Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
September 8th, 2011

Roc O'Connor, S.J.

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Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary
[636] Micah 5:1-4a or Romans 8:28-30
Psalm 13:6ab, 6cd
 Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23 or Matthew 1:18-23

This feast finds its historical roots in a sixth century hymn by St. Romanos the Melodist who used the apocryphal gospel of St. James (ca. 150 AD) as his source. The feast occurs nine months after the feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8th). Our feast demonstrates the clear and undeniable option that Catholics and Orthodox make for paradox centered on Mary.
It’s also a dear little feast that is shaped by the scripture readings chosen for it. Since there are choices for the first reading, I selected the passages from Micah and Matthew for reflection.
The prophet Micah gave one of the more interesting and seldom referred to prophecies that speak of Jesus and Mary in terms of the restoration of Israel:
Therefore the Lord will give them up,
until the time
when she who is to give birth has borne,
And the rest of his brethren shall return
to the children of Israel.

The Exile was one of the more problematic parts of the history of God’s people. It raised deep and painful questions. Why did God forsake the many promises to be faithful to Israel, to keep the covenant forever, and to protect the Temple?
Micah doesn’t answer these questions. Rather he assumes the givenness of the Exile (“The Lord will give them up until the time…”) as he announces the time when Exile will end (“when she who is to give birth has borne…”) and proclaims the return of the People.
This birth heralds a return of great and paradoxical proportions.
It is a return based upon reconciliation and restoration after Exile.
It is a return based upon the mother giving birth, a separation for the sake of return.
It is a ‘receiving’ based upon giving.
It is a gift of one for the sake of the all.
In fact, the mysteries of separation and return, giving and receiving, as well as the one and the many play throughout the scriptures, don’t they?
The great paradox and terrible mystery at the heart of it all is that of virgin-mother. Can emptiness be fruitful? Can the barrenness of virginity become the home of abundance? Can the aridity of the desert-womb turn out to be the very dwelling place of fertility? It seems so, right? Our celebration of the birth of Mary proclaims these awe-inspiring yet humbling mysteries.
And what is true about her is true about Jesus. And what is true about Christ will be true about the Body of Christ and the church. Our lack will bear much fruit in God’s sweet time through the very sweet workings of Grace.
Happy Feast!
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