Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Am planning to spend Thanksgiving dinner in Marblehead, about fifty miles to the north.  Beautiful town that is a lot more beautiful when one has a GPS program on the cell phone.  The only way to learn to get around there is to be born there.  It ain't a town made for strangers.

Traffic is already getting heavy on the interstates and Mass Pike.  I had to run some errands out to Target and Lowe's.  Had I been asked to do so the day after Thanksgiving rather than the day before the vow of holy obedience would have had to be invoked.

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Zech 2:14-17
Mt 12:46-50

Like the Memorial of Sts. Ann and Joachim, the narrative of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary comes from the pious and fundamentally unreliable Protoevangelium of James.   The celebration first appeared in the East around the 7th century.  It appeared in the Western Church in the 14th century, was stricken from the calendar by Pius V, who reigned from 1566 to 1572, and was reintroduced in 1585 by Sixtus V.  This feast, like the aforementioned memorial of Ann and Joachim, fills  what would otherwise be a pious lacuna and provides Mary, whose childhood is otherwise hidden,  with a history to precede her appearance in the synoptics.  

The first reading from Zechariah is celebratory in the extreme.  As noted in the Jewish Study Bible  "Rabbinic Judaism interpreted many of the texts in Zechariah in relation to the Messianic time to come."  Thus it is no surprise to read in the same source that  "The early Christian readers interpreted many verses in Zechariah in Christological terms." 

Today in Synagogues this particular reading from Zechariah marks the beginning of the long haftorah, the reading following the Torah, for the first Sabbath of Hanukkah.  This year Hanukkah begins on Saturday evening December 8.  On Saturday morning December 15, Jews throughout the world will hear,
"Sing and rejoice O daughter Zion!
See I am coming to dwell among you. . . " 

The ecstasy in the Lord's immanence jumps off the page.  The joyous hope of the writer is shared with the people.  That joy is something of a contrast to the tension in the Gospel though, in fact, the tension is more perceived than real. There is no hostility or rejection or anger in Jesus' reply to the anonymous someone who informed him of his family's presence, unless the reader or commentator wants it to be there.

In the first reading we heard, "Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day and they shall be his people and he shall dwell among them."  Jesus' response here confirms that prophecy.  "Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother."  Those who do the will of the heavenly Father are those who join themselves to the Lord.  They become his people and he dwells among them.

The prophecy of Zechariah has been fulfilled.  The Lord dwells among us, and nourishes us with his Body and Blood.  In that light can we do anything other than sing and rejoice?
The photos are from autumns past, mostly at Gloucester. 

The first is not from Gloucester but rather from Longwood Gardens just outside Philadelphia.   I'm giving a retreat in Baltimore in two weeks.  Will drive to my sister's in Delaware a day earlier than necessary so as to fit in a trip there on the way south. 
This is a view of Philadelphia at sunset a few autumns ago when the Jesuit physicians had their annual meeting at St. Joseph's University.  The guest house was lacking space.  I was quite pleased to stay at the old Holiday Inn on City Line.
This was the view.  
Pine cones at Gloucester.  
Some of the homes near Niles Pond (fresh water) near the entrance to the retreat house in Gloucester.   I walked by those homes almost daily during the long retreat as a novice.  
Autumn leaves at sunset somewhere on the grounds at Gloucester.
The view of the Atlantic Ocean from "The Rocks" at the retreat house in Gloucester.  I hope to get up there for a few days at some point simply to wander with the camera.  

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving. 
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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