Our Blessed Mother

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

Tomorrow, we will celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary’s immaculate conception in the womb of her mother, St Anne. The feast means that Mary, from the moment of her conception, was free from original sin.

It is an important celebration in the Liturgical Year of the Roman Catholic Church. Many Catholic nations – like Argentina, Austria, Chile, Colombia, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain – observe it with a day off.

It was not observed as a national holiday here until recently, with the passage of Republic Act 10966 also known as “An Act Declaring December 8 of Every Year a Special Non-Working Holiday in the Entire Country to Commemorate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Principal Patroness of the Philippines.”

Filipinos have long been strongly devoted to the Blessed Mother. Upon the request of our bishops, Pope Pius XII declared Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Concepcion, as the Patroness of the Philippines on Sept. 12, 1942.

Many non-Catholics accuse Catholics of worshiping the Blessed Mother. Which is why she is hardly mentioned in their worship services or devotional group discussions.

Indeed, when I joined a pilgrimage entitled Steps of Paul through Greece and Turkey, we skipped visiting what is said to be the last home of the Blessed Mother on earth. It was a pity because we were already in Ephesus and it could have been a better stop than the carpet shop we spent time in.

We Filipinos love our mothers. This is probably why we have developed a strong devotion to Mary. After all, Jesus himself gave us His mother as our own.  And we felt her mother’s love for us.

The Bible records that as Jesus was dying on the cross, He “saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

I think the evangelicals are missing a whole lot by placing Mary on the backburner. She may not have been the great evangelist that Paul was. But the Bible’s New Testament depended on her simple, open acceptance of God’s will to be the mother of Christ in his earthly mission of salvation.

Mary also serves as a model for all of us who think we can control our own lives… Her willingness to let go and entrust her son to God in the midst of extreme pain provides an example for all of us who are parents. God is in charge. He wants good things for his children…

Mary walked by faith and not by sight. She trusted God through all the twists and turns in her life. Mary’s trust in God is most clearly seen in the Annunciation, where she replied to the angel Gabriel: “I am the Lord’s servant… May your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary’s joyful acceptance of God’s mission, brought Christ into our world with God’s good news of salvation.

Chris Tiegreen, an evangelical pastor and  missionary who serves at Daystar Atlanta church in Georgia, surprised me with a write-up on Mary I did not expect from a Protestant.

“I’ve always been fascinated by Mary,” he wrote. “Her story is… a rugged journey of faith against intense opposition and under unimaginable pain. Sure, she pondered the beauty and wonder of it in her heart, and it had to be extremely fulfilling. But it wasn’t easy. She’s a hero of faith.”

Tiegreen continues: “Gabriel called Mary ‘favored,’ and he was right. Her role in history was unique – unprecedented and never to be repeated – and the outcome glorious. But this favor would be a painful blessing to receive. For years, Mary would be considered by many of the people around her as a scandalous mother who bore a scandalous son who died a scandalous death.

“Her husband, a few close relatives and spiritually sensitive people, and some shepherds near Bethlehem knew the truth, but from all outward appearances, this was a girl whose pregnancy began in shame…

“Mary certainly knew the truth and treasured it in her heart, and the testimony of Scripture and the fruit of Jesus’ resurrection power tell us what really happened behind the scenes and who Jesus really is.

“But Mary’s experience during her lifetime was filled with sacrifices. The controversy over Jesus’ ministry and his excruciating execution had to provoke the worst pains a mother can feel. She experienced Jesus as the Savior of the world. But she also experienced him as her son. This was surely not the life she had envisioned for herself in the years before Gabriel came.

“We may not experience the same degree of redirection, but few of us live the life we envisioned. We know what it means to be redirected by God. Mary had the privilege of receiving an announcement that God would rearrange her life, and though she couldn’t have foreseen all the implications, she knew it meant a surrender of her own expectations.

“She willingly submitted to God’s plan. To be chosen for God’s purposes means giving up our own. The privilege and pain of a calling come packaged together, but the calling is always a sign of God’s favor.”

Devotion to the Blessed Mother may seem like worship. But Mary is not competing with Christ for attention or worship.

Nevertheless, a Catholic bishop recently warned Catholics to make sure that worship is due to God alone. Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon reminded Catholics not to let their Marian devotion distract them from the “proper worship” of Jesus Christ.

But Catholics do honor our Blessed Mother with great reverence and devotion because she is the mother of Jesus. We also look up to her as the model of perfect love and obedience to Christ.

Catholic or not, we take the Dec. 8 holiday for granted. Now we know what it is all about and why we are pausing from a regular day’s work. It isn’t just another holiday.



Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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