Blog Post - May 31st
The Visitation| The Queenship of Mary| S. Petronilla| Daily Meditation| Daily Quote by S. Padre Pio| Divine Mercy Reflection
The Visitation of The Blessed Virgin Mary
This is a fairly late feast, going back only to the 13th or 14th century. It was established widely throughout the Church to pray for unity. The present date of celebration was set in 1969 in order to follow the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25) and precede the Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24).
Like most feasts of Mary, it is closely connected with Jesus and his saving work. The more visible actors in the visitation drama (see Luke 1:39-45) are Mary and Elizabeth. However, Jesus and John the Baptist steal the scene in a hidden way. Jesus makes John leap with joy—the joy of messianic salvation. Elizabeth, in turn, is filled with the Holy Spirit and addresses words of praise to Mary—words that echo down through the ages.
It is helpful to recall that we do not have a journalist’s account of this meeting. Rather, Luke, speaking for the Church, gives a prayerful poet’s rendition of the scene. Elizabeth’s praise of Mary as “the mother of my Lord” can be viewed as the earliest Church’s devotion to Mary. As with all authentic devotion to Mary, Elizabeth’s (the Church’s) words first praise God for what God has done to Mary. Only secondly does she praise Mary for trusting God’s words.
Then comes the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Here Mary herself (like the Church) traces all her greatness to God.
One of the invocations in Mary’s litany is “Ark of the Covenant.” Like the Ark of the Covenant of old, Mary brings God’s presence into the lives of other people. As David danced before the Ark, John the Baptist leaps for joy. As the Ark helped to unite the 12 tribes of Israel by being placed in David’s capital, so Mary has the power to unite all Christians in her Son. At times, devotion to Mary may have occasioned some divisiveness, but we can hope that authentic devotion will lead all to Christ and therefore to one another.
“Moved by charity, therefore, Mary goes to the house of her kinswoman.... While every word of Elizabeth’s is filled with meaning, her final words would seem to have a fundamental importance: ‘And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her from the Lord’ (Luke 1:45). These words can be linked with the title ‘full of grace’ of the angel’s greeting. Both of these texts reveal an essential Mariological content, namely the truth about Mary, who has become really present in the mystery of Christ precisely because she ‘has believed.’ The fullness of grace announced by the angel means the gift of God himself. Mary’s faith, proclaimed by Elizabeth at the visitation, indicates how the Virgin of Nazareth responded to this gift” (Blessed John Paul II,The Mother of the Redeemer, 12).
In the Latin calendar today we celebrate the Feast Day of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A story about this Feast Day can be found by Clicking Here.
The Queenship of Mary is very closely associated with the dogma of her Assumption into heaven. Catholic Tradition holds that once Mary, the Mother of God was assumed into heaven at the end of her earthy life, she was then crowned as Queen of both Heaven and Earth to reign alongside her Son, the King. This is why the two events in Mary's life are side by side in the Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae writes of this Glorious Mystery of her Coronation:
“Christ was raised in glory to the right hand of the Father, while Mary herself would be raised to that same glory in the Assumption, enjoying beforehand, by a unique privilege, the destiny reserved for all the just at the resurrection of the dead. Crowned in glory – as she appears in the last glorious mystery – Mary shines forth as Queen of the Angels and Saints, the anticipation and the supreme realization of the eschatological state of the Church.”
Here we see that after the end of Mary's earthly life she was exalted even above the angels in heaven, having a unique privilege and place as the Mother of Jesus Christ, who is both fully God and fully man.
Mary's glory in heaven is a picture or foreshadowing for all Christians of the similar heavenly glory meant for those who share in her Son's passion, death, and resurrection. She received first, and in the most perfect way, that which is destined for all of us.
BIBLICAL BASIS OF MARY'S ROYALTY
The doctrine of the Queenship of Mary is based in part on a vision given to St. John the Apostle (the disciple given to the care of Mary after Our Lord's death) that he writes about in the Book of Revelation 12:1-5. That text reads,
“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered. And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems: And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne.”
The woman in this passage is Mary, and the child is her Son, Jesus Christ. Notice that in this passage Mary is wearing a crown of twelve stars, which is representative of the twelve tribes of Israel (her ancestry - in Israel's history, it was the mother of the king who reigned as queen) and the twelve Apostles (the foundation of the Church, who regarded her as Mother).
This biblical evidence, combined with other biblical evidence of Mary's special place in God's plan of salvation (Mary as the Ark of the Covenant, Mary as the new Eve, Mary as the Mother of the Church) is foundational to the understanding of her coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth in Church Tradition.
