Thursday, March 25, 2021

    Feast of the Annunciation    

    Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation.

    On this day 2,021 years ago, or thereabouts, the angel Gabriel came to Mary and announced to her that she would bear a son.

    Mary, confused and troubled about what the message might mean, asked the angel how this might occur, since she had never known a man.

    Gabriel told her that the power of the Most High would overshadow her, and that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Mary said, “Let it be done unto me (“Fiat mihi“) according to thy word.”

    At that moment, with her “Fiat,” the history of the universe changed.

    What had fallen into corruption and the frustration of sin and death in the sin of Adam and Eve was to be healed by the sacrificial death of the divine Son she would bear.

    The world, the entire universe, all reality, would now have hope again, even in the face of sin and death…

    Since March 25 is precisely nine months before Christmas, December 25, it is in a sense the beginning of Christmas, so it is one of the most joyful feasts of all. A very blessed and joyful Feast of the Annunciation to you. —RM

    “Why did Christ really want to be born of a virgin?”

    Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI, was a prolific writer, and among his works we find the two passages concerning the Annunciation. I thank Catholic World Report for choosing and posting these two passages earlier today (link):

    The Mystery of the Annunciation is the Mystery of Grace

    By Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI)

    The mystery of the annunciation to Mary is not just a mystery of silence. It is above and beyond all that a mystery of grace.

    We feel compelled to ask ourselves: Why did Christ really want to be born of a virgin? It was certainly possible for him to have been born of a normal marriage. That would not have affected his divine Sonship, which was not dependent on his virgin birth and could equally well have been combined with another kind of birth. There is no question here of a downgrading of marriage or of the marriage relationship; nor is it a question of better safeguarding the divine Sonship. Why then?

    We find the answer when we open the Old Testament and see that the mystery of Mary is prepared for at every important stage in salvation history. It begins with Sarah, the mother of Isaac, who had been barren, but when she was well on in years and had lost the power of giving life, became, by the power of God, the mother of Isaac and so of the chosen people.

    The process continues with Anna, the mother of Samuel, who was likewise barren, but eventually gave birth; with the mother of Samson, or again with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer. The meaning of all these events is the same: that salvation comes, not from human beings and their powers, but solely from God — from an act of his grace.

    “Marian devotion is the rapture of joy over the true, indestructible Israel”

    By Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI)

    The annunciation to Mary happens to a woman, in an insignificant town in half-pagan Galilee, known neither to Josephus nor the Talmud. The entire scene was “unusual for Jewish sensibilities. God reveals himself, where and to whom he wishes.” Thus begins a new way, at whose center stands no longer the temple, but the simplicity of Jesus Christ. He is now the true temple, the tent of meeting.

    The salutation to Mary (Lk 1:28-32) is modeled closely on Zephaniah 3: 14-17: Mary is the daughter Zion addressed there, summoned to “rejoice,” informed that the Lord is coming to her. Her fear is removed, since the Lord is in her midst to save her.

    Laurentin makes the very beautiful remark on this text: “… As so often, the word of God proves to be a mustard seed…. One understands why Mary was so frightened by this message (Lk 1:29). Her fear comes not from lack of understanding nor from that small-hearted anxiety to which some would like to reduce it. It comes from the trepidation of that encounter with God, that immeasurable joy which can make the most hardened natures quake.”

    In the address of the angel, the underlying motif the Lucan portrait of Mary surfaces: she is in person the true Zion, toward whom hopes have yearned throughout all the devastations of history.

    She is the true Israel in whom Old and New Covenant, Israel and Church, are indivisibly one.

    She is the “people of God” bearing fruit through God’s gracious power…

    Transcending all problems, Marian devotion is the rapture of joy over the true, indestructible Israel; it is a blissful entering into the joy of the Magnificat and thereby it is the praise of Him to whom the daughter Zion owes her whole self and whom she bears — the true, incorruptible, indestructible Ark of the Covenant.

    From Daughter Zion: Meditations on the Church’s Marian Belief (Ignatius Press, 1983).

