60 Second Reflections
September 8, 2021
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Feast
What is in a name? Today we celebrate the nativity, or birthday, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is called by our sisters and brothers in the Eastern Orthodox Church “Theotokos,” a name meaning “God-bearer.” Micah did not know her by name, but we know she is the same woman whom Micah tells us will give birth to the one who shall be peace. Joseph is told by the angel of the Lord to name that child Jesus because the word means “God saves,” or perhaps even more faithful to its etymology “Yahweh, help!” as this child will save God’s people from their sins. Matthew’s Gospel begins with an onerous list of names, linking Jesus all the way back to Abraham through the line of Joseph. That genealogy ends with the birth of Jesus called the Messiah, which name in Greek is Christ, meaning “the anointed.” Jesus, the Messiah, the Anointed, the Christ, born to shepherd his flock in the majestic name of the Lord, our God.
The prophet Isaiah, writing about 700 years before this would happen, likely had the name of the mother of King Hezekiah in mind when he made his prediction that the virgin would bear a son, the word used for “virgin” there more accurately translated as “young unmarried woman.” But unbeknownst to him, the Holy Spirit was preparing for another nativity, one that would give complete fulfillment to the significance of the name Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” God is with us, with each one of us, without exception. As the Lord proclaimed also through the prophet Isaiah: Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine. So what is in a name? Nothing less than the salvation of the entire world. Mi 5:1-4a (alt. Rom 8:28-30); Ps 13:6ab, 6c; Mt 1:1-16, 18-23
The Blessed Virgin Mary is indeed known by many names. This is the last reflection I will be writing for the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii as I will be beginning a new position at a parish bearing another of her names, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in Darien, IL. I am grateful to you who have put aside time in this tumultuous and topsy-turvy time to spend some time with me reflecting on Scripture, which is always consequential and always challenging and always comforting, all at the same time. And it reveals again and again and again that God is indeed always with us.
Peace be with us all,
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