Simbang Gabi – Day Eight

24 Dec

“And Mary said: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.’ Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.” (Luke 1:46-56)

I’ve posted the Magnificat before, as part of my ongoing study of the Gospel of Luke on this blog, but with two days to go until Christmas it’s worth posting it and reflecting on it again.

Just after Elizabeth and Zechariah were told that the aged Elizabeth was visited by the Holy Spirit and would miraculously bear a child, Mary accepted a similar miracle from God- she became pregnant with Our Lord Jesus Christ. At first, Mary is described by Luke as being “perplexed” at the greeting of the angel Gabriel and at the message that she would bear a son. (cf. Luke 1:29) Though Mary was confused, she accepted this gift of God. The nurturing of this gift would become the focus of Mary’s life, and would be for the benefit of all people. After thinking about God’s call to her and while visiting Elizabeth, Mary realizes the joy and speaks to its depth in the Magnificat.

Friday morning, since Christmas was coming and my shopping wasn’t done yet, and because the eighth Mass of Simbang-Gabi centered around the virtue of compassion, I thought of times when I have received a beautiful gift and not been immediately able to use it or to appreciate its greatness. But the gift would either benefit me or another person more in the future. I can think of only a few times that this has happened to me directly, but people I know have been affected in such a way.

A child is such a gift. Parenting (I can only guess, since I’m not a parent) can seem like a chore at times. It can be confusing. God gives parents the wonderful task of rearing children lovingly. The life-giving union between a mother and father are a source of God’s love for each other and for their children. Children are God’s miracles, even though they seem like works in progress. Mary knew this, and still she accepted the undertaking. Her child would go on to save the world from sin through His death and resurrection. Mary is the foremost woman in co-operation with God’s promise to all. She is the Mother of God because she shows compassion.

In the Bible, there are at least three occurrences of Mary showing her great compassion: at the Nativity of Jesus Christ, at the wedding at Cana, and at the foot of the Cross.

Prior to the births of John and of Jesus, Mary went to care for her expectant cousin Elizabeth and for Zechariah. Mary’s Magnificat is a recognition of God’s mercy. Importantly, many of the phrases of the Magnificat are affirmations of God’s actions that are done through those who do His will. We are to be instruments of the Lord’s works and praise Him. We are to be merciful; our mercy disperses any arrogance in mind and heart that we may have. We are to lift up the lowly and feed the hungry. If we are rich materially, we should recognize our spiritual poverty and draw upon the source of strength that is God and upon the example of the saints, especially that of Our Lady. God will help His servants in His mercy and remember His promises.

Our ability to do good works in the Lord’s name was made possible by this first act of compassion of Mary. She co-operated in God’s plan, and all recognize her as Blessed. We ponder the merciful and charitable works others do for us, in the same way Mary pondered and treasured God’s Word in her heart. (cf. Luke 2:19, 2:51)

Mary’s second main act of compassion was at the wedding at Cana. The couple being married had run out of wine. It was humiliating to a couple in the Jewish culture of the day to run out of wine at a wedding. Mary cared for the couple at Cana and didn’t want to submit them to ridicule. Therefore, Mary was so confident in Jesus that she turned to Him and asked that He miraculously provide the wedding party with wine. Mary told the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:5) Jesus did as His mother requested, though His hour had not yet come (cf. John 2:4) and turned the water into wine.

Thirdly, Mary’s compassion was apparent during the Lord’s Passion. At the fourth Station of the Cross, Jesus meets His mother, and up to the moment of Christ’s death, Mary was with Him, even when most of His followers had scattered in fear. Fittingly, then, Jesus Christ entrusted to Mary the care of John, and also the care of all the apostles and of the whole Church:

“…He said to His mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” (John 18:26-27)

Thus, Mary is the model of compassion at the Nativity, at the wedding at Cana, and at the foot of the Cross. She is also our model of compassion today in our lives. When we are joyful, Mary shares in our joy. When we suffer under our crosses, Mary is our example then, too.

The word “compassion” derives from the Latin “com-“(with) and “-patie” (to suffer). One who is compassionate is prepared to suffer and to empathize with another. Compassion involves a passion- a sense of urgency. The greatest Passion is of course that of Our Lord leading to Calvary. We turn to Our Lady as the perfect example of one who is with us and shares life with us at every step on the journey. We pray:

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope,
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve,
To thee do we send up our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

Turn then, most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy toward us;
And after this our exile show unto us
The blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Pray for us O holy Mother of God,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.




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