JULY 2, 2011 - IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY: ISAIAH 61:9-11 ; LUKE 2:41-51


HIS MOTHER KEPT ALL THESE WORDS IN HER HEART.  Such is the literal translation of Saint Luke’s Greek text. His use of words here provides rather persuasive evidence that Luke, who was very much at home in the Greek speaking culture of his day, was making use of an Aramaic or Hebrew document in the first two chapters of his Gospel. For the obvious meaning of his statement is that Mary kept in her mind not only the words Jesus spoke but also the events surrounding the finding of Jesus in the temple. The semitic languages, in contrast with Greek, used the one term dabar to mean “word” but also “event”; furthermore, Aramaic thinks of “heart” as including memory. The significance of this fact is that Luke’s account of the early years of Jesus was based on evidence provided by someone who thought in Aramaic or Hebrew. This usage provides support that his account is based on historical fact; it is not merely midrash, that embroiders narrative. There is sound reason to maintain that his account is based on the witness of Mary herself.


From early times the faithful came to appreciate Mary’s role in God’s plan of salvation. The meaning of her role as mother of the Son of God emerged into the light as a result of prolonged concentration on the mystery of the Incarnation and of the Trinity in the first two Ecumenical Councils. Having established with some measure of clarity that  in Jesus, God himself became man, the Church turned to consider in greater detail the implications of this truth so central to faith. Accordingly, it happened in the third Ecumenical Council that Mary was defined to be Theotokos, the mother of God, because the Word of God took flesh in her womb and was truly born of her. This bold assertion that God himself has a mother had been denied by Nestorius, and in fact, the bald statement is false unless properly understood. She is not mother of the eternal Father, nor of the Spirit; however, once it was made clear that her son is truly God, of the same substance as the Father, and that the person of her Son is this Divine Word, it follows that this title Theotokos is properly hers.


The Immaculate Heart of Mary is the specific object of today’s feast and provides the title of this commemoration. The proper meaning of this title also requires a correct understanding of the term “heart” in this connection. In English as well as in Hebrew and other Classical languages, heart refers to the anatomical organ that is a muscular pump assuring the circulation of the blood. As such its function is essential for human bodily life and health, and its motions reflect rather sensitively the changes of emotion and activity of the individual. As a result of this lively sensitivity, the heart also serves as a symbol of the person in her more intimate self; it expresses fittingly those attitudes and reactions that accompany our innermost consciousness. Since Mary, from the very first beginnings of her existence as a person, already in the womb of her mother, remained free from all selfish attraction contrary to God’s will and the true nature of his creation, she is endowed in a unique way with a pure heart.


In honoring her Immaculate heart at this Eucharist we give thanks and glory to the Father whose Providence signaled her out from all other creatures, and to the Word who freely chose her as his mother, and to the Holy Spirit who overshadowed her so that she conceived in a uniquely divine manner. We also thank Mary for her faithful and generous response to this grace that became in her Son the source of our hope and cause of our salvation. & 

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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