In continuation of our series of orginal reflections on Our Lady from Chavagnes, we here reproduce a homily given at Chavagnes in 2016 by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana in Kazakhstan and secretary of the Kazakhstan Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
In honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady, the Mother of God and our Mother
Dear brothers and sisters! In this Holy Mass we are venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother, and all Christian generations had called her with this filial and tender name “Our Lady”. To invoke and to venerate Our Lady is a privilege and a duty of every Christian. Because the Holy Spirit spoke through the mouth of Mary in her Magnificat: “All generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1: 48).
We do venerate Mary, because God had venerated her in a most sublime manner, when He had preserved her from any stain of the sin because God wanted to prepare for His Only Begotten Son a most worthy temple, in which He would be conceived, nine month dwelling and be nourished from the immaculate body of Mary and be really and yet virginally born from Mary. The entire heaven greeted and venerated Mary though the mouth of the Archangel Gabriel: “Blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1: 28).
When we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of Mass in a Catholic church, we are in the house of God, in the house of Jesus Christ. To be in the house of Jesus Christ means to be in the house of Mary, for mother and son cannot be separated. Where is Mary, there is always Jesus. Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort said: “You never praise or honour Mary without Mary’s praising and honouring God with you. Mary is altogether relative to God; and indeed, I might well call Her the relation to God. She only exists with reference to God. She is the echo of God that says nothing, repeats nothing, but God. If you say `Mary’, She says `God’. St. Elizabeth praised Mary and called Her blessed because She had believed. Mary, the faithful echo of God, at once intoned: `Magnificat anima mea Dominum’; `My soul magnifies the Lord’ (Lk 1: 46). What Mary did then, She does daily now. When we praise Her, love Her, honour Her or give anything to Her, it is God who is praised, God who is loved, God who is glorified, and it is to God that we give, through Mary and in Mary” (Treatise on True Devotion, n. 225).
Mary is the true mother of Jesus Christ and Jesus is true God and at the same time true man. From the first moment in which the Eternal Son of God began to be man in womb of Mary, He didn’t cease to remain always true and eternal God. The Incarnation of the Son of God did not diminish the plenitude of His Godhead. For this reason we call Mary not only Mother of Jesus or Mother of Christ, but we call her in a more appropriated manner Mother of God, because Jesus was always God.
Mary, the Mother of God is also our true spiritual mother. Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort gave this admirable teaching about the maternity of Our Lady towards us: “Just as in natural and bodily generation there is a father and a mother, so in the supernatural and spiritual generation there is a father who is God and a mother who is Mary. All true children of God have God for their father and Mary for their mother; anyone who does not have Mary for his mother, does not have God for his father. This is why heretics who hate, despise or ignore the Blessed Virgin, do not have God for their father though they arrogantly claim they have, because they do not have Mary for their mother. Indeed if they had her for their mother they would love and honour her as good and true children naturally love and honour the mother who gave them life. […] Jesus is still as much as ever the fruit of Mary, as heaven and earth repeat thousands of times a day: “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” It is therefore certain that Jesus is the fruit and gift of Mary for every single man who possesses him, just as truly as he is for all mankind. Consequently, if any of the faithful have Jesus formed in their heart they can boldly say, “It is thanks to Mary that what I possess is Jesus her fruit, and without her I would not have him.” We can attribute more truly to her what Saint Paul said of himself, “I am in labour again with all the children of God until Jesus Christ, my Son, is formed in them to the fullness of his age.” Saint Augustine, surpassing himself as well as all that I have said so far, affirms that in order to be conformed to the image of the Son of God all the predestinate, while in the world, are hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin where they are protected, nourished, cared for and developed by this good Mother, until the day she brings them forth to a life of glory after death, which the Church calls the birthday of the just. This is indeed a mystery of grace unknown to the reprobate and little known even to the predestinate! 34. God the Holy Spirit wishes to fashion his chosen ones in and through Mary” (Treatise on True Devotion, no. 30. 33-34).
Our Lady gave birth to Jesus without physical pains, without physical injuries, She gave birth to Him in supreme joy, for She gave birth to the Light of the world, to the true joy of the world, to the Saviour of the world. To us, the members of Christ’s Mystical Body, She gave birth in great spiritual pains standing beneath the Cross of Christ (cf. II Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, no. 58). Therefore She is also the sorrowful Mother, whose Immaculate Heart is pierced by the sword of the suffering for the sake of us, her spiritual children and all humankind.
We all have place in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us accept Mary in the house of our life. Let us choose Her consciously as our beloved mother. Let us entrust to Her all our faith, all our worries, all our petitions. Maria has a heart, She has a maternal heart, an immaculate heart, but also a heart pierced with the word of immense sorrows. Her heart is such a wide as to embrace all humanity. It is the will of God to hear our prayers and to grant us His graces through Mary. Saint Bonaventura said: God could create a more beautiful earth and a more beautiful heaven, but he could not create a more beautiful mother than Mary, the Immaculate Mother of His only Begotten Son. A heart of a mother is the most beautiful work of God in the temporal life and the heart of Our Lady is the most beautiful work of God in all creation. And this Mother Mary is also our mother, is mine and your mother. Go to Her, venerate Her, love Her, ask Her. A servant and a child of Mary will never perish (servus et filius Mariae numquam peribit).
O Mary, Our Lady, o Mother of God and our beloved Mother! Help us to love more Jesus, help us to be more courageous witnesses and confessors of our Catholic faith. From all our heart we want to be always true children of Mary. Help every one of us! O Mother of the Church help the Church in this time to overcome the current enormous and unprecedented crisis of faith! O Mary, you can help us, because you are the Mother of God and you must help us, because you are our sweet Mother. Amen.