Homily of Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa: Solemnity of the Annunciation 2021 (link)

“An invitation not to flee from the real”
Homily for Solemnity of the Annunciation 2021
Nazareth, March 25, 2021

By Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa,
leader of the Roman Catholic community in the Holy Land

    Dear brothers and sisters

    May the Lord grant you peace!

    Last year, in this period, we were all shocked by the pandemic breaking into our personal and collective lives. Everything was new, and we felt unprepared for such a situation. In reality, a tiny virus paralyzed ordinary life worldwide and wiped out economic and social programs in almost every country.

    Now, a year later, we do not have the clearest ideas. Fear has led us to think that the world is a hostile and dangerous place. Maybe we can better manage the health emergency, but everything else — the economy, sociality, education, work, everything — is even more fragile and exposed to many questions.

    We come here today to bring our difficult experience before the Virgin of Nazareth and ask ourselves what we can learn from what we have experienced. We have asked ourselves about the economy, social life, and health. But what does all this say about our faith?

    Faith and life must talk to each other. Faith is also a particular way of receiving life. Our principle relationship, one with the Lord, can and must enlighten our experience and help us understand the signs of the times.

    The Lord himself asks us: “You know how to judge the appearance of the sky, but you cannot judge the signs of the times?” (Matt. 16:3).

    That is the precise question that we most often asked ourselves in the Church during this past year. In that period, when we almost always had closed churches, suspended celebrations, without Easter and Christmas, and where even the faith life seemed to become virtual, with online Masses, Pastoral ministry on Zoom, remote blessings, and so on.

    Let us then allow ourselves to be questioned by today’s solemnity and try to take a further step to understand, as far as possible, what the Lord is showing us.

    The first consideration, precisely, concerns the mystery of the Incarnation.

    Today we celebrate the “yes” of Mary, who permitted God to break into the reality of the world assuming our very flesh.

    Here the Word of God took flesh in everything but sin, took our humanity. And that already tells us how much God loves our reality.

    The world has never been a happy island: problems of every kind, injustice, division, wars; there are diseases today as in the past and always.

    But all this has not prevented in any way the fulfillment of God’s plan in our world. Our disobedience did not stop His desire for salvation. He became one of us because He so loved us. If we had been made perfect, perhaps, there would be no need for a plan of salvation, of His intervention in history.

    Therefore, celebrating today the Incarnation also means knowing how to welcome and love this world’s reality, just as God loved it.

    It is not a question of closing eyes to the pain of the world and ours.

    It is to believe in the certainty that this world, wounded and offended, is nevertheless the place in which God manifested himself and in which He met us, and where we still meet him today.

    There is nothing, in fact, in this world that can prevent us from living fully.

    Faith also involves recognizing the beauty of our reality, knowing how to face the facts of life, whether beautiful or tiring, with the certainty of the good that dwells in us, a Word that saves us.

    Faced with the Archangel’s request, incredible and humanly impossible to understand, Mary responds with confidence in the Provident God, whom she knows she can trust.

    We said that increasingly, especially in this last year, in school, in work, and even in the Church, we have lived more virtually than really. In this year of lockdown, technology has come to our aid and allowed us to maintain a minimum of sociableness.

    But it is not through technology that we will meet the Lord; it will not be virtual Masses that will save us, nor even social media, but a personal encounter with the Lord.

    The mystery we celebrate today is also an invitation not to flee from the real, not to avoid dealing with who we are but, on the contrary, to find in one’s reality, personal and communal, as it is, the signs of God’s presence, the place to meet Him.

    We need to recover a positive and serene view on the Church and the world, still inhabited by His presence.

    Evil, pain, injustices, and our loneliness cannot be the only voice that challenges us.

    Even today, if we want to listen to Him, God invites us to welcome His Word sown in each of us and that wants to bear fruit, “a hundred, sixty, thirtyfold” (Matt. 13:8).

    In this world, this society, this Church, we are invited to pronounce our “yes” to God who calls us for His salvation project.

    A “yes” that translates then into concrete and positive action for good and justice, a “yes” that prevails over all fear and worry because “nothing is impossible to God” (Lk 1:37).

