Message from the Rector of Marytown
Dear Friend & Pilgrims,
Peace and all good!
I pray this New Year will bring you and your loved ones great blessings!
The New Year has begun with heavy snows here at Marytown. If you live near the National Shrine or anywhere in the northern states, you probably have cleared some snow yourself. And these months can be cold, dark and foreboding. The winter seems to drag on, the darkness starts early and lasts well into the morning hours, and it is cold! These are the days when the friars move just a little bit slower to Morning Lauds in the pre-morning chill.
