So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:16-20 NIV)
Mary remembered many things from infancy and youth. I her short life she had seen many extraordinary things. Not all of them are recorded “in the Bible” that moves many to say: “If it’s not in the Bible, it did not happen!” But God gave us brains and hearts so we can ponder and learn from the events in our lives. Our faith is the divine tool to sharpen our perception of the world allowing us to see those things that faithless men do not see. We must make an effort to unlock what is behind the literal meaning of Scripture. We will try do a bit of that here.
This Christmas I find myself disoriented by the tsunami of sad news coming to us from all sides. Since this confusing situation was long ago predicted by Our Lady, we can do little but accept the tribulations of our generation. Many saints did that through history and I (not being a saint) cannot demand a better deal. I could argue that the deal involved climbing up the “straight and narrow path” but no one told me that it was going to be foggy and crammed with backstabbers on every side. Well, maybe I did not read the small print. Let Your will be done. One thing I can do is look around me, see what is happening and quietly start pondering as I make my way through these turbulent times.
“When many have settled in the conviction that Christianity has hit rock bottom, I am only finding new and refreshing references that today its validity is more necessary than ever. Without the basis of scientific materialism or of the nineteenth-century philosophical movements that relegated the Church to the role of mere “accompaniment” in what was announced to us as the advent of new times for a new man, the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century would not have existed and today, Katyn would be merely a remote part of Poland unknown to all.” (quote from Alerta Digital, December 24, 2020; translated from Spanish by the author)
Christmas is all about God becoming man to save man. Since Liberalism made its appearance in Europe, the Christian God and Christianity have been progressively rejected — no pun intended. At first it was a timid, almost apologetic rejection. Now it has reached a form of paroxysm in which every affirmation of Christianity must be erased by enforcing the practice of its exact opposite. In the first century, God became man. In this last century, man becomes a schizoid god that seeks to enforce “criticism everything that is” (to quote Marx) in a frantic effort to install a civilization distinct from the Christian civilization. In fact, this new world order’s main characteristic, its main battle cry is: “We are not Christian!” In that sense, we are presently witnessing a sort of Christmas in reverse.
Imagine now how Mary of Nazareth lived her experience as the future Mother of the Messiah. Israel is controlled by the Roman Empire and none in the Judean region could remember the time when Israel was free from any foreign domination. Coins circulated around with an image of the emperor and the word “divo” (divine, god-like) under it. For a true and faithful Israelite, that must have been a test of faith. Where was the God of ancient Israel, where were the great prophets and leaders of the past? When would the humiliations end?
Mary was perhaps too young to be concerned with those problems. At the moment when the Annunciation took place she was an almah, a young girl barely old enough to be promised in marriage to a man. She was also an orphan living with relatives. We know the Annunciation took place about nine months before the birth of Jesus. The story on the Gospel of Luke is very compact but provides enough information we can use to deduct a few facts. One thing we can surmise from her response to St. Gabriel the Archangel is that she had some familiarity with supernatural beings.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! [full of grace!] The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. (Luke 1:26-29; NIV)
By the time of the Annunciation, Mary was most likely aware that she was different from the rest of the girls her age. As a perfect human being she was in a state of mind very similar to that of Eve in the Garden of Eden. That included the capacity to sense the nearness of spiritual beings. I say that because, if she had never seen an angel before her encounter with Gabriel, her response is –to say the least– surprising. She is troubled by the greeting: “kecharitomene” not by the apparition of a supernatural being! Compare with this: if the President of the United States would happen to ring my doorbell and greet me with “Hello Mouseketeer!” I am sure I would not dedicate the slightest thought to the greeting. I would be surprised beyond measure because that has never happened to me before.
Mary had a degree of perception of the supernatural. She is used to let the Holy Spirit inspire her also. The proof is in her beautiful songs as perfect as they are spontaneous. Therefore, the familiarity with supernatural things moved her to ponder in her heart the many things that happened to her as God prepare her, and finally introduced her, to her mission and destiny.
Now, back to us imperfect sinners. For many decades we have been exposed to various apparitions of the Virgin Mary. We are familiar with many aspects of her message. Some of us were moved to ponder in our hearts all the various pieces of information. Some of that information had to be disregarded as mere human interference. For example, I was once exposed to the message of a “seer” who declared that the Virgin Mary had instructed her to divorce her husband and marry a boyfriend with whom she presumably was committing adultery. That simple piece of information volunteered by the “seer” herself saved me from studying her “visions” — case closed. Compare that case with the words of former Cardinal Ratzinger (later Benedict XVI) shown here.
“The term ‘public revelation‘ designates the revealing action of God destined for all humanity, which has found its literary expression in the two parts of the Bible: the Old and the New Testament. It is called ‘revelation’ because in it God has progressively made himself known to men, to the point of making himself man, to attract to himself and to gather the whole world into himself through the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.
In Christ God has said everything, that is to say, he has manifested himself and, therefore, the revelation has concluded with the realization of the mystery of Christ that has found its expression in the New Testament.”
The ‘private revelation‘, on the other hand, “refers to all the visions and revelations that take place after the completion of the New Testament; This is the category within which we must place the message of Fatima.
The authority of private revelations is essentially different from the sole public revelation: it demands our faith. Private revelation, on the other hand, “is an aid to faith, and it appears credible precisely because it refers to the only public revelation.”
Quoting the Flemish theologian E. Dhanis, Ratzinger affirms that “the ecclesiastical approval of a private revelation contains three elements: (1) the message in question does not contain anything that goes against faith and good morals, (2) it is lawful to make it public, and (3) the faithful are authorized to give their adhesion prudently.” “Such a message can be a valid help to better understand and live the Gospel in the present moment; for this it should not be ruled out. It is a help that is offered, but it is not compulsory to make use of it.” (Profecías de la Virgen de Fátima, by Ahmad Riedell. Published in Profecías y Profetas)
We live in extraordinary times. Recently, Fr. Gordon MacRae stated:
“Father Abraham first heard God 21 centuries before a star rose above Bethlehem. We now live in the 21st century after. At the center of all things, Christ is born.” (How December 25 Became Christmas, by Fr. Gordon MacRae published in Beyond These Stone Walls)
That keen observation by Fr. MacRae reveals that certain symmetry one finds in God’s interventions in history. Daring to add to it, I would say that Abraham heard the voice of God preparing him at the beginning of man’s long journey towards redemption. Many centuries later, we hear the very similar voice of Our Blessed Mother. She speaks to us through her many apparitions to prepare us for the final Passover and the many trials preceding it. It is up to us to hear her and ponder her words in our heart. We see the world changing rapidly but we were warned it was going to be so. If we examine the messages received from the Virgin Mary in the last 200 years we can easily see the hand of God in command of the situation. That should put our hearts and minds at ease in these difficult times. God was here before we arrived and he is telling us what to expect through Mary.
Again: our faith is the divine tool to sharpen our perception of the world allowing us see those things that faithless men do not see.
“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28, NIV)