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Catholic Online Launches Virtual Pilgrimage Site Dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God

By Deacon Keith Fournier
January 15th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

There is a treasure found in the life example and message of the little Virgin of Nazareth. Mary, Mother of God is a virtual pilgrimage site inviting pilgrims to reflect on the mysteries of the faith, pray and encounter the most beautiful artwork from our history. Mary's "Yes" (Fiat) not only changed history - but reveals the meaning of the Christian vocation.

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - Let me begin with a quotation from a Christian leader who is often not associated with honoring Mary: "Men have crowded all her glory into a single phrase: The Mother of God. No one can say anything greater of her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the trees." It was Martin Luther, one of the Protestant Reformers, in his commentary on the "Magnificat".

From antiquity, Mary has been called "Theotokos", or "God-Bearer" (Mother of God). The term was woven into the liturgical worship and popular piety of the undivided Church of the first millennium. This title was a response to the early threats to 'orthodoxy' or the preservation of authentic Christian doctrine. 

A pronouncement of an early Church Council, The Council of Ephesus, in 431 A.D., insisted ". If anyone does not confess that God is truly Emmanuel, and that on this account the holy virgin is the "Theotokos" (for according to the flesh she gave birth to the word of God become flesh by birth) let him be anathema."

The reason for the Council's insistence on the use of the title was the preservation of the teaching of the Christian church that Jesus the Christ was - and is - both Divine and Human. The doctrine was "Christological", meaning that it had to do with Jesus Christ. No one has ever claimed that Mary gave birth to Christ's Divinity, but rather, that His human and divine nature could not - and cannot - be separated.

Not only was this truth under assault then, it is under assault now. The teaching lies at the heart of the Christian claim concerning the implications of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It must be protected as the unique distinctive and contribution of Christianity.

Continued disagreements concerning this title, "Mother of God" throughout Christian history have led to a diminution in the role of Mary in some Christian circles. Subsequent reaction and counter reactions have made it all very complicated.

Sadly, this has impeded some Christians from grasping a deeper truth concerning the meaning of Mary's life, her response to God's selection and invitation, her role in the plan of salvation, her exemplary humility and her deference to God's Will - she is the type, the living blueprint, of the Christian vocation for all believers. She is a gift to be opened and received, given to us all by the Lord Himself. (John 19:26,27)

It is time to re- examine the deeper implications of the treasure that is found in the life example and message of the little Virgin of Nazareth in this critical hour in human history. Mary, Mother of God is a virtual pilgrimage site inviting pilgrims to reflect on the mysteries of the faith, pray and encounter the most beautiful artwork from our history. It will also become a place where we pray together, and grow together. 

Among the multiple references to Mary, the Mother of God, found in the writings of the early Church Fathers is one of my favorites from the Cappadocian Father, Gregory of Nyssa who died in 356 A.D:

"What came about in bodily form in Mary, the fullness of the godhead shining through Christ in the Blessed Virgin, takes place in a similar way in every soul that has been made pure. The Lord does not come in bodily form, for ´we no longer know Christ according to the flesh´, but He dwells in us spiritually and the Father takes up His abode with Him, the Gospel tells us. In this way the child Jesus is born in each of us."

The early Christians knew that Mary's "Yes" (Fiat) not only changed history -but reveals the meaning of the Christian vocation. Contemporary Christians need to understand this as well. During the praying of the Angelus while he was visiting Germany in 2011, Pope Benedict called the faithful to join their yes to the "Yes" of Mary:

"The Archangel Gabriel presents God's plan of salvation to the Virgin Mary, by which she was to become the Mother of the Redeemer. Mary was fearful, but the angel of the Lord spoke a word of comfort to her: "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God." So Mary is able to respond with her great "yes".

"This "yes", by which she accepts to become the handmaid of the Lord, is the trusting "yes" to God's plan, to our salvation. And she finally addresses her "yes" to us all, whom she received as her children entrusted to her at the foot of the Cross (cf. Jn19:27). She never withdraws this promise. And so she is called happy, or rather blessed, for believing that what was promised her by the Lord would be fulfilled (cf. Lk 1:45).

"As we pray this Angelus, we may join Mary in her "yes", we may adhere trustingly to the beauty of God's plan and to the providence that he has assigned to us in his grace. Then God's love will also, as it were, take flesh in our lives, becoming ever more tangible."

The Greek term Theotokos, "God-bearer" or Mother of God is still the most popular title given to Our Lady in the Eastern Christian Churches. It was affirmed in early Church Councils precisely because it confirmed the Christian claim about who Jesus Christ is - and who each one of us is invited to become as we cooperate with grace and live our lives not in the Church which is His Body.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it simply," What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ." (CCC#487) The Catholic Catechism also reminds us,"Mary's role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it."(CCC #964)

There is a way, a pattern that all men and women are invited into - not just once, but daily. It reveals the path to authentic peace and is the portal of the mystery of meaning itself. It is what Christian Scripture calls the "more excellent way", the way of love. Mary understood and walked this way with extraordinary humility. (1 Cor. 12:31) She shows us the pattern of love surrendered to Love.

The early Christians painted her image in the catacombs during their moments of fear, persecution and doubt? They found great inspiration from this little woman of great faith. In her "yes" they came to understand that ordinary people can change human history.

They were inspired to add their own "yes", their own "fiat" to hers. Justin Martyr and many other early Christian apologists found in her "fiat", her obedient "yes" to the angel, the undoing of the "no-I will not serve" given by the first woman Eve. They called Mary "The Second Eve", the mother of a new creation.

In her womb Mary carried the One whom Scripture calls the "New Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45). He was born from her as the first born of a new race of men and women who would find a new birth through His life, death and Resurrection. (1 Cor 15.27; 2 Cor 5.17; Col 1.15; ) The Redeemer now resides within, and lives through, all those who respond to the invitation of Love like Mary did.

Mary's choice, her response to the invitation of a God who always respects human freedom, is a singularly extraordinary event in all of human history. However, it is meant to be much more. It is an invitation to each one of us to explore our own personal histories and to write them anew in Him by exercising our own freedom by choosing the more excellent way of love.

Mary shows us the way to surrender to Gods loving invitations in our daily lives; a path, to living a life of surrendered love. When we live that way, Mary's way, Love Incarnate is revealed through each of us so that He can be given to others. We become "God Bearers."

We can become the tent and the ark within which God takes up His residence, comes to dwell, in our own age - which so desperately needs His saving presence. He comes to dwell in all men and women who say "Yes" to Him. "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him." (John 14:23) We are invited to bear Jesus for others and invite them, through the waters of Baptism, into new birth in His Body, the Church. 

That is why Catholic Online, along with our sponsors, is pleased to offer "Mary, the Mother of God", a virtual pilgrimage site and repository of reflection, devotion, prayer and beauty. It is a place for all those who want to find Mary, and, in so doing, be drawn more deeply into a saving and transformational relationship with Her Son and Savior Jesus Christ.

After all, that was, is and will always be her mission, to bring the whole world to her Son. You can visit the site here Come back often! This virtual pilgrimage site will grow with regular additions intended to deepen our devotion and encourage our continuing conversion to Jesus Christ.

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