MARY IN THE SACRED SCRIPTURE

Date Created: 2018-06-25 17:53:25

MARY IN THE SACRED SCRIPTURES

                                                   Rev. Fr. Peter  Oluseyi  Adeyemi

 (Being the text lecture to Mark the beginning of the Marian Year in Osogbo Diocese, 2017)

My Lord Bishop,

Very Rev. Msgri,

Fathers, Sisters and  People of God. 

 

INTRODUCTION

        Today we join all other dioceses in Nigeria to kick start the National Marian Year in Catholic Diocese of Osogbo. The celebration as declared is to mark the 100 years of Marian apparition to three young ladies in Fatima in far away Portugal. It is to be recalled that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three visionaries who were then young girls namely: Jacinta, Francisco and Marto between 1916- 1917. Their religious experiences after serious scrutiny were eventually given official recognition by the competent ecclesiastical authorities. This intervention is to shed light on the Fatima apparition,  explain  historical antecedents about declaration of Marian Year, make a brief discussion about the national theme and give special attention to the diocesan topic of reflection: “Mary and the Holy Scriptures.”     

MARIAN YEAR DECLARATIONS:  

      A Marian Year is the dedication of a year by ecclesiastical authorities in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Such celebration involves special prayers, especially devotion to Mary the Mother of God, various observances, and the practice of penances. In the history of Holy Catholic Church, some years are special with reference to Mary  for example the dogma on “Theotokos,” Mary Mother of God was declared in 431 AD at the council of Ephesus, dogma of Immaculate Conception in 1851, while the dogma on Assumption of Mary was declared in 1950.Those years can rightly be called Marian years.

      The first official Marian Year was declared by Pope Pius XII in 1954 calling on the Catholic faithful all over the world to commemorate the centenary of proclamation of the doctrine of Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1851. Global events preceding the declaration were the world wars I and II and other global experiences of destruction and death. Pope Pius XII saw the need to call attention to hope and comfort through the devotion to Mary, a reminder to the world that Mary epitomizes love, charity, peace and her gift of Christ the light of the world.  

      The second official declaration of Marian year was by St.  Pope John Paul II, he proclaimed a fourteen-month Marian Year from Pentecost to the feast of the Assumption in 1987-1988. The purpose of the declaration was to prepare the world for the celebration of the second millennium of Christianity in the year 2000. The prayer of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II succinctly explain why he declared the Marian Year: “O Mary, we want you to shine on the horizon of our age as we prepare for the third millennium of the Christian age.”

     As a Nigerian, a Catholic and a priest my first instinct when I heard about the declaration of Marian year by Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria to mark the centenary of apparition of Blessed virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal was, why commemorate Fatima apparition in Nigeria? Why not declare Marian Year for the Church in Nigeria without attaching it to Fatima apparition?  After all, apparition anywhere including that of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Aokpe in Benue State, Nigeria, is a private revelation which the faithful are not obliged to accept with or without official approval. I got the answer to my concern in the prayer composed by the  Bishops to mark the centenary of Fatima apparition in Nigeria. Our elders say: “Ogbon ologbon ki je ki a pe agba ni were” meaning “Wisdom dictates that no one calls elders fools.” Excerpts from the prayer read:  

 

PRAYER FOR MARIAN YEAR IN NIGERIA 2017

Oh Our Lady, Queen and Mother of Nigeria we hail thee,
We come to your throne of grace seeking your face
In a special way in this year of our celebration
Of our National Marian Year and Centenary of Fatima
We come to you this year, Mother of the Holy Family
To intercede for our troubled families
We come to you, Help of Christians
To intercede for the persecuted Christians in Nigeria
We come to you Our Lady of Perpetual Help
To intercede for our Country and our leaders
We come to you especially, Our Lady of Fatima
In this Centenary of your appearance in Portugal
When you brought peace to that once troubled country
And as we mark that historic moment this year,
We beg of you to do the same in our country, Nigeria
Obtain for us that peace which can only come from Heaven
Peace in our hearts, homes, places of work and our nation
May the celebration of the Marian Year in Nigeria
And the eventual re-consecration of our country
To your Immaculate Heart, restore total peace
Oh Holy Mother of God and Mother of the Church,
With our hearts free from evil and hatred,
Make us able to bring to all others true joy and peace,
Which come to us from your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
Lives and reigns, forever and ever, Amen

