Mary, Bearer of the Word

July 13, 2011

Homily of Fr. Giles Dimock at the Dominican House of Studies for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

When you entered our front hall, you encountered the portrait of Fr. Lawrence Kearney, who had this priory build after Cardinal Gibbons invited the Dominican friars to make a foundation near the new Catholic University of America. Fr. Kearney studied in Louvain, Belgium, after Leo XIII’s encouragement of Thomistic studies. Louvain was the place to study St. Thomas then. Fr. Kearney seemed to like all things Belgian. He had wood carvers make the reredos over our high altar depicting the 15 mysteries of the rosary over the altar, as well as other statues and panels. He had a Dutch priest-architect design the building (perhaps someone he met at Louvain), and commissioned the painter Adolph Tassan to pain the mural of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Dominic, and all the Dominican saints over the altar. He admired Fra Angelico, painted in his style, came with the painting from Belgium to put it in place, and while working in the chapel, knelt in prayer when the brothers came in to chant the office. When the chapel was completed, the Belgian Province, as a gesture of fraternity, gave us the beautiful choir lectern that now stands in the middle of our choir, with a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary on top. If you look at it carefully, you’ll notice that our lady is pregnant – pregnant with the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. But the Belgian friars who sent it saw her as a symbol of the student brothers here who were praying and studying to have the Word within them in another way, so that they could bring it forth in preaching the Word. Isn’t this true in some way for all of us, too? Our Lady is the model of how to receive the Word well. Isaiah says in our first reading that the Word of God goes forth and accomplishes what it intends, but the Lord Jesus in his parable from today’s Gospel describes the obstacles preventing the Word from taking root – the rocky ground of indifference, the weeds of pleasure and riches – but when it takes root in good soil, that seed produces 30-, 60-, 100-fold. Now, the Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the beginning, completely open to God, because there was no taint of sin in her – this is the Immaculate Conception, to which truth this priory is dedicated. She first conceived the Word in her heart before she conceived him in her Womb, according to St. Ambrose. Being utterly open to God, at the Annunciation, Mary, when told she would bear the Messiah, hesitating just a moment to ascertain that she would remain a virgin, said “Yes.” The Holy Spirit overpowered her, and she bore in her womb the Savior Jesus Christ who would set us free from our sins and open the fountain of grace. This is why the Fathers of the Church called her the “new Eve.” The first woman, Eve, who name means “Mother of the Living” got the first man, Adam (which means “Man”), to disobey God, to say “No,” and death and sin came as a result. Mary, the new Eve, says “Yes,” and life and grace came through the new Adam, the new man, Jesus. So she, not Eve, is really “the mother of the living.” Her example can teach us to say “Yes” to God, “Yes” to the Word, and as we do, we can be instruments of God as was Our Lady. We may affect those around us in ways we hadn’t expected, and we will be surprised to find God working through us! Amen.

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