way to a vacation spot. At one station, a young mother with a small child entered the train. The child smiled at all the grim faces around him and began moving from one lap to another talking, shouting with joy and chatting with everyone. Instantly, the grim and silent atmosphere in the train was changed to one of joy and happiness. Today we remember with joy and gratitude how Mary and her Divine Son Jesus transformed a hopeless, joyless and sinful world into a place of joy and happiness.

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