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Wrapping up our assignment in Texas, we wanted to share some thoughts on the realities of Christmas. The event, of course, happened in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, but its impact has never ended — can't, in fact, end. So it's worth looking at what God chose to do and how He went about it and what that means for this generation, a couple of millennia later.
There are all sorts of angles and levels of the divine mystery and glory worth plumbing, but let's go to perhaps one of the most basic. Since we are, after all, celebrating a birthday, let's zero in on the woman actually giving birth, making the birthday possible — Mary, both virgin and, never forget, a general, a 12-star general.
I grew up in the U.S. military, as many of you know, and Mary as general has always been easily relatable for me — more on that in a moment. Through the divine will, the divine will from all eternity, this woman brought forth, in time, the Author of grace. Does anybody really believe that the divine will, which accorded Mary the singular highest grace any human could ever receive, would suddenly pull back and reduce her role in salvation history?
She herself, bearing God within her immaculate womb, declared that all generations would call her blessed. That little nugget, recall, is brought to us courtesy of the Holy Spirit, who inspired St. Luke to record her prophecy — which makes sense since the Holy Trinity was speaking through the young Virgin from Nazareth.
Next to the Church's authentic teaching on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the teachings about Our Blessed Mother are the most commonly rejected, completely misunderstood and blasted routinely by non-Catholic Christians. Some Protestants, for example, willingly accept the teachings of the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, declaring and reaffirming Jesus Christ's divinity. But the same Church that declares that teaching is immediately wrong (in their eyes) when it declares in another council that she is Theotokos, God-Bearer, the Mother of God.
They don't necessarily reject it in theory but certainly do so in practice. They give her no thought, no honor, no respect, except the once-a-year moment when they stick up a plastic lit-up Mary in their front yard. In the now overused Protestant statement and marketing scheme "What Would Jesus Do?" they seem to overlook that Jesus did not disrespect His mother, nor did He ignore her. He performed His first miracle at her request, even going so far as to intimate to her that His revealing of His true identity would begin her own trek to Calvary. Once there, from the Cross He entrusted the Church (in the person of St. John, the beloved disciple) to her maternal care.
Our Lady — specially chosen by Heaven to be the new Eve, known in the mind of God from all eternity, given the highest grace that could be given any human — declares that throughout all human history, she will be called blessed. She enjoys the most intimate relationship with the Holy Trinity, being daughter to the Father, mother to the Son and spouse of the Holy Spirit. She brings about the first public miracle of her Divine Son, becomes His most loyal disciple, suffers like no other human could possibly suffer, is present at the descent of her Spouse at Pentecost — and gets nothing from Protestants other than a nod of the head once a year and, even then, only passingly.
Recall that there is a military aspect to all this, a spiritual war; and Mary is no passive participant in this. In fact, scattered all over the scrolls of Scripture, Mary comes up repeatedly. In the Old Testament, right there on the very first page, in what is known as the protoevangelium (the first gospel), Chapter 3 of Genesis recounts the Lord God's cursing of the Serpent, and not just cursing, but promising his eventual defeat by the woman, a literal crushing defeat: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. You will lie in wait and strike at her heel and she will crush your head."
Indeed, Mary was present at Golgotha ("the place of the skull") for the crushing of the Serpent's head, brought about by her obedience to the will of God. In the Song of Songs, Mary is prefigured as the heavenly general: "Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?"
In the apocalypse, written by St. John (in whose house the general resided for years after Jesus ascended into Heaven) recognizing Mary as the general and echoing that passage from the Song of Songs, he tells us, "And a great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and over her head a crown of 12 stars." Hidden in the simplicity of the stable 2,000 years ago, draped in humility, was Satan's greatest enemy, the General-Virgin who would crush his proud head.
Satan is a creature and so, too, is Mary. He fell to the lowest depths, owing to his pride. She ascended to the highest heights, owing to her humility. It is God Himself Who chose to have Satan defeated in this manner, the greatest military defeat of all time. Something which looked like an impossible victory became the most humiliating, crushing defeat in history.
And every bit of it was brought to you by a simple yes in response to the angel Gabriel sent by God the Father. Here is a thought to meditate on from St. Methodius: "Jesus said, 'Honor your father and mother.' Therefore, in order that He might observe His own decree, he gave all grace and honor to His Mother!" When you approach the crèche on Christmas Day and the rest of the Christmas season, do not leave without offering a deep prayer of gratitude to the Mother of God.
It's always important to keep things in their proper order, their natural sequence, as one truth builds upon another. As we ponder the glory of our redemption, remember this: Had she not said to the angel Gabriel, "Let it be done unto me according to thy word," not a living being could have been saved because, without her, we would never have known salvation clothed in flesh. He drew His flesh, His humanity from her because He desired to. He created her to be the single human most closely related to Him. That accords her the title mother and general because God wills it that way.
From the entire staff of Church Militant and St. Michael's Media, a very holy, happy Christmas to you and all those dear to you.