Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Great Feast to Welcome the New Year

Our Lady of the Sign
egg tempera on gesso with gold leaf

We Welcome
the Year 2011
on the Solemnity
of Mary,
The Mother of God

One of the principles I carried away from a Christology course taken years ago asserted that the dogmas concerning Mary the Mother of Jesus which came out of the early ecumenical councils of the Church were often promulgated in an effort to underscore the truth of who Jesus was and is for us. Declaring Mary the Mother of God, the Theotokos, while praising her, served also to declare, contrary to various heresies, that Jesus was indeed God and man. 

We have just celebrated the great feast or solemnity of the Incarnation, the coming of Jesus among us. And the Church would have us enter the New Year, one fraught with challenges at every level, in the sure knowledge that the Jesus to whom Mary gave birth is the Son of God, master of the universe and also Emmanuel, 'God-with-us'. We can begin the year in a most auspicious way; with the image of a mother caring for her son and also caring for us. She presents to us the true God who lived among us and now walks with us, travels with us, will be at our side during the next year and always.

The icon above is making its debut today. Our Lady of the Sign may not be familiar to you but she is an ancient image in Greek and Russian iconography. The icon depicts the Theotokos, the Mother of God during the Annunciation at the moment of uttering her assent to the Angel Gabriel, "Let it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) Mary's hands are raised in the orans position of prayer. She is flanked by the seraphim and cherubim. The letters at the top are shorthand for the Greek title Mother of God. The colors of Jesus' robes indicate his humanity and divinity; the scroll his role as teacher; his face like that of an old man to indicate that he is both fully human and fully the eternal God; his right hand raised in blessing.

As a contemplative monastic community we gathered last night to celebrate the Vigil Office of Readings for this sacred solemnity. The Office was followed by Adoration of the Eucharist Exposed. We prayed for not only our families, friends and benefactors, but also for the people with whom we have only slight contact, like yourself, the local community, our nation and the needs of the entire world. We remembered the poorest of the poor, the unemployed, those struggling with diseases of body, mind or spirit, the wartorn and ravaged nations.

May much grace and and many blessing be yours in this new year. Let us love each other well. 

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