Posted by: geolocke | 2018/09/08

And You Too, A Sword Shall Pierce

Today the Church remembers and honor’s the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After the celebration of the birth of Jesus (Christmas) the Church honors only two other births, John the Baptist and Mary. The birth of John can be approximated from the Gospels, but for Mary we have no such supporting information in the Gospels and we must rely on the Tradition of the Church. This Tradition was (is) based on the original method of spreading God’s message of Love through word of mouth and the telling of the Story of Jesus from one person to another.

The Gospels tell us that God chose Mary – highly favored or full of grace – to be the mother of Jesus, the Christ. Tradition tells us that her parents, Anne and Joachim, conceived Mary immaculate, or without the stain of original sin, through the Grace of God. How this came to be has been the topic of much scholarly debate, discussion, and prayerful contemplation for most of the past 2,000 years. I am not worthy to try to present all the arguments here in this simple writing but I am satisfied with their conclusions.

So today we have a feast day in the Church based on one of our Traditions and we honor and celebrate the remembrance of the birth of Mary. I use days like today to meditate on the life of Jesus and to further my own contemplation on the mysteries of our faith. Like my contemplation upon the mysteries of the Holy Rosary (the subject of a future post) my thoughts wander along uncharted paths through the Gospels, Old Testament, Acts of the Apostles, the Psalms, the Epistles, Tradition, and personal experience. Today’s mental excursion based on the Tradition of celebrating Mary’s birth ultimately led me to the joy of Easter Morning.

Thinking upon Mary’s birth led me to think about that night in Bethlehem where Mary gave birth to Jesus.  Another of our traditions tells us that Mary’s Labor was (may have been?) painless. I sat and rested with this thought for a few minutes, wondering about its implications before moving on to the presentation of child Jesus in the temple according to the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2 (22-38). There is one line in this part of the story that has always stuck in my thoughts, both when reading it and when having it proclaimed to me. It is the brief aside that the prophet Simeon makes to Mary in the middle of his statement to Mary about the Christ Child he is holding in his hands.

and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (see Luke 2:34-35)

Linguistically, it doesn’t belong there. The statement itself can stand on its own and the ‘aside’ could have been added onto the end of it, or even have been made as a separate verse. So why was it placed there in that manner?

I have seen some commentaries about this which say it refers to the pain Mary must have felt the time when Jesus is told that his mother and brothers are outside waiting for him and he tells his disciples that his mother and brothers are those who do the will of God (see Matthew 12 & Mark 3). To me this sounds like a shallow reaction for one so highly favored. But I do believe it has to do with her Pain and maybe even suffering.

This leads me to mentally climb that long path to the top of Calvary with Mary and to stand beside her as she gazes upon the Cross which now holds the wrecked body of the man who she once lovingly held in her own arms and placed in a straw filled manger when he was just a newborn child. Yes, this must be the piercing sword that Simeon mentioned to Mary. The pain which enveloped her entire body, and maybe even would have challenged her Spirit, but for the loving care and protection given to her by her son’s beloved disciple, John.

This pain in her wounded, sword-pierced heart would not leave Mary until she once again beheld her son risen from the tomb on Easter Morning. in an instant her pain and suffering of the past three days were instantly transformed into indescribable joy, thanksgiving,  and exultation to God. I have heard of one other human experience which closely resembles this sudden transformation from pain to joy, the experience of given birth to a child.

So it occurs to me that if Mary were indeed spared the pain of labor when she gave birth to Jesus, it was afforded as a special Grace given to her by God to offset the even more terrible pain she suffered as she stood by and helplessly watched her son’s Passion. A terrible pain who’s only relief was witnessing his resurrection and thus giving birth to the Church.  Mary was spared the pain of human labor and childbirth because she willingly participated in the birth of her Son’s Church on earth.

It is a tenuous thought, I know, and I will have to do much more meditation on this subject to see if it actually valid, but it seems to work based on my understanding of Church Tradition. Only time and prayer will tell though.

I wish you all a happy Marian Birthday.  -geo

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