     The prayer composed by the Nigeria hierarchy signed by Archbishop Valerian Okeke, chairman CBCN Pastoral department expresses fully why our bishops declared the Marian Year, precisely to seek the maternal intercession of Mary to heal our sick nation and many important personalities whose sicknesses are retarding the progress of the nation. We need Mary to help us with her prayer for us to overcome the hatred of Boko Haram for innocent citizens of Nigeria, we need Mary to help intercede for us for divine intervention so that Fulani herdsmen will stop their murderous activities in the land. We need Mary to help us so that killers and kidnappers who pretend to be militants will change from evil to good. We need Mary to help us pray that half salary will become full salary in our State. Robbing Peter to Paul is not a religious virtue. More importantly, we need divine intervention for us as a nation to overcome the culture of indifference to the plight of the citizens, the evil greed of our political leaders and ubiquitous corruption that is gradually sending our country to the mortuary of disintegration.   

      The national theme chosen was the theme for our annual Oke - Maria three years ago. There is no need to discuss that in detail here. As someone rightly pointed out that statement from the Blessed Virgin Mary to the people during the wedding at Cana in Galilee recorded in John 2:5 remains the best advice anyone can offer any serious Christian for all ages. We may ask ourselves if the statement was an advice or a command.

        With the benefit of hindsight we can infer that the statement was not just advisory, the servants carried out the instruction that Christ gave to them to fill empty jars with water promptly  the water was turned to the best wine during the wedding feast. Undoubtedly, our well being on earth and eternal salvation depend on how we accept and carry out the command from Mary that we do whatever He (Christ) tells us.

MARY AND THE SCRIPTURES

       The Diocesan organising committee asked me to focus on Mary and the Sacred Scriptures as our diocesan theme. The theme is a straight forward exercise, which is simply to state what the says about Mary and apply the lessons to our daily experience as followers of Christ. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are filled with references about the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her role in the work of salvation.

Mary in the Old Testament:

        In Old Testament the person of Blessed Virgin Mary and her role in the salvation of the world were foreshadowed clearly. In Genesis 3: 15 the Bible talks about the plan of God for the redemption of man after Adamic fall in these words: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed, he will bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” The woman has been identified to be Mary the mother of the redeemer and Christ as the “seed” in opposition to Satan and the conqueror of evil. Similarly, prophet Isaiah speaks about the Virgin Mother of Emmanuel cf. Isaiah 7: 14. Prophet Micah 5: 2-3 predicts the birth of the saviour by a woman who will be the ruler of his people Israel. All these Biblical references point out clearly that the revered position Mary acquired in the New Testament was by divine providence.

Mary in the New Testament:

     The New Testament contains revealed truths about Mary that clearly portray her personality and divine assigned roles in history of the salvation of the world. This we can sort out into three areas namely: Her role in the infancy narrative of Christ, her role during the public ministry of Jesus, her role as our intercessor.   

Mary in the Infancy Narrative:

        In the infancy narrative we have Annunciation (Lk. 1: 26-38), The Visitation (Lk. 1: 39-56), The Nativity (Lk. 2: 2-40), The Presentation (Lk. 2: 4-20), The Presentation (Lk. 2: 22-38), The Finding of the Jesus in the Temple (Lk. 2: 49). The Gospel of Matthew records some other relevant Marian presence in the New Testament, her betrothal to Joseph (Mtt.1: 18), the arrival of the magi (Matt. 2: 1-12), the flight of the Holy family to Egypt (Matt.2:13-18) and the return to Israel (Matt. 2:19-23).    

