The Word Made Flesh in the Womb of Mary

January 1, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier  Holy Mary, Mother of God

Reading I (Numbers 6:22-27)    Reading II (Galatians 4:4-7)

Gospel (St. Luke 2:16-21)


 

Today we celebrate Our Lady’s greatest privilege. When we consider all of the gifts which God has given to our Blessed Mother, everything revolves around what we celebrate today. Everything that was given to her previous to her conception of Jesus was given specifically so that she would be able to be the worthy Mother of the Son of God, and everything that happened after also flows from her divine maternity. All of the gifts which God gave to Our Lady had to do with what we celebrate today. It is the single greatest privilege that any human creature has ever had and will ever have. When we look at motherhood on the natural level, we can say quite honestly that there is no greater privilege that any human person can have on the natural level than that of being a mother. Now, if we take that and suggest that a woman can be the Mother of God, not only does that raise everything to a supernatural level, but it tells us that if there is no greater natural privilege than to be a mother, then there is no greater supernatural privilege than to be the Mother of God.

 Even with this, we are reminded through the Scriptures that Our Lady is even more blessed in her discipleship than in her maternity. We recall the woman who said, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that gave you suck.” And Our Lord said, “Blessed, rather, are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.” Our Lady did far more than that. So perfectly conformed to the Word of God was she, and so perfectly had she heard the Word of God and kept it, that the Word was made flesh within her womb. No matter how well any of the saints had been able to keep the Word of God, no matter how well they knew the Word of God and put it into practice, the closest that anyone could say is that they pointed to the Word of God, they gave witness to the Word of God. But none of us can suggest that the Word of God is made flesh within us. Even the greatest saints next to our Blessed Mother can say that they were so conformed to the Word of God that when people saw them they saw Christ working in them and through them, but they cannot actually say that the Word became flesh within them.

 And so, for us, we can certainly look at what happens when we receive Holy Communion and the Word of God is substantially within us. We can look at growth in holiness in our lives and we can say that we want to be conformed into the Word of God so that Jesus Christ is living in us and through us, and with Saint Paul we can say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” but even with that, the manner in which we can say that is completely different from what Our Lady would be able to say. Truly, it is Christ who lived in her, but Christ was formed in her. The Lord, in the most marvelous exchange upon which we will meditate for all eternity, created His mother so that within His mother He could be created, that the One who is uncreated, the One who has no beginning, the One who is God, became a creature in the womb of Mary and had a beginning in His humanity. These are mysteries which seem to be contradictions, but indeed are not. Rather, they are marvelous mysteries that point at the depth of what it is that we celebrate today.

When we hear in the first reading the blessing that the Israelite priests were to give to the people, we cannot help but think and marvel about how this blessing is so perfectly fulfilled within Our Lady. If you think of how it talks about the Lord blessing them and allowing His countenance to shine upon them, what happened on the day that Our Lord was born and every day after as Our Lady looked upon the face of God? When we think about it, there were only, at that point, two people who initially knew about this: Our Lady and Saint Joseph. Then there were a handful of shepherds, Anna, and Simeon, and just a few people that they told. Beyond that, no one knew this mystery. And Our Lady looked upon the face of God, something which Moses was not allowed to do. When he asked God to see Him, Our Lord told him that no one would be able to look at Him and live. And so as the Lord passed by Moses and proclaimed His Name, “The Lord, a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and rich in mercy,” God placed His hand, as we are told, in front of Moses so that Moses could only see the backside of God and could not see His face. But Our Lady was able to look everyday for thirty-three years upon the face of God because God has a face only from Our Lady.

 In His divinity, He has no body and He has no face; but He has a face only because He took His humanity from Our Lady. And no one understood that more perfectly than she as she looked upon that beautiful face of the most precious little Infant that was ever born. For those who are parents, all you need to do is think about the number of hours you spend staring at the face of a newborn baby. Our Lady was no different. The only difference is that she knew that the face she was looking at, and the eyes into which she was looking, were the face and the eyes of God. She was looking at God face to face. And while it was not fully the Beatific Vision, nonetheless, it was certainly a foreshadowing of that for her. “The eyes are the window of the soul,” as it is said, and as Our Lady gazed into the eyes of her Son, she was able to see right into the very depths and the substance of the Word of God made flesh and held in her arms. She was able to look right into the heart of God and behold the mystery of God made man.

This is a mystery which we will meditate upon for all eternity. If we go to hell, tragically, we will blaspheme this mystery for all eternity because we rejected it, because we did not understand it well enough to be able to change our lives to become like the mystery that we celebrate today. And if we have the great privilege of being able to go to Heaven, we will recognize that the mystery we celebrate today is our salvation. It is upon this mystery that we will meditate for all eternity and never tire of it, even for an instant; but rather, what we will do is enter more and more deeply into this mystery.

 
But each one of us now has an opportunity to begin to do that, to begin to mold ourselves according to this mystery. And that molding is not something we do all by ourselves, but rather, God, who allowed Himself to be formed in Mary and by Mary, has given Mary to us so that she will form each one of us into the very likeness of her Son. So we have an opportunity similar to what Our Lady had, and yet, of course, our ability is exceedingly inferior – as near to infinitely inferior as humanly possible – but we can gaze upon the face of Christ. We too can look into the heart of Christ as we go to adoration and look upon the Blessed Sacrament and look at the very substance of God Himself, and are able to receive Our Lord into our own hearts, and after Holy Communion to enter into our own hearts and find Our Lord there and once again enter into the very depths of the mystery that we celebrate today and gaze upon Christ, unite ourselves with Christ, and allow ourselves to be conformed to Christ.

So we can begin eternity even now as we begin to meditate upon the depths of this infinite mystery, the mystery of God made man in the womb of a virgin. We will never comprehend it fully, but we can always enter more deeply into that mystery and allow ourselves to be conformed more perfectly to that mystery. Ask Our Lady to do that for you. Go to your mother and ask her to form you into the perfect likeness of her Son, of Whom you are a member. Ask her to help you to understand what it means, not only for you to call God “Father” but to call her “Mother” and allow your mother to form you in your very person, in your heart, in your conscience. Allow her to be a mother to you and allow her to form Christ in you. While the Word will not become flesh within you, the Word will continue, then, to be present in this world in you and through you, and people will see in you Jesus Christ, as they did in the saints. When they see the works that you perform, they will be able to give glory to God because they will recognize it is not you but it is Christ living in you. In this way, we are conformed to Christ, as He has already allowed Himself to be conformed into us. He took a share in our human nature so that we could share in His divine nature. He became like us so that we could become like Him. The way that that happens is identical, that is, through His mother. Go to her. Ask her to take you into her heart, to hold you there, to ponder you there, to form you there just as she did her Son, and to make you into the very image and likeness of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh Who dwelt among us.


*  This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.


Christian Top 1000