Thursday, September 8, 2016
Mysteries We Believe
Some Christians choose to believe in the words of the Bible alone, forgetting that for hundreds of years there was no Bible. And during those years there were unwritten memories, some deemed very important. Some were Revelations, like the Trinity, and others were just common sense good things. Birthdays are like that.
As I write this it is September 8th, the day the Catholic Church chooses to celebrate the birthday of Mary, the Mother of God. It’s not in the Bible; who knows if this date is the correct date --- and since over the years the numbering of the calendar itself has changed, it is very unlikely that this is the actual date of her birth, but we celebrate her birthday anyway, and we chose today. It’s common sense to celebrate the birthday of someone we love, someone important.
Mary and Jesus are important people in Church history --- and no, I’m not saying Mary is Jesus’ equal. She lived with John and knew the apostles for many years after Jesus’ death, and therefore more than many, they knew her. They celebrated her birthday, and in tradition the Church has continued to do so. And even more, knowing that life begins at conception, we celebrate both her and Jesus’ conception, on December 8th and March 25th,, nine months before. It just makes sense to do so. And the reason is because we believe that both were not JUST conceived, there was a mystery about their conception, a miracle if you will. Theirs were no ordinary conceptions, or births.
There was a head of the theology department at a local “Catholic” university (where I got my MBA) who was quoted in Time Magazine as saying that Mary was likely a slut, and Jesus conceived in the gutter. She had difficulty accepting mysteries (and when the dean of the school offered no countering arguments --- “Freedom of expression is allowed at our college,” he wrote me --- I wrote him that I was using my freedom of expression to cancel my annual support of the school). This head of theology couldn’t even accept the Bible, which described Jesus’ conception. She reminds me of Thomas, if she didn’t see it, she couldn’t believe it, or teach it, I guess. But to my mind the specialty of Jesus and Mary doesn’t need proof, all history and reason says so, and reason says we should celebrate their births.
I recall how my nieces flew every year across the country to visit me and mom on mom’s birthday. Every year that I cared for her, they were there to celebrate with me the birth of this special woman --- to us. Growing up, all my aunts and uncles and cousins lived across the street from us or down the block. Families knew each other, and celebrated together. And so when sis got married it seemed natural that she bought a home two blocks from mom and dad. And as her kids, my nieces, grew up and went to school it was grandma’s house they returned to when school was out, for snacks, help with their homework, and dinner if sis had to work late. That was --- and should be --- family life, and so when dad died and I began caring for mom, it was only natural for my nieces to come and celebrate the birthdays of their second mom. Mary is like that to me, a second mom, and is for many in the Catholic Church.
This morning I lit three candles next to the image of Mary in the church, and softly sang “Happy Birthday.” For all that she has done for me in my life, all of her prayers, I will always celebrate her birth, as I remember the three Hail Mary prayers that I say each night at bedtime. She has not forgotten me; I will not forget her.
Her birthday is not in the Bible, but I will celebrate it anyway. It requires no special Revelation to know that she was born, and that she was special. How special she was is a mystery; we can never know for sure --- but I am very confident when I say she was not a slut!!
I think I will go back over this blog’s history sometime today and look at the words and pictures of those days when my nieces and I celebrated our mother’s birthday. She, for us uniquely, was a very special woman.
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Tonight I plan on going out to dinner with some people from the Caregiver’s Support Group I help coordinate. It almost seems kind of fitting that we chose this day to get together and celebrate. Like moms, these are special loving people who I am so privileged to know. When times were difficult, often alone or even against the wishes of their siblings or kids, they chose to love someone who deserved love. Even as some people relegate an hour on Sunday to God, many of these people’s loved ones wanted them to put the special person they cared for in some home where “you can visit them on Sunday”. But they knew that is not how you show that you love someone, and remember how much they loved you.
For some of these people, their loved ones have died, and so in a way we are celebrating their loved one’s life and, of course, their birth. But the real way to celebrate their birth, even as Jesus did, is to live the life we were born to live, being who God made us to be, and celebrating those special people He has put into our lives.
Like you. Thank you for being there.