|Coat of Arms|
Marian faith always points to Christ
For Christians, these next several weeks are a special source of joy. The Advent and Christmas seasons dominate our thinking, and rightly so. But the end and the beginning of the calendar year also have a uniquely Marian spirit, especially here in northern Colorado.
This Wednesday, Dec. 8, a holy day of obligation, marks the solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. This Catholic article of faith—the Immaculate Conception—holds that Mary was born free of sin as a special privilege granted by God to the future mother of God’s son. Under the title “the Immaculate Conception,” Mary is the patroness of the Archdiocese of Denver. So this feast day is doubly important for our local Church.
In recent decades, another great Marian feast—Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12 (celebrated on Dec. 11 this year to avoid conflicting with an Advent Sunday)—has taken a powerful place in the life of our local Church. As Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary’s role in the conversion of Latin America to the Catholic faith was decisive. Her impact on the history of our hemisphere was immense. This is why she is revered today by the universal Church as the patroness of America, both North and South. And because her apparitions to St. Juan Diego took place in Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe has always played a key role in the life of our nation’s growing Mexican community, including the hundreds of thousands of Catholics in Colorado who take pride in their Mexican descent.
But there’s more. December 16 is the archdiocesan feast of Our Lady of the New Advent, Mary’s title as patroness of our local Church during the years of preparation for A.D. 2000 and the Great Jubilee. And finally, Jan. 1 each year celebrates one of the greatest and most ancient Marian feasts on the universal Church’s calendar: the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
Like the Immaculate Conception, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, is a holy day of obligation. Unlike the Immaculate Conception and Christmas itself, holy days which always carry the obligation of Mass for Catholics, the duty of Mass on the solemnity of Mary is dispensed in the United States for 2011 because the feast falls on a Saturday. But that doesn’t diminish the beauty or gravity of the day as a Marian celebration.
We Catholics are not alone in our love for Mary. Hundreds of millions of Eastern Orthodox Christians venerate her as well, especially under the historic title Theotokos—“Mother of God.” And despite the very deep differences that separate Christian and Muslim belief, even Islam reserves for Mary a kind of special admiration as the mother of Jesus, who is respected as a “prophet” in Muslim thought.
Each of these great Marian feasts speaks eloquently to a different aspect of Mary as virgin, mother and intercessor. But they all embody a deeply Catholic love for her as a model of biblical discipleship, obedience and trust, as well as hope for our own humanity. Mary is revered by Catholics of every age. But she can never be captured or “owned” by any culture or any ethnicity. She belongs to all of us, just as all of us belong to—and have obligations to—a community of Catholic faith much larger than our own parish or nation.
Most importantly: The greatest gift we have from Mary is not finally about Mary at all. The “good news” we believe is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s the story of our redemption through the sacrifice of God’s only Son, made possible by the trust of a young woman of Galilee. Mary cannot overshadow or be separated from her son. She always points beyond herself to the greatness of God and the mission of Jesus Christ. She is the first and greatest Christian disciple. And therein lies her beauty to every new generation of believers.
Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap. is the Archbishop of Denver. To read more from Archbishop Chaput, click here.
To listen to Archbishop's homily delivered this past Sunday for the Second Sunday of Advent, visit www.archden.org/archbishop/homilies.
Wednesday, Dec. 8:
39th anniversary Mass, Sodalitium and 25th anniversary Mass, Christian Life Movement, Holy Name Parish, Englewood (6 p.m.)
Thursday, Dec. 9:
Presbyteral Council meeting (10 a.m.); followed by Priests’ Personnel Board and College of Consultors meeting, JPII Center
Saturday, Dec. 11:
Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Peace Parish, Greeley (6 p.m.)
Sunday, Dec. 12:
Mass, Ascension Parish, Denver (10:30 a.m.);
Mass, Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (6:30 p.m.)
Monday, Dec. 13:
Camp St. Malo board meeting, JPII Center (9:30 a.m.), followed by Chancery board meeting
Tuesday, Dec. 14:
Committee of Vicars and Directors meeting, JPII Center (9:30 a.m.)