HER QUEENSHIP IN CHURCH TRADITION
Mary is the Mother of the Church because she was the Mother of Jesus Christ, who is God. This profound familial relationship is not somehow dissolved or lessened in significance after Mary's death, but instead is exalted. Just as Christ is exalted in heaven as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Mary is similarly exalted in heaven as Queen Mother.
In this life Mary shared in the Passion of Christ, and in heaven she shares in the Glory of Christ. This privilege of reigning with Christ is not meant for Mary alone, but she is our example in that all of us are intended to reign with Jesus in heaven, too. Mary has the special exalted place as Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church, who helps the faithful journey to her Son.
There is a long tradition among the Church Fathers on the Queenship of Mary. St. Ephrem (4th century) referred to Mary as “Lady” and “Queen.” St. John Damascene (7th century) spoke beautifully of Mary in a sermon:
“We, too, approach thee to-day, O Queen; and again, I say, O Queen, O Virgin Mother of God, staying our souls with our trust in thee, as with a strong anchor.
Lifting up mind, soul and body, and all ourselves to thee, rejoicing in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles, we reach through thee One who is beyond our reach on account of His Majesty.
If, as the divine Word made flesh taught us, honour shown to servants, is honour shown to our common Lord, how can honour shown to thee, His Mother, be slighted? How is it not most desirable? Art thou not honoured as the very breath of life?
Thus shall we best show our service to our Lord Himself . . . . Watch over us, O Queen, the dwelling-place of our Lord. Lead and govern all our ways as thou wilt. Save us from our sins.
Lead us into the calm harbour of the divine will. Make us worthy of future happiness through the sweet and face-to-face vision of the Word made flesh through thee. With Him, glory, praise, power, and majesty be to the Father and to the holy and life-giving Spirit, now and forever. Amen."
Also today in the Latin Calendar we commemorate S. Petronilla, Virgin.
On the mystery surrounding a saint venerated in the month of May
What remains of Petronilla is a Mass, a painting and a mysterious fresco. In honour of this saint, every year, on 31 May, Mass is celebrated in the Vatican Basilica at the altar dedicated to her, the daughter of the Apostle Peter, and in front of the great mosaic reproduction of the painting by Guercino which depicts her burial and glory. But the celebration and the huge 17th-century painting are only the culmination of a long and intricate history lasting nearly 20 centuries. At the beginning there is an allusion to the wife of Cephas in the authentic Letter of Paul (1 Cor 9:5) and a well-known Gospel episode, when Jesus heals the fever of the mother-in-law of the first of the Apostles (Mk 1:29-31). To these sparse historical references later, in the middle of the fourth century, an equally certain fact was superimposed: the image of a martyr, Petronilla, frescoed in the Roman catacomb of Domitilla.
Peter was married, and although in the texts of the New Testament there is no allusion to a descendant, there is no reason to think that he did not have any. His daughter came on the scene instead without name, later, in a Coptic fragment (fourth or fifth century) belonging to a Greek apocryphal text, the Acts of Peter, written toward the end of the second century. “Why did you not rescue your daughter, a virgin, who grew up beautiful and who has believed in the name of the Lord? See, she has a side completely paralyzed and is lying there helpless in a corner. We see those that you have restored to health while you have not helped your daughter in any way”, said the crowd to the Apostle, almost scolding him.
From here the story takes a dramatic turn: to show that God can do anything, Peter obtained the girl’s recovery, but only for a moment, and immediately after he ordered her to return to her previous state. When faced with the tears and entreaties of those present, he explains that his daughter was paralyzed as a result of his prayers, after being kidnapped by the rich Ptolemy, who finally returned her to her parents. “We took her away, praising the Lord that had spared his servant from violence, shame and corruption. That is why the girl is in this state”, concludes the Apostle. The rich suitor repents and, after his death, leaves in his will a piece of land to the girl. Peter sells it but, keeping nothing for himself or his daughter, distributes the proceeds to the poor.
A text of Gnostic origin, the Acts of Peter presents the episode in a negative light, and consequently a radical lack of esteem for devaluation of the body, the sexual dimension and marriage. A tendency that was accentuated in the allusion to the same episode in another Gnostic apocryphal work, the Acts of Philip, written in Greek at the beginning of the fourth century: “Peter, the leader, thus fled from every place where there was a woman. Moreover he was embarrassed on account of his daughter, who was very beautiful. Therefore he prayed to the Lord and she became paralyzed on one side, so that she might not be beguiled”.
