Ave Maria!

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On Tuesday of this week we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation. This Friday St. Charles is hosting a special “Family Friendly Friday” to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe whose feast is December 12. In Advent and Christmastime our thoughts turn in a special way to Mary, the Mother of God. This week in particular gives us pause to reflect on Mary’s role in the life of the Church.

Mary’s “Yes” to God undoes the “No” of Eve. Our medieval ancestors took great delight that the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary, “Ave!” is the Latin form of Eve “Eva” spelled backwards. Mary’s sinlessness by God grace reverses the sinful consequences of Eve’s disobedience. St. Augustine famously spoke of Mary undoing the “knot” of sin. This has led to a popular devotion to Mary as the “Undoer of Knots” – a devotion beloved by Pope Francis.

Perhaps the Holy Father had this in mind when he declared the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy to begin on the feast of the Immaculate Conception this year. The advent of God’s mercy to us in Jesus begins with Mary. By opening herself to God’s grace and cooperating with his plan she makes possible to whole mystery of our Redemption in Christ.

It is in this sense that Mary is “Mother of Mercy.” Through her “Yes” Jesus enters the world: he who is “the face of mercy.” God in his infinite wisdom made his mercy dependent upon Mary’s cooperation. God never forces himself upon us, yet at the same time he gives us every possible means to open ourselves to his grace. He continues to depend upon our “Yes” – our willingness to open the door of our heart to him.

To commemorate the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy St. Charles Parish has commissioned a special icon of Mary as “Mother of Mercy.” The icon will be solemnly blessed and enthroned on January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It’s my hope that this image of Mary as Mother of Mercy will not only inspire greater devotion to the Blessed Virgin, but also inspire us like Mary to bring mercy to birth in our lives, our parish, and our community. We do this the same way she did – by saying “Yes” to what God is asking of us today; to open the doors of our hearts to him and to one another.