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The Blessed Virgin Mary – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Since the Middle Ages, Saturday has normally been a day to especially remember, to commemorate the Blessed Virgin Mary, a tradition we follow here at the Monastery.  Hence the liturgical color for today: blue, because of heavenly blue.  One of the titles ascribed to Mary is “Queen of Heaven.”

We know from the Gospel accounts that Mary said “yes” to the visiting angels who bore the news to Mary that she was to be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah.  In our hymnody, this has been called “the glad tidings” of the angels.  That’s how it ended, but it’s not how it began.  Mary’s first reaction to the angels’ news was fear and disbelief?  “How can this be?” she says.  Of course the Gospel account was written down many, many decades following this event, and so what we read in the Gospels are the remembered, edited snippets of what happened long ago.  We don’t know how long it took Mary to finally say “yes” to God: “Be it unto me according to your word” as we read the Gospel account.  Nor do we know if the angels visited other women prior to Mary, women who said “no, no thank you.”[i]

The Church’s Saturday commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary is for two reasons.  For one, it’s because of our innate need for heroes: people to look up to, to revere, to emulate.  In the contemporary vernacular, we call these people “role models,” and we all need them.  We particularly need people to look up to when the way is difficult, when life’s challenges are so great and we feel so small.  For so many people down through the centuries, Mary is such a one: her suffering as a Mother, both in the birth and death of her son; her fear, converted into confidence; her generous availability to God; her advocacy on our behalf, whispering for us into God’s ears when God seems too distant or unknowable or formidable.  For these reasons and more, so many people down through the centuries have looked to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

And secondly, the angels’ visitation to Mary – asking Mary if she would bear and give birth to the Christ child – is not just an historic account remembered by the church.  Mary serves as a reminder of God’s visitation to all of us all the time.  In the fourteenth century, Meister Eckhart, a German-born Dominican Friar, said, “What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself?  And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace and if I am not also full of grace?  What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture?  This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of God is begotten in us.”[ii]

The invitation for all of us, which we witness in the Blessed Virgin Mary, is not just to receive Jesus but to conceive Jesus, to give birth to Jesus’ light and life and love for this world through how God has uniquely created each one of us: through our very words and eyes and hands and heart to bring Jesus into the world, into our world.  Our simply waking up to a new dawn is evidence that God has something more for us to give birth to in this life, in the name, and love, and power of Jesus.  Each day is a new invitation, a new visitation from God to each of us to bear and give birth to Jesus.  The Blessed Virgin Mary gives us the example and the courage to say yes: “Be it unto me.”


[i] Luke 1:26-38.

[ii] Meister Eckhart (c. 1260-1327), German born, entered the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) around age fifteen.  He became a popular preacher at Strasbourg and Cologne, a prominent theme being the union between the human soul and God.

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5 Comments

  1. Richard Warren Wheeler on May 31, 2016 at 09:13

    It took me a bit of time to understand that Mary’s role did not end at the birth of Christ. Not indeed. She was with him all the way. As Christ spread the word, Mary recruited a good number of mothers who joined her in supplying the food and the being on hand as Christ traveled and spread the word. Rick Wheeler

  2. Ruth West on September 8, 2015 at 18:00

    Thank you, Brother, for this homily re: Mary. To me, she is the supreme example of obedience. Maybe she didn’t say “yes” immediately. But the fact is, she obeyed. How we need to follow her in saying, “Yes, Lord,” Also, “Be it unto me according to your Word.”

  3. Muriel Akam on September 8, 2015 at 14:45

    Mary ,the mother of our Lord Jesus is indeed a role model for all of us.The acceptance of giving birth in humble circumstances, and the pain she must have felt at the crucifixion does not bear thinking about but also the joy she would have experienced on seeing the risen Christ resonates with us all. Parents do not have it easy but we can face life’s ups and downs with grace when we know we are not alone.

  4. Jeff Schiffmayer on September 8, 2015 at 12:41

    Thankyou Curtis.
    Your thoughts about Mary are helpful and challenging! It
    Expands on the teaching that our faith is not a doctrine to be held or defended but a life-style to be lived, even if we were the only one.

  5. Kara Wagner Sherer on September 8, 2015 at 08:01

    Dear Brother Curtis – Thank you for remembering our mother Mary. What you say about the pain of her son’s birth and death rings true. As a mother I would add that raising children is equally, if not more painful than the temporary pangs of birth. We see this in the story of Jesus in the temple. Lits of joys of course but parenthood is not easy!

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