A correction in the orthodox sense of the Gnostic legend took place in the sixth century, when in the Passion of Sts Nereus and Achilleus the name of Petronilla appears (which recalls by its similarity that of Peter), healed by her father and then betrothed to the pagan Flacco. However he died after three days, and she thus avoided the unwanted marriage. In the second half of the 13th century this version was inserted and widely circulated in the Legenda Aurea of the Dominican James of Voragine: the paralysis, however, was reduced to a fever, and Peter heals her completely, she only escapes the constraint to marry by dying. Herewith the iconography up to the painting by Guercino.
With her story Petronilla, who died without issue in Late Antiquity, emphasizes the rejection of any dynastic claim to the succession of the Apostle, just as strict rules prohibit the appointment of a Successor by the Bishop of Rome who is in office. Meanwhile, the presence of the burial chamber of Petronilla — “a most sweet daughter” — in the catacombs of Domitilla suggests the identification with that of the Apostle as does the dedication of a church nearby. In the same catacomb there is an unnoticed fresco depicting a young Christian martyr, Petronilla, who leads another woman, Veneranda, into paradise.
Time passed, and half way through the ninth century, to symbolically support the strategic alliance with the Frankish kings, the sarcophagus of Petronilla was translated to the Basilica built by Constantine over the tomb of the Apostle, in a small Theodosian mausoleum which became the Shrine of the new protectors of the See of Rome. So from then on, the daughter of St Peter was affiliated to “the eldest daughter of the Church”. In fact it was a French cardinal who paid a very young Florentine sculptor, Michelangelo Buonarroti, for a marvellous Pietà that was placed in the ancient chapel, later demolished. But the new Basilica would host the one in honour of St Petronilla, to the right of the altar of the Chair by Bernini. And if modernity seems opposed to ties with France, it is precisely the French ambassadors to the Holy See, from Chateaubri to the representatives of the Republic, without distinction, who have kept it alive, even to restoring the annual Mass in the second half of the 19th century. In honour of a mysterious girl, but one of whom there there remains certain Christian witness in the footsteps of Peter.
Only From God:
No one can save your soul but God in Jesus and the Spirit. God's grace--that is, the total, unconditional love surrounding every human being-- comes only from God. We ask the saints in heaven to pray for us. But none of them grants grace.-- S. Anthony of Padua
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
(God) is waiting for the voice of our repentance to silence His thundering... our tears to extinguish His lightning.
Divine Mercy Reflection
Reflections on Notebook Two: 112-188
We now enter into Notebook Two of the six notebooks that make up the Diary of Saint Faustina. The reason for having more than one notebook is simply that when one notebook was filled by Saint Faustina she began with a new one. Therefore, there is nothing particularly different from one notebook to the other. However, for the purpose of this current book of daily reflections, each reflection will begin to be lengthened, starting here with Notebook Two, so as to help you, the reader, enter more deeply into the beautiful mysteries of faith and our shared spiritual life that have been revealed in these writings of Saint Faustina.
You are invited once again to take one reflection each day and to ponder it throughout the day. Try to pray the prayer for each reflection each morning, noon and evening. Allow each mystery reflected upon to become a source of wisdom and understanding for you.
Reflection 151: Spiritual Kinship
In order to be truly close to someone else, and to understand them on a deep level, is it necessary to speak continually and to share every detail of your mind and heart? Not if both souls are intimately united with God. In that case, very little has to be said in order for each person to recognize a shared unity and to understand the other. When God is alive in each person, it is His presence that unites them and enables them to know the other. This produces the blessing of a spiritual kinship which could never be attained in any other way, not even after years of constant talking and sharing. The unity that comes from a shared knowledge of God is far superior and far more effective in establishing a beautiful friendship than any other means (See Diary #768).
Think about your friendships. What is the basis of those relationships? Hopefully your friendships are grounded in your life of faith and love of God. Reflect upon how easily you are able to speak about your faith with your friends. While it’s good to offer friendship and love to all people, it’s also healthy to seek out those with whom you can share a spiritual kinship. Allow the Holy Spirit to draw you to others with whom you can share this depth of love and spiritual friendship and the Lord will bless you with an abundance of His Mercy through them.
Lord, I thank You for the gift of those people in my life who have a strong faith in You. Help me to rely upon those friendships and, in them, to discover Your merciful Heart. Help me also to be an instrument of Mercy to all whom You have placed in my life. Lord, You are my closest friend and I thank You for this precious gift of Your friendship and Your love for me. Jesus, I trust in You.