       One of the messages for us as we kick start the Marian Year is her disposition to the infant Jesus as portrayed in Luke 2: 19 that says: “Mary treasured and pondered on these things in her Heart” that statement is a reminder to us that Mary lived an active contemplative prayer life, she took the word of God with all seriousness it deserves and she is our teacher as we try to contemplate what it takes to be faithful disciples of Christ in the world.

       The word “treasure” is from the Greek word “Sunterio” meaning to “keep or preserve something precious,” while the word “ponder” is from “Sunballo” to put things together, to add up things or look for similarity in an observable pattern. Mary the Mother of God, who “appeared on the horizon of salvation history before Christ” cf. (Redemptoris  Mater no 3) reflected soberly and deeply on the events in the life of Christ in order to determine what they mean and the prospects they hold for the salvation of mankind. 

        There were three instances cited in the Bible when Mary had to ponder on issues that pertain to Christ and by extension our salvation, during the annunciation as recorded in Luke 1: 28-30, the Bible says “She was deeply disturbed and asked herself what this greeting could mean.” Remarkably, Mary welcomed the Word of the true God and offered the full submission of her will and intellect and freely assent to the mission entrusted to her, she abandoned herself totally to God through “the obedience of faith” (Redemptoris Mater 26). We must ponder daily the word of God following the example of Mary our Mother.

Mary in the Public Ministry of Jesus:

        In the public ministry of Jesus Mary proved her worth by being present in the life of Jesus from birth till death. Mary demonstrated her care about the wellbeing of Jesus cf. Mark 3: 32; Lk 8: 20; Matt. 12: 46-50, in all the passages she went looking for Jesus.  Little wonder that at the point of death on the cross Jesus spared a thought for His mother Mary, cf. John 19: 26- 27. If Jesus thought about his Mother at that crucial point in his mission of salvation, he clearly directed the human race to seek her maternal support, protection and constant intercession. Every Catholic must care and be daily involved in the ministry of salvation for which Christ gave His life.

Mary as our Intercessor:

    At the wedding in Cana Mary showed her capacity for efficacious intercessory power cf. John 2: 1-11. The Acts of the Apostles portrayed her as a prayerful person cf. Acts 1: 13-14 and Acts 2: 4. From all these flow the faith of the Catholic Church in her power of intercession for Christians. The Catholic Church is conscious of the declaration in (1 Tm. 2: 5-6), in LG (no 60), the Fathers state that: Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power.” The invocation of Mary as Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix does not take anything away or add anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator cf. (LG no 62). Pope St. John Paul II in his Encyclical: Redemptoris Mater (no 38) stated that the intercession of Mary possesses a specifically maternal character, which distinguishes her mediation from that of other creatures who in various and always in a subordinate ways shares in the one mediation of Christ. The Church does not hesitate to proclaim the subordinate mediation of Mary to that of Christ, but affirms it to be special and extraordinary. We must pray our rosary daily as a way of seeking the maternal intercession of Mary and sincere Honour for her.

Conclusion:

      The celebration of Marian year is a special invitation to us to remember everything in the past of the Blessed Virgin Mary that testifies to her special cooperation with God in the work of salvation. Saint John Paul II in his Encyclical: “Redemptoris Mater” used three verbs to describe the person of Mary in relation to God Almighty: Assent, Consent and Obedience.  Assent involves understanding the will of God and agreeing to it, consent is complete cooperation with the will of God and obedience is accepting and doing the will of God. Mary did not refuse the request from God to be the mother of His only begotten Son, she gave her assent, consent and obedience, as we celebrate the Marian Year let each person give his/her assent, consent and obedience to God so that we can reap maximum spiritual benefit of this special Year.

The text of lecture delivered at the commencement of Marian Year in Osogbo Diocese on 27th April 2017.

Rev. Fr. Peter Oluseyi Adeyemi,

Parish Priest,

 Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Oke-Fia, Osogbo.

