May is Our Lady’s month. I fondly recall May Crowning in my home parish—
“O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May!”
The month of May is named for the pagan goddess Maia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maia_(mythology))*, who was the mother of the Greek god Hermes (the Roman Mercury). Among other things, Hermes was the god of shepherds. When the Gentiles of the Roman Empire first converted to Christianity and began creating their own artwork, they used statues of Hermes Kriophoros (the “Ram-Bearer”) as a model for statues of Christ the Good Shepherd (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriophoros).
I don’t mean to lead us down some syncretistic rabbit hole. However, there were some strains in Gentile religion that pointed to the coming of Christ. If the pagans celebrated May as the month of the mother of Hermes the Ram-Bearer, how much more should we celebrate it as the month of the mother of the Good Shepherd.
*Warning: there’s at least one immodest image on this Wikipedia page
Strange, how the seeds of doubt are sown. I read a blog post by someone who touts himself as a traditional Catholic. The author made an observation. Earlier in Church art, images of Our Lady always include Our Lord. Think of the icons of the East, where Our Lady typically holds the Christ Child. Think of Romanesque and Gothic statues of Our Lady seated, with the Christ Child on her lap. The author contrasted this artistic tradition with Neo-Gothic statues of the modern era, which often show Our Lady standing alone, her arms outstretched. This pose is often associated with Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Fatima.
The author was implying that this artistic convention is un-traditional and divorces Our Lady from Our Lord. It makes her an independent force or mediator, separate from Our Lord, making the Protestant allegation of Mariolatry seem true. This thought now occurs to me when I see statues of Our Lady absent a representation of the Christ Child. It occurs to me when I venerate Our Lady at the Lady Altar in a local church, where the statue shows Our Lady in the pose described above. It’s a wicked thought, but it takes some insight to redress. For me, the insight was slow in coming. It came one day when praying the Rosary, specifically the mystery of the Visitation. Continue reading
It occurred to me the other day that the Apostles’ Creed is a synopsis — a summary — of the fifteen traditional mysteries of the Rosary. Meditating on that fact helps you integrate the Creed into the Rosary. It doesn’t seem like an arbitrary starting point for the prayers and mysteries that follow. Here’s how my thought came about:
The traditional Rosary consists of five Joyful Mysteries, five Sorrowful Mysteries, and five Glorious Mysteries. These mysteries focus on Our Lord’s Incarnation, Birth, Infancy and early life, Passion, Death, Resurrection, and events after the Resurrection. The Luminous Mysteries, which commemorate events in Our Lord’s Public Ministry, are not present.
You can very easily divide the articles of the Apostles’ Creed into three sections corresponding to the three sets of mysteries:
Each day between today (Jan. 18th, regardless of the date stamp above) and next Wednesday (Jan. 25th), I encourage you all to pray the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. For each day’s prayers, I refer you here (http://acatholiclife.blogspot.com/2015/01/traditional-catholic-prayers-for-week.html). For some background on this prayer octave, I refer you here (http://church.atonementonline.com/wp-content/uploads/Octave-of-Prayer-for-Christian-Unity.pdf).
The octave lasts from the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome (Jan. 18th) until the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan. 25th). You can learn more about today’s feast here (http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2017/01/the-two-feasts-of-st-peters-chair.html#.WIAQSGciyM9). The first day’s prayer intention is for the return of the “other sheep” to the One Fold of Christ. In honor of today’s feast, here is a photo of the Altar of the Chair in the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica. As I understand it, the throne above the altar is a reliquary containing the relics of St. Peter’s cathedra (chair). Continue reading
The English-language Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” relates how St. Wenceslas of Bohemia went out upon the feast of Stephen to feed a poor peasant (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_King_Wenceslas). According to the legend, St. Wenceslas’ servant found it very cold following him through the snow, so St. Wenceslas told the servant to follow in his footprints. By a miracle, the footprints stayed warm to protect the servant’s feet.
By divine providence today (the very feast of St. Stephen, Dec. 26, regardless of the date stamp above), I came upon an alternative story of the legend that says the miracle occurred during a visit St. Wenceslas made to the Blessed Sacrament. This version comes from St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church and founder of the Redemptorists. Continue reading