When September 8th falls on any other day besides Sunday, the Church celebrates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. According to the apocryphal Gospel of James, the story of Mary’s birth is reminiscent of Luke’s accounts of both John the Baptist and Jesus’ birth: in one, a holy, but childless couple, begs the mercy of God for the blessing of offspring, and are more than rewarded for their faith and constancy: a child who would give great witness to the coming Messiah. In the other, the mother, with a “magnified soul,” sings an ecstatic song of praise to God. In James’ account, Ss. Joachim and Ann, who are sinless before God, offer unblemished sacrifices to God in the temple, and are assured (by two angels) that God has heard their prayer. The infant Mary could walk at six months (rather precocious, no?) and, at three years of age, was brought to the temple, where the priest “received her, and kissed, and blessed her, saying: ‘The Lord has magnified thy name in all generations.’ And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her, and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her.” Our bulletin cover captures this wonderful scene.
The birth of any child fills the human heart with joy, and the thought of endless possibilities. It is fitting, then, that the Church of St. Mary might see in her Nativity an example for our community of faith. Indeed, there will be, if not endless, certainly many opportunities for our spiritual growth. The first opportunity, of course, will come next week, when our parish will hold our Ministry Fair. This is the result of the town hall meetings we held in May, when parishioners voiced their hopes for the direction we might follow in the future. Our intention is not to place further demands on our parishioners to attend more meetings, or require them to do more for the sake of doing more. I firmly believe that, informed and engraced by the Spirit of God, that we serve the Kingdom best by bringing the presence of Christ to Stop and Shop, Roslyn High School, the Jolly Fisherman, and Hempstead Harbor: that is to say, to the world outside our beautiful Church.
In order to do that, however, we must equip ourselves with what we need. Our religious education program for children, and our Catechism and Bible classes for adults, will ensure our knowledge of the faith. Our liturgical ministries (lectors, Eucharistic ministers, choir, hospitality and ushers) make sure that our experience of the sacraments is beautiful, solemn, dignified…and welcoming. Our outreach to various constituencies—our precious seniors, the poor and suffering, and folks who are grieving the loss of loved ones, remind us that the love of God always shows itself in action. Our work with youth, whether on the field or in the chapel, is our duty to the spes ecclesiae (the hope of the church). Finally, our pursuit of beauty (Catholic Novel club, film club, art club) means that the most sublime truths are often expressed more in images than by concepts. (Think of how much fun we are going to have!!!)
Our second opportunity for enrichment in faith, of course, is through our hospitality to a new member of St. Mary’s, Mr. Rafal Borowiejski: a seminarian from St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, who will be spending weekends with us this year in preparation for priestly formation. Rafal is a man of great learning, humility, and generosity of spirit. Please introduce yourselves to him and invite him into our life here. Make him feel (with apologies to the musical Oliver) “part of the furniture.” Friends, I don’t know, but if you feel like dancing on the steps…