Thursday, December 31, 2009


The Octave Day of Christmas
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
The Mother of God

Information about the Catholic Teaching on the Blessed Virgin MaryInformation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church about Mary

Readings for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:

Reading 1:
Numbers 6:22-27

The LORD said to Moses:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites,
and I will bless them.”
Commentary on
Nm 6:22-27

This passage contains the “Priestly Blessing” or the “Blessing of Aaron”. It was to be used by priests to bless the people of God. “…let his face shine upon you!” would indicate an act of divine pleasure. As Christians, the finial strophe of the blessing – “The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” is seen as being fulfilled at the birth of the Messiah – Jesus, Son of God and son of Mary.

Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

R. (2a) May God bless us in his mercy.

May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R. May God bless us in his mercy.

May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R. May God bless us in his mercy.

May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. May God bless us in his mercy.
Commentary on
Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

Psalm 67 is a blessing and has elements of the ancient blessing of Aaron from Numbers 6:22ff (above). This blessing has more of a plaintive tone (a lament), beseeching, almost pleading that the Lord bless us.

Reading II:
Galatians 4:4-7

Brothers and sisters:
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son,
born of a woman, born under the law,
to ransom those under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
As proof that you are sons,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying out, “Abba, Father!”
So you are no longer a slave but a son,
and if a son then also an heir, through God.
Commentary on
Gal 4:4-7

God sent his Son, born of a woman” this passage, taken as part of the Gospel proclaimed by St. Paul, provides the Galatians with the important fact that Mary gave birth to Jesus. He did not mystically appear to us. Jesus is (was) true man, meaning he went through the biological birth process. That also means that Mary, the Mother of God went through all of the difficult physical process of giving birth.

St. Paul goes on to remind us that through this action we are all adopted by God and are entitled to call God our Father “Abba” a familial term of endearment (translated into American usage as “daddy”).

Luke 2:16-21

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary
and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.
When eight days were completed for his circumcision,
he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.
Commentary on
Lk 2:16-21

The message, given to the shepherds by choirs of angels that they, in turn, brought to Mary that she kept and reflected in her heart about was; “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." (
Luke 2 11-12)

This encounter with the shepherds further reinforces Mary’s faith, the acceptance of her child’s role explained to her by the Archangel Gabriel when this wonderful and tragic journey began.


On this holy day in the Octave of Christmas St. Luke’s story of the nativity continues with the announcement by the shepherds of the news they had heard from the heavenly hosts (
Luke 2:8-14). In the context of the times, this would have been a singularly amazing event; shepherds abandoning their flocks (they never left their flocks) coming to the little town of Bethlehem in awe and wonder seeking a manger and a new born child.

The Magi had not yet arrived and Joseph and his bride were in humble surroundings with their new born child. Here come a group of shepherds praising God, astounded to find this new King as they had been told, wrapped in swaddling cloths in the stable. It was true – God’s messengers had announced this momentous birth, not to kings and princes, but to lowly shepherds. It was they who gave the Prince of Peace the first praise upon his entry into the world as man.

Within this incredible scene is the new mother, Mary, Blessed Virgin Mother of God’s great gift. What must she have thought seeing these reclusive herdsmen mysteriously drawn there by angelic choirs? We recall that God’s touch points with her had been early in her pregnancy. She was told what to expect (as was St. Joseph) but that had been some time ago. Even the greeting of St. Elizabeth (“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”) had been several months earlier. The little mother must have been somewhat puzzled by the events as they had unfolded. To our best knowledge, she was never told that she would not have this child in the traditional setting, in her home with kinswomen around her. When she came due and delivered this baby in a manger of all places, she must have wondered if Gabriel’s message and St. Elizabeth’s greeting had been a dream.

But here come shepherds, praising God and giving thanks for her Son, God’s Son, now nestled in her arms. They spoke of heavenly hosts and glad tidings of great joy, and she knew, she knew it was all true. This child she had carried and nurtured was destined to be the salvation of the world and she had brought this new life into the world. And this she silently pondered, perhaps again saying in her heart “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my savior!

On this the great Solemnity of Mary we remember how she began her wondrous and tragic journey. We see her sacrifice, faith, and grace as examples of what we strive to become in the service of the Son she gave us – the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. Today we pray fervently for her intercession for she has become Queen of Heaven and as such has the special favor of her Son. May we faithfully continue our journey to Jesus and conform ourselves to him and his mother.


[2] The picture is “Adoration of the Shepherds” by Antonio Balestra, c. 1707
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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