                                         MARY IN THE SACRED SCRIPTURES

                                                   Rev. Fr. Peter  Oluseyi  Adeyemi

 (Being the text lecture to Mark the beginning of the Marian Year in Osogbo Diocese, 2017)

My Lord Bishop,

Very Rev. Msgri,

Fathers, Sisters and  People of God. 

 

INTRODUCTION

        Today we join all other dioceses in Nigeria to kick start the National Marian Year in Catholic Diocese of Osogbo. The celebration as declared is to mark the 100 years of Marian apparition to three young ladies in Fatima in far away Portugal. It is to be recalled that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three visionaries who were then young girls namely: Jacinta, Francisco and Marto between 1916- 1917. Their religious experiences after serious scrutiny were eventually given official recognition by the competent ecclesiastical authorities. This intervention is to shed light on the Fatima apparition,  explain  historical antecedents about declaration of Marian Year, make a brief discussion about the national theme and give special attention to the diocesan topic of reflection: “Mary and the Holy Scriptures.”     

MARIAN YEAR DECLARATIONS:  

      A Marian Year is the dedication of a year by ecclesiastical authorities in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Such celebration involves special prayers, especially devotion to Mary the Mother of God, various observances, and the practice of penances. In the history of Holy Catholic Church, some years are special with reference to Mary  for example the dogma on “Theotokos,” Mary Mother of God was declared in 431 AD at the council of Ephesus, dogma of Immaculate Conception in 1851, while the dogma on Assumption of Mary was declared in 1950.Those years can rightly be called Marian years.

      The first official Marian Year was declared by Pope Pius XII in 1954 calling on the Catholic faithful all over the world to commemorate the centenary of proclamation of the doctrine of Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1851. Global events preceding the declaration were the world wars I and II and other global experiences of destruction and death. Pope Pius XII saw the need to call attention to hope and comfort through the devotion to Mary, a reminder to the world that Mary epitomizes love, charity, peace and her gift of Christ the light of the world.  

      The second official declaration of Marian year was by St.  Pope John Paul II, he proclaimed a fourteen-month Marian Year from Pentecost to the feast of the Assumption in 1987-1988. The purpose of the declaration was to prepare the world for the celebration of the second millennium of Christianity in the year 2000. The prayer of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II succinctly explain why he declared the Marian Year: “O Mary, we want you to shine on the horizon of our age as we prepare for the third millennium of the Christian age.”

     As a Nigerian, a Catholic and a priest my first instinct when I heard about the declaration of Marian year by Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria to mark the centenary of apparition of Blessed virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal was, why commemorate Fatima apparition in Nigeria? Why not declare Marian Year for the Church in Nigeria without attaching it to Fatima apparition?  After all, apparition anywhere including that of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Aokpe in Benue State, Nigeria, is a private revelation which the faithful are not obliged to accept with or without official approval. I got the answer to my concern in the prayer composed by the  Bishops to mark the centenary of Fatima apparition in Nigeria. Our elders say: “Ogbon ologbon ki je ki a pe agba ni were” meaning “Wisdom dictates that no one calls elders fools.” Excerpts from the prayer read:  

 

PRAYER FOR MARIAN YEAR IN NIGERIA 2017

Oh Our Lady, Queen and Mother of Nigeria we hail thee,
We come to your throne of grace seeking your face
In a special way in this year of our celebration
Of our National Marian Year and Centenary of Fatima
We come to you this year, Mother of the Holy Family
To intercede for our troubled families
We come to you, Help of Christians
To intercede for the persecuted Christians in Nigeria
We come to you Our Lady of Perpetual Help
To intercede for our Country and our leaders
We come to you especially, Our Lady of Fatima
In this Centenary of your appearance in Portugal
When you brought peace to that once troubled country
And as we mark that historic moment this year,
We beg of you to do the same in our country, Nigeria
Obtain for us that peace which can only come from Heaven
Peace in our hearts, homes, places of work and our nation
May the celebration of the Marian Year in Nigeria
And the eventual re-consecration of our country
To your Immaculate Heart, restore total peace
Oh Holy Mother of God and Mother of the Church,
With our hearts free from evil and hatred,
Make us able to bring to all others true joy and peace,
Which come to us from your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
Lives and reigns, forever and ever, Amen

