An excerpt from St. Augustine’s Discourses was offered today for our consideration in the Office of Readings for the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is a feast that is quite ancient in the Eastern Churches and has essentially been celebrated in the western or Latin Church since the 16th Century. I’d like to quote St. Augustine today (my translation of the Italian text I used):
“Let me repeat: it was a greater dignity for her (Mary) and greater joy for her to have been a disciple of Christ that to have been the Mother of Christ…… Holy is Mary, blessed is Mary, but the Church is greater than the Virgin Mary. Why? Because Mary is a part of the Church, a holy member, an excellent member, a member that surpasses all else in dignity but above all she is always a member in respect to the whole body. If she is a member of the whole body, then certainly the body is worth more than one of its members.”
Wow! Think of the humility of our mother Mary. For her, to have been a disciple of her Son was a greater dignity and joy than to have been his mother. Mary, so great is her dignity, yet she humbles herself to the Church, who is of greater dignity than her. Why? Because the Church is the Body of Christ, her Son.
This is a distinguishing mark of Catholicism, and something Archbishop Dolan recently has emphasized: Christ and his Church are one. There can be no separation. That is why there is no salvation outside of the Church. That is why all who follow Jesus Christ inevitably will be drawn to the Church. That is why it is impossible to truly love Christ if you do not love the Church.
This is always Mary’s role…. to lead us to Christ her Son, His Body, the Church.
Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Pray for us now and at the hour of our death! Amen.