Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Mary, Mother of God “A Non-Violent Peacemaker” 01 January 2017

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1 January 2017 — Mary Mother of God  — A Non-Violent Peacemaker

Note: Today is is the 50th anniversary of the World Day of Peace, which was inspired by Pope John XXIII in his encyclical Pacem in Terris and established by Pope Paul VI in his letter Populorum Progressio in 1967. It is also the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God on the Catholic calendar. Happy New Year! 

Click here for today’s biblical texts

Shakespeare used it. John Toynbee used it. It’s a phrase engraved on the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. “What is Past is Prologue” creates a context for understanding and shaping current events.

Aaron’s blessing recorded in the Book of Numbers calls upon the people of his time to be aware of all that God is and all that God has done for creation — humanity, animals, plants, the environment. The passage from the Letter to the Galatians speaks of developing our relationships with God, as children of God, gifted by God. It reminds us we are coworkers with God called to share the blessings we have with others.

In today’s gospel we hear again that Mary, Theotokos, God Bearer, the Mother of God, stunned the world in birthing the boy, Jesus. In this story Luke reminds us also that Mary took time to ponder and treasure what was happening to her, what was going on all around her. 

Life was not any easier at that time in the Middle East than it is today. Jesus and his mother Mary participated in the events of their lives just as we do. Together they shaped history by taking actions against the oppression of the Roman empire which had ruled over Judea.

As a prologue for the future whenever we practice what we believe to be true, everything we’ve learned from these two Jews about seeking peace and justice, everything we say and do is bound to have influence on other human beings. 

Mary is often shown in Christmas cards, on our church calendars, in artistic renderings as a meek, mild, pure, even mindless woman. Nancy Rockwell writes that this image has slowed down the advancement of women for centuries when they hear over and over how the obedient and humble Mary was a perfect model for womanhood.

But Luke offers another side of Mary’s personality, one that reveals a spunky young woman who was radical, bold, full of grit and bursting with convictions about justice in her community. The first clue about her sense of self came when she questioned the angel “Wait a minute, Gabriel, how can I be pregnant?”

Shortly after the angel’s call Mary’s Magnificat resounds as a political bombshell delivered right in the home of a temple priest Zachariah, husband of Elizabeth, father of John the Baptist. Mary was pursued by God for her daring, independent spirit. And, she said “yes, OK I am going to do it! I can do this!” I am going to scatter the proud, bring the mighty down from their thrones, fill hungry people with good food and send the greedy rich away empty handed.

This message is surely timely for us on the first day of a new year, a day of world peace. Mary’s “yes” charges us from then to now to be strong and unafraid when confronting the unknown. It is a call to grab a hold of whatever comes our way without knowing exactly the outcome.

Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace  message, “Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace,”  challenges us to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, refusing to harm the environment, or refusing to win at any cost. To do so, Francis reminds us, requires “the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process.” 

The miracle of Christmas began with Mary and Jesus of the past and continues with each one of us today. What they did way back then serves as a prologue for what lies ahead for us but … with a caveat. 

We remember the past as a way to direct ourselves not to repeat the past, nor to be discouraged by it, but to be buoyed up with a new enthusiasm, a vigorous and feisty hope for the future.

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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

5 thoughts on “Mary, Mother of God “A Non-Violent Peacemaker” 01 January 2017

  1. Feisty Hope…….I like it!! Happy New Year!

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  2. Another great homily, Dick. I hate to underestimate people, but do you think it might be worthwhile to explain what a prologue is? No need to reply. Thanks, Barb >

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  3. I have never heard Mary presented in this way. Maybe that is why I could never relate to her. This is a challenge to boldness, which I appreciate even though I am a scaredy cat!

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  4. I mean a challenge to BE bold!

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  5. In addition to this statement: “Mary is often shown in Christmas cards, on our church calendars, in artistic renderings as a meek, mild, pure, even mindless woman’ – with which I wholeheartedly agree, I have often wondered what the birth of Jesus was REALLY like. Whether it was in a stable, a rickety house, or in a field next to a donkey, there is a lot of pain, blood and afterbirth when a baby is born. The traditional image of the “Virgin” Mary and the sanitized version of a one dimensional young woman who said yes, smiling in a barn – after what must have been a horrific birth process (without the support of a midwife?) has never resonated with reality.

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