     The prayer composed by the Nigeria hierarchy signed by Archbishop Valerian Okeke, chairman CBCN Pastoral department expresses fully why our bishops declared the Marian Year, precisely to seek the maternal intercession of Mary to heal our sick nation and many important personalities whose sicknesses are retarding the progress of the nation. We need Mary to help us with her prayer for us to overcome the hatred of Boko Haram for innocent citizens of Nigeria, we need Mary to help intercede for us for divine intervention so that Fulani herdsmen will stop their murderous activities in the land. We need Mary to help us so that killers and kidnappers who pretend to be militants will change from evil to good. We need Mary to help us pray that half salary will become full salary in our State. Robbing Peter to Paul is not a religious virtue. More importantly, we need divine intervention for us as a nation to overcome the culture of indifference to the plight of the citizens, the evil greed of our political leaders and ubiquitous corruption that is gradually sending our country to the mortuary of disintegration.   

      The national theme chosen was the theme for our annual Oke - Maria three years ago. There is no need to discuss that in detail here. As someone rightly pointed out that statement from the Blessed Virgin Mary to the people during the wedding at Cana in Galilee recorded in John 2:5 remains the best advice anyone can offer any serious Christian for all ages. We may ask ourselves if the statement was an advice or a command.

        With the benefit of hindsight we can infer that the statement was not just advisory, the servants carried out the instruction that Christ gave to them to fill empty jars with water promptly  the water was turned to the best wine during the wedding feast. Undoubtedly, our well being on earth and eternal salvation depend on how we accept and carry out the command from Mary that we do whatever He (Christ) tells us.

MARY AND THE SCRIPTURES

       The Diocesan organising committee asked me to focus on Mary and the Sacred Scriptures as our diocesan theme. The theme is a straight forward exercise, which is simply to state what the says about Mary and apply the lessons to our daily experience as followers of Christ. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are filled with references about the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her role in the work of salvation.

Mary in the Old Testament:

        In Old Testament the person of Blessed Virgin Mary and her role in the salvation of the world were foreshadowed clearly. In Genesis 3: 15 the Bible talks about the plan of God for the redemption of man after Adamic fall in these words: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed, he will bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” The woman has been identified to be Mary the mother of the redeemer and Christ as the “seed” in opposition to Satan and the conqueror of evil. Similarly, prophet Isaiah speaks about the Virgin Mother of Emmanuel cf. Isaiah 7: 14. Prophet Micah 5: 2-3 predicts the birth of the saviour by a woman who will be the ruler of his people Israel. All these Biblical references point out clearly that the revered position Mary acquired in the New Testament was by divine providence.

Mary in the New Testament:

     The New Testament contains revealed truths about Mary that clearly portray her personality and divine assigned roles in history of the salvation of the world. This we can sort out into three areas namely: Her role in the infancy narrative of Christ, her role during the public ministry of Jesus, her role as our intercessor.   

Mary in the Infancy Narrative:

        In the infancy narrative we have Annunciation (Lk. 1: 26-38), The Visitation (Lk. 1: 39-56), The Nativity (Lk. 2: 2-40), The Presentation (Lk. 2: 4-20), The Presentation (Lk. 2: 22-38), The Finding of the Jesus in the Temple (Lk. 2: 49). The Gospel of Matthew records some other relevant Marian presence in the New Testament, her betrothal to Joseph (Mtt.1: 18), the arrival of the magi (Matt. 2: 1-12), the flight of the Holy family to Egypt (Matt.2:13-18) and the return to Israel (Matt. 2:19-23).    

