Sunday, August 05, 2018

Our Lady of the Snows

 Feast Day:  August 5

August 5th is a Marian feast celebrated in our Catholic calendar as the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. This basilica is the largest in the world dedicated to Mary, Mother of God. Pope Liberius erected this church in honor of Mary and shortly after the Council of Ephesus in 431, Pope Sixtus III commissioned a rebuilding of the Church as an affirmation of the title given to Mary as the "Theotokos" or "God-Bearer." A theological debate about this title was instigated by Bishop Nestorius when he concluded that since Mary bore the God-Man Jesus, she could only be called Mother of Jesus, and not Mother of God, since God existed before Mary. St. Cyril of Alexandria, along with the other bishops, decried this as a heresy. According to their argument, Christ's nature was indivisible. He was both God and Man and therefore Mary is also the Mother of God. St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals. St. John Lateran represents Rome, St. Paul Outside the Walls representing the See of Alexandria, St. Peter's representing the See of Constantinople and St. Mary representing the See of Antioch, where Mary spent most of her earthly life.

This day is also known by a legendary feast of Our Lady of the Snows. According to this legend, a wealthy Roman couple had pledged their fortunes to the Mother of God. Mary, in her turn, appeared in a dream with an instruction to build a Church in her honor. The site of the building was indicated by sending snow during the month of August. The snowfall fell on a spot in the Esquiline hill, one of the seven hills in Rome. The legend was long celebrated by releasing a shower of white rose petals from the basilica’s dome every August 5.

This feast of Mary is very special to me because I was providentially born on this day. Mary holds a very special place in my spiritual journey and when I found out about this feast, I was thrilled beyond measure! I felt that by an act of Providence, she has become my special Patroness. Of all the attributes of Mary, her title of 'Mother of God" is closest to my heart. The representation of Mary which speaks volumes to me , whether in pictures or statues, is Mary with the Child Jesus. It is also providential that the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel depicts Mary holding the Child Jesus in her arms and the Child in his turn, holding Mary's chin in tender affection. This is the relationship I try to have with our Lady. In the words of St. Therese, "Mary is more Mother than Queen!" Mary is Mother of Carmel.
I cannot understand those who reject this good mother's love and protection. I would like to believe that it is only because of ignorance and not total malice and hatred, that one will turn away from the Mother of God. If they really know her for what she truly is all about, they would have no choice but to love her and to call upon her. I am also glad that Vatican II, in its document "Lumen Gentium," talks about Mary, her true place and role in the life of the Church. In the past, the Catholic faithful was content in designating Mary as the "go-to-person" to ask for favors and intercessions. Although She does this for us in more ways than one, Mary is foremost the first-disciple, a fellow-pilgrim in the life of faith and the fulfillment of our true destiny, "a type of Church with no wrinkle or stain," according to the words of Vatican II. It is fitting that we celebrate Mary Mother of God on the eve of the Feast of the Transfiguration (august 6th). Jesus, in revealing his divinity, reminds us that by our holy baptism, we have a divine life in God, awaiting us far beyond this earthly life. We were created to be with God and we carry in us the divine life of God. Mary, was the vessel of this Divine Life. She bore this Life in her womb and incarnated this life. It was a singular privilege. But we are called to the same vocation. By our life of docility, virtues and resignation to the will of God, Jesus can be made incarnate once again and continue to walk on the face of this earth.

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