Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Second Wednesday of Advent

The Dignity of Man

he Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the United States of America as a holyday of obligation.  The bishops of our country have dedicated our nation to the protection of Our Lady under this title.  Fittingly is this so, for in the Declaration of Independence we read:  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  Hence our Founding Fathers made clear their belief in the Creator and in the fact that He has endowed us with rights and liberties.  These rights and liberties come from God.  We are dependent upon God for them and not upon any State.

The bishops of the United States, in one of their recent statements, made it clear that there could be no peace in the world until nations agree on the true nature of man, namely, that man has a dignity consisting in the fact that man is a creature of God and not a creature of the State.

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception clearly identifies for Catholics the doctrine of the dignity of man.  It was Mary's privilege to have been conceived without sin.  that privilege was given to no other human being.  And God, in bestowing this renowned privilege upon one of His creatures, paved the way for the Redemption of man through His only-begotten Son who was to be born of this same Virgin Mother.

This privilege of Mary goes very deep into God's plans for all mankind.  By teaching of the Redemption and of Mary's Immaculate Conception, w are made aware of the fact that man is no machine -- he is not a composition of matter that passes back  into the earth.  man has a value other than his human existence.  He has dignity apart from his ability to labor and to store up material wealth.  Man is a creature of God composed of body and soul and made to the image and likeness of his Creator.  Man has faculties of soul, intellect, and free will, which are to be trained according to their true ends and purposes.  they are spiritual faculties and are meant for man's knowing and loving god.  The solution to the world's crisis today rests in the answer to the question;  are we men or are we beasts?  There can be no peace until there is an agreement upon man's true dignity, for man is God's creature and not he State's!  He is soul as well as body. 

The world's excitement, its greed for wealth, its love for inordinate pleasure, its love for speed and distraction is not just an external quality of our times.  It has become intrinsic to our nature all too often!  This spirit of the world has seeped down into the very souls of men.  It is not just the plan or the train of our age that speeds, but our minds and our souls!  As haste is the death of devotion, so too, do greed, distraction, and pleasure spell death to those who should be devoted to the things of the soul.  the noise of the world is too great a distraction to many who should spend moments of prayer and make an examination of conscience before god's Eucharistic Presence in some quiet little chapel.  The spirit of the world is not the spirit of those who are inspired by the doctrine of the Redemption and the teaching of the Immaculate Conception.  For they who are cognizant of man's dignity know that they were created not for the amassing of wealth for the State, but for the purpose of living for god here, and enjoying the Beatific Vision for all eternity!

If men, today, would return to a belief in their true nature, to a belief in their soul and its immortality, if they would have a continuation and preservation of their inalienable rights, they must return to the Creator from whom these rights came.  There can be no peace until all mankind recognizes its true dignity.

Of this it is that Mary, Virgin most venerable, reminds us!  All is not yet lost, even though God "seems" so far away.  Like a mother, who reassures her children, Mary reminds us that God is very close to souls who are close to His Mother.  We should resolve to cherish the Virgin most vernerable, and to pray always to live according to our true dignity, for God made us just a little less than the angels.


Mary, you are all fair and there is no stain in you.  We salute you as "our tainted nature's solitary boast" and we sing to you the sweet angel's song of "Ave Maria"  -- Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen. 

The above  image is from a twelfth century altar frontal, located somewhere in Rome.  Depicted is the Blessed Mother, in red, consoling Mary Magdalene.  Though it's quite a primitive painting, isn't the aspect of this embrace touching?   From the earliest times, the faithful have understood the role of Mary as consoler.  I expect the apostles and the very first Christians who had the great honor of knowing her on earth, understood the deep love and sympathy of Christ's mother more than we can even guess.  It is one of the greatest consolations of life, though  -- and one of the greatest blessings we have as Catholics -- to know we can turn to Mary in our sorrows and troubles.  Our Mother always understands -- and takes our hand as we approach her Son with our prayers.   

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