Allocutio at December 2016 Concilium Meeting by Fr. Bede McGregor OP
The Gospel of Mother and Child
In a few days’ time we will be celebrating the solemn feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. Of course, the Child is and always will be the centre of this historical narrative and indeed the centre and the meaning of all history, sacred and secular. However, we can never think of the Child without his Mother and indeed there would be no Child if there were no Mother in God’s plan for the creation and redemption of the world and mankind in particular.
The liturgy of these days is marked with a great longing for God to become one of us as a truly and fully human being. So we constantly sing: ‘O come O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel. That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, shall come to thee, O Israel.’ But now I wish to focus on the longing of Mary. The Advent preface puts it very simply: ‘The Virgin Mother longed for Him with love beyond all telling.’ Mary has already experienced within herself for nine months the growth of her Child. I stress that God is her child and she His Mother. She longs to see the human face of God her child, to look into his eyes with love, to hug him to her heart, to feed Him, to clothe Him and to rock Him to sleep. She is totally absorbed with Jesus. Jesus is absolutely central to her life. She is defined in her very soul by Jesus. The two are inseparable for time and eternity: Mother and Child, Creator and most blessed of all creatures.
Dear legionaries, I have only tried to put into my own words some of the most persuasive and beautiful sections in the Handbook. For instance, Chapter 39 on the Cardinal Points of the Legion Apostolate. Let me just quote a few lines from the introductory section: ‘Souls are not approached except through Mary’: ‘Sometimes Mary is kept in the background so as to meet the prejudices of those who make small account of her. This method of making Catholic doctrine more acceptable may accord with human reasoning. It does not reflect the divine idea. Those who act in this way do not realise that they might as well preach Christianity without Christ as ignore Mary’s part in redemption. For God Himself has thought fit to arrange that no foreshadowing or coming or giving or manifestation of Jesus should be without Mary.’ The section with the heading: ‘The Son is always found with the Mother,’ I think is a particularly helpful meditation for the Christmas season. It begins by simply stating: ‘It was God’s will that the reign of grace should not be inaugurated without Mary.’ It then goes on to illustrate this principle with reference to the various episodes in the life of Jesus and Mary found in the Sacred Scriptures.
The Nativity of Our Lord is the loveliest and most compelling manifestation of the Gospel principle: To Jesus through Mary. The Legion lives and thrives on the truth of this principle and Christmas is a good time to ask Mary incessantly for a share in her relationship with her Son.
What are some of the key signs that we have really allowed the graces of the Nativity of Our Lord to shape our inner and personal lives and our relationship with others, especially our fellow-legionaries?
I suggest we find the signs and fruits of real engagement with the mystery of the Nativity in the Prayer of Mary that binds all legionaries together: the Magnificat. First, her life is God-centred: My soul glorifies the Lord and the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name. In other words Mary gives all credit and glory to God for everything. Her humility is absolute: she is called to be the Mother of God, but sees herself only as the handmaid of the Lord.
Of course she sees God as Love. God first loved us in the primordial truth. God so loved the world that he sent his Son into the world that we might be saved. How can a Christian operate if he is not convinced that he is infinitely loved and loveable to God? This is the essential Gospel and certainly the fundamental message of Christmas. Flowing immediately from really hearing the Good News of God’s redemptive love for each one of us is a spirit of joy. Mary says: ‘My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.’ Where there is no joy means the Gospel has not yet been truly heard. Certainly where there is little joy in a legionary means Mary has not yet succeeded fully in placing Jesus and His Gospel in his heart and soul. The infallible sign that the graces of the Nativity of Our Lord have been received is a deep sense of peace and joy.
Finally, one of the greatest fruits of openness in faith to the mystery of the Incarnation is a radical hope. We are becoming more and more aware of the theory and reality of a civilization of death and despair; let us this Christmas think and live deeply the mystery of the Incarnation and ask Mary the Mother of Hope to help us grow as people of hope and communicators of hope. Let me conclude with a quotation from St. Paul that I think may help us see what hope should look like in our lives: ‘With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, he will not refuse anything he can give. Could anyone accuse those that God has chosen? When God acquits could anyone condemn? Could Christ Jesus? No! He not only died for us – He rose from the dead, and there at God’s right hand He stands and pleads for us.’ (Romans 8:31-35)