       One of the messages for us as we kick start the Marian Year is her disposition to the infant Jesus as portrayed in Luke 2: 19 that says: “Mary treasured and pondered on these things in her Heart” that statement is a reminder to us that Mary lived an active contemplative prayer life, she took the word of God with all seriousness it deserves and she is our teacher as we try to contemplate what it takes to be faithful disciples of Christ in the world.

       The word “treasure” is from the Greek word “Sunterio” meaning to “keep or preserve something precious,” while the word “ponder” is from “Sunballo” to put things together, to add up things or look for similarity in an observable pattern. Mary the Mother of God, who “appeared on the horizon of salvation history before Christ” cf. (Redemptoris  Mater no 3) reflected soberly and deeply on the events in the life of Christ in order to determine what they mean and the prospects they hold for the salvation of mankind. 

        There were three instances cited in the Bible when Mary had to ponder on issues that pertain to Christ and by extension our salvation, during the annunciation as recorded in Luke 1: 28-30, the Bible says “She was deeply disturbed and asked herself what this greeting could mean.” Remarkably, Mary welcomed the Word of the true God and offered the full submission of her will and intellect and freely assent to the mission entrusted to her, she abandoned herself totally to God through “the obedience of faith” (Redemptoris Mater 26). We must ponder daily the word of God following the example of Mary our Mother.

Mary in the Public Ministry of Jesus:

        In the public ministry of Jesus Mary proved her worth by being present in the life of Jesus from birth till death. Mary demonstrated her care about the wellbeing of Jesus cf. Mark 3: 32; Lk 8: 20; Matt. 12: 46-50, in all the passages she went looking for Jesus.  Little wonder that at the point of death on the cross Jesus spared a thought for His mother Mary, cf. John 19: 26- 27. If Jesus thought about his Mother at that crucial point in his mission of salvation, he clearly directed the human race to seek her maternal support, protection and constant intercession. Every Catholic must care and be daily involved in the ministry of salvation for which Christ gave His life.

Mary as our Intercessor:

    At the wedding in Cana Mary showed her capacity for efficacious intercessory power cf. John 2: 1-11. The Acts of the Apostles portrayed her as a prayerful person cf. Acts 1: 13-14 and Acts 2: 4. From all these flow the faith of the Catholic Church in her power of intercession for Christians. The Catholic Church is conscious of the declaration in (1 Tm. 2: 5-6), in LG (no 60), the Fathers state that: Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power.” The invocation of Mary as Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix does not take anything away or add anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator cf. (LG no 62). Pope St. John Paul II in his Encyclical: Redemptoris Mater (no 38) stated that the intercession of Mary possesses a specifically maternal character, which distinguishes her mediation from that of other creatures who in various and always in a subordinate ways shares in the one mediation of Christ. The Church does not hesitate to proclaim the subordinate mediation of Mary to that of Christ, but affirms it to be special and extraordinary. We must pray our rosary daily as a way of seeking the maternal intercession of Mary and sincere Honour for her.

Conclusion:

      The celebration of Marian year is a special invitation to us to remember everything in the past of the Blessed Virgin Mary that testifies to her special cooperation with God in the work of salvation. Saint John Paul II in his Encyclical: “Redemptoris Mater” used three verbs to describe the person of Mary in relation to God Almighty: Assent, Consent and Obedience.  Assent involves understanding the will of God and agreeing to it, consent is complete cooperation with the will of God and obedience is accepting and doing the will of God. Mary did not refuse the request from God to be the mother of His only begotten Son, she gave her assent, consent and obedience, as we celebrate the Marian Year let each person give his/her assent, consent and obedience to God so that we can reap maximum spiritual benefit of this special Year.

The text of lecture delivered at the commencement of Marian Year in Osogbo Diocese on 27th April 2017.

Rev. Fr. Peter Oluseyi Adeyemi,

Parish Priest,

 Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Oke-Fia, Osogbo.

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