    The Gospel account that we have heard speaks to us of so many witnesses surrounding the Annunciation event: it speaks of the spouse of Mary, Joseph, whose solemnity we celebrated a few days ago; it speaks of Elizabeth, who, despite being elderly, is pregnant, waiting for the Baptist; of course, there is the Archangel Gabriel, and above all the Holy Spirit.

    This plan of salvation is not an intimate action reserved for the Virgin but sets others in motion, creates a community of persons united by the “yes” of Mary to the movement of the Spirit of God.

    Behind that “yes,” in short, are protagonists of salvation history, witnesses of past and present who, moved and guided by the Spirit, became collaborators in the realization of the Divine plan.

    We can say that the ultimate meaning of the Annunciation is Pentecost: Mary is filled with the Spirit to beget Christ so that He, through Easter and the gift of the Holy Spirit, can be generated in all believers.

    The Spirit gives us a new way of looking, the ability to grasp God’s work within the various passages of history.

    It enables us to recognize Christ also in the life of others.

    And we always need this because, if it is true that everyone must find within themselves the security of their relationship with God, it is also true that there is a confirmation that can only come from outside, in the relationship with the other.

    Today more than ever, we need witnesses that help us to stand with hope and trust in the face of the facts of life, who collaborate to make our “yes” to God determined and confident.

    We need the Church, that is, believers who are united precisely by that “yes”, a community with a free and serene look at the life of the world, without fear and desirous to construct and promote the good and justice.

    And I am thinking now about our Land and our Church: how we need this gaze!

    How we need trust in the Holy Spirit, who gives our Church the capacity and determination to fulfill His Word here, among us, that we also say with the Virgin Mary: “let it be done to me according to Your word” (Lk 1:38).

    All too often, we shut ourselves within our problems, which become our only horizon.

    We are absorbed in the small chores of life, things to do, or even big plans that we forget the essential: existence only makes sense if it opens up to love and the world, all of us, need to make it an authentic experience, need the embrace of God’s forgiveness, His irruption in the life of the world.

    Reminding ourselves and others of this, putting it into practice, is the Church’s vocation and mission today.

    The answer to the question we initially posed about how to interpret this time is, therefore, in the words of the Virgin Mary: listen to and fulfill the Word of God.

    There is no need for new formulas, no need to look any further, because “this word is very close to you, it is in your mouth and your heart, that you may put it into practice” (Deut. 30:14).

    May the Virgin of Nazareth accompany and sustain our Church and make it fruitful again and joyful for the good of all!

    May she help our ecclesial community be a light placed on a lampstand (cf. Mt 5:14) to show everyone how to encounter God, in the pain and fatigue of each day’s life, encounter which gives meaning and due weight to everything.

    + Pierbattista Pizzaballa

    Msgr. Pizzaballa thanks the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (link)

    In these four years of service to the Latin diocese of Jerusalem, in the Latin Patriarchate, I have been able to personally ascertain the role of the Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulchre for this Church, not only in the context of educational and pastoral activities, but in general for the life of the diocese as a whole.

    Four years ago, at a particularly difficult moment for the Patriarchate, the Knights and Dames — through the Grand Magisterium — showed their solidarity and closeness by encouraging and also concretely supporting the processes of revision and control of the administrative life of the diocese, which had become urgent and necessary.

    During these four years, through pilgrimages and with initiatives in their respective territories, the various Lieutenancies have nurtured their bonds with the various realities of the Latin Patriarchate, not only in words but also with tangible facts.

    All of this has been reconfirmed in this last year marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and during which the Patriarchate found itself facing a new emergency, just as we had believed our situation to be improving. As a result of the measures decided by the various governments to tackle the pandemic, in fact, a large part of our population found itself facing a drastic cut in wages, and a general economic situation even more fragile than usual.

    Thanks to the support of the Grand Master with the Grand Magisterium, our appeal to the Knights and Dames had a response that went far beyond our expectations and that gave us the necessary breathing space to manage this emergency with greater serenity. We were all amazed and humbled by the immediate response and its scope.

    2020 was also the year that, despite the many emergencies, nevertheless marked the end of a tiring path of restructuring and resolution of difficult pre-existing situations. The large debt which the Patriarchate owed to the Saint John the Baptist foundation, linked to the University of Madaba, has been fully repaid. This has reduced the overall debts that burdened the Patriarchate administration by almost 60%. It was possible thanks to the painful relinquishing of some property, which however, was not essential for the Patriarchate. We now have a structured plan to conclude the remaining commitments soon as well.

    Much remains to be done, but we are now at the end of a positive path for the life of the diocese of Jerusalem.

    I wish to thank the Grand Master, both the current one and his predecessor, for their support and encouragement; through them, our thanks extends to the whole Order of Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulchre, without whom all that we have accomplished to date would have been impossible.

    Thank you for being, for this small but important Church, the concrete and tangible sign of Divine Providence!

    + Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

Here below is a report on statements about Mary made yesterday in Rome by Pope Francis. The account is written by Inés San Martin of Crux news agency. —RM

   Once again, Pope Francis says Mary is not the ‘co-redemptrix’ (link)

by Inés San Martín 
March 24, 2021

    ROME – Pope Francis said on Wednesday [yesterday, March 24] that the Virgin Mary is not a co-redemptrix with Christ, a title which some theological movements in recent decades have tried to assign to the Mother of God.

    Mary to be venerated “as a mother, not as a goddess”

    Jesus, Francis said speaking off-the-cuff, entrusted the entire Church and all the faithful to Mary, but “as a mother. Not as a goddess. Not as a co-redemptrix. As a mother.”

    “It’s true that Christian piety always gives beautiful titles to her, like a son to the mother … how many beautiful things does a son say to the mother? But pay attention: the [beautiful] things that the Church, the saints, say to Mary, take nothing away from Christ’s uniqueness as a redeemer,” the pope added, always looking away from his prepared remarks.

    “He [Christ] is the only redeemer. They [Marian titles] are expressions of love like a son to the mother, sometimes exaggerated, but we know love always makes us do exaggerated things. Lovesickness,” Francis said.

    The title of Mary as “co-redemptrix” dates to the Middle Ages, and the idea of declaring it as a church dogma was discussed, though not adopted, at the Second Vatican Council. In the 1990s American Catholic theologian Mark Miravalle of the Franciscan University of Steubenville launched a petition asking the pope to make such a declaration, and today the “co-redemptrix” devotion tends to be strongest among more conservative Catholics.

    What Francis said on Wednesday is in line with what he’s said before about the mother of God, and it’s an assertion he’s often made speaking while departing from his written text. For instance, back in Dec. 2019, during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, he called the idea of Mary being co-redemptrix “foolishness.”

    The pope’s thoughts on the matter are also aligned with the theological thought of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican’s doctrinal chief during most of St. John Paul II’s papacy, and now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

    Speaking with Peter Seewald for the book-length interview published as God and the World: A Conversation, the then-cardinal said: “The formula ‘co-redemptrix’ departs to too great an extent from the language of Scripture and of the Fathers, and therefore gives rise to misunderstandings.”

    “Everything comes from Him [Christ], as the Letter to the Ephesians and the Letter to the Colossians, in particular, tell us; Mary, too, is everything she is through Him,” Ratzinger said. “The word ‘co-redemptrix’ would obscure this origin. A correct intention being expressed in the wrong way.”

    On Wednesday, Francis said that Christ is the mediator par excellence, the “bridge that we cross to turn to the Father,” and the only redeemer: “Every prayer that we give to God is for Christ, with Christ and through Christ, and are realized through his intersession.”

    “There is no other name by which we can be saved,” Francis insisted.

    Mary is the “path” to Jesus, and has a role of “privilege” as the mother of Jesus, to the point that she might even been considered as “the first apostle,” who always “points her finger to Christ,” always present in the key passages of the Gospel: “such as at Cana, when her Son, thanks to her caring intervention, performs his first ‘sign’, and then on Golgotha at the foot of the cross.”

    “Jesus extended Mary’s maternity to the entire Church when He entrusted her to his beloved disciple shortly before dying on the cross. From that moment on, we have all been gathered under her mantle, as depicted in certain medieval frescoes or paintings,” Francis said.

    The term “co-redemptrix” implies Mary had a subordinate but essential participation in the redemption of souls because of her free consent to give life to Christ, through which she shared his life, suffering and death.

    It’s absent from papal teaching, with the exception of Pope Leo XIII’s 1894 encyclical Iucunda Semper Expectatione dedicated to the Rosary: “In the Rosary all the part that Mary took as our co-Redemptress comes to us, as it were, set forth, and in such wise as though the facts were even then taking place; and this with much profit to our piety, whether in the contemplation of the succeeding sacred mysteries, or in the prayers which we speak and repeat with the lips.”

    [End, Crux article]

    Another Powerful Letter from Archbishop Viganò    

    Also today, Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 80, released a long, detailed, letter discussing the present predicament of the world, and of the Church in the world, due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the government actions worldwide which have been put into effect to respond to the pandemic.

    The archbishop’s letter is sharply critical of many of these government actions, and he goes so far as to suggest that the lockdowns that have been imposed on the world are so draconian, and sometimes so seemingly counter-productive, that they seem in fact to reflect a “criminal conspiracy” to gain control over the free peoples of the world, more than to stem the spread of any disease.

    The archbishop’s text is quite lengthy, and we thought it best to post it on our Inside the Vatican website rather than run the entire text here in this Letter. Please go to the link below if you wish to read this new, important essay by the archbishop. —RM

    Archbishop Viganò on the Pandemic. The Suspicion of a Disturbing Criminal Conspiracy. (link)

[continued below]

As a special thank you to readers of The Moynihan Letters, we would like to offer you the opportunity to order Finding Vigano: In Search of the Man Whose Testimony Shook the Church and the World. With your purchase, you will receive a complimentary one-year subscription to Inside the Vatican magazine. Yes, order a book, and get a free 1-year subscription to our fascinating bi-monthly magazine.

    News from Lebanon

    And finally, here is an additional news note from the region of the Holy Land (for Christ walked in Lebanon, visiting Tyre and Sidon):

    Maronite Patriarch calls on UN chief to play pioneering part in solving Lebanon’s crisis (link)

    Patriarch Moran Mor Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi has called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to play a pioneering part in solving the crisis in Lebanon, Anadolu has reported. The Maronite Catholic Patriarch spoke to Guterres by telephone on Monday evening, the Church’s media office said yesterday.

    “Guterres expressed his keen interest in the Lebanese situation and confirmed the need to form a government and keep Lebanon away from conflicts,” said the church. “Cardinal Al-Rahi told the UN head that the Lebanese are waiting for the UN to play a leading role, especially since Lebanon is a founding and active member of the international organisation.”

    The situation of the Lebanese people and state was explained to the Secretary-General, especially the inability of the political class to sit together and agree on a rescue project. “This is at a time when hunger and poverty have spread in the country, the national currency has deteriorated, and Lebanon is on the verge of total collapse.” The call ended with the two parties agreeing to maintain communication about developments.

    On 27 February, Al-Rahi called for an international conference under the auspices of the UN to “save Lebanon” and preserve the country’s neutrality.

    Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with the President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, at the presidential palace on Monday. This was the 18th occasion that he has done so to discuss the formation of a cabinet to succeed the current caretaker government, which resigned on 10 August last year, six days after a catastrophic explosion devastated the port of Beirut and large parts of the capital.

    After the meeting, the two sides released statements that, according to observers, further aggravated the situation in a country in which the interests of regional and Western countries are also in conflict.

    Lebanon is experiencing the worst economic crisis since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. The coronavirus pandemic and the Beirut explosion worsened the already desperate situation.

    The people of Beirut are in need of assistance and we have spoken with our friends, the Maronite Monks, about how we can help. You can make a tax deductible donation here and all donations will go to directly to assist those in need in Beirut, under the direction of the Maronite Church. As a donor, you will have an opportunity to join the conversation on virtual calls with those who are on the ground in Lebanon, helping those in need.

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