The Second Reading of the Office of Readings, which I read/pray once in a while, had a beautiful Reflection or Homily this morning, by St. Ambrose. The last paragraph impressed me in particular: "Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let her spirit be in each to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith. Every soul receives the Word of God if only it keeps chaste, remaining pure and free from sin, its modesty undefiled. The soul that succeeds in this proclaims the greatness of the Lord, just as Mary’s soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. In another place we read: Magnify the Lord with me. The Lord is magnified, not because the human voice can add anything to God but because he is magnified within us. Christ is the image of God, and if the soul does what is right and holy, it magnifies that image of God, in whose likeness it was created and, in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted."
St. Ambrose who lived from 374 to 397; born probably 340, was born in France. He was one of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and his homilies and writings are well known and respected. He was Bishop of Milan. He is one of the original four doctors of the Church, with St. Augustine, St. Jerome and St. Gregory the Great.
The subject of this morning's Second Reading is of course, Mary, the Blessed Mother, as she visits her sister, Elizabeth, who is also with child (John the Baptist). That, in itself, is remarkable because Elizabeth wasn't any longer of child-bearing age. Central to the Mariology of St. Ambrose is the Virginity of Mary and her role as the Mother of God.
The quoted paragraph in italics, above, is remarkable also. St. Ambrose tells us that we need Mary's assistance in order to proclaim the Word and tell of the greatness of God. He says that the Lord is magnified, despite our efforts to shout out his Name, by those who live a holy and chaste life, "Christ is the image of God, and if the soul does what is right and holy, it magnifies that image of God, in whose likeness it was created and, in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted." God bless St. Ambrose for making that so clear!
How does this translate to us, to modern times? We (Christians, in particular) need to be strong. We need to love God at all times, when you love God, you do not sin. (But when you still sin, you do not love God enough!). There is really no compromise possible between leading a chaste life or not. We cannot chose part of God's command and wish for us to be chaste, and lead a loose life at the same time. People whose morals are questionable and whose habits are undisciplined just aren't living a chaste life. The easiest way to live a chaste life is to say NO to sin. Don't tell me you are too weak to do that (yes, I know all people have a weakness for what they shouldn't do. I do too.) - it is only when living a chaste life, without detours or exceptions, that you will have an unclouded view of God's love and goodness. If I hear one more time what some people say (usually rather flippantly) "That's why we have the confessional," I think I will have a fit! Even that is used as an excuse! So read up on the writings of St. Ambrose and the other Fathers of the early Church, they have a lot of valuable stuff to say! What they said isn't so different from what the current Holy Father, his Bishops and Priests/Deacons are saying these days - nothing has changed, for God remains the same! Let us pray to His Mother, who is also our Mother, for strength and understanding to learn more about her Holy Son, whose birth we will soon remember on Christmas Day.
Peace and Good!
Fred Schaeffer, SFO
December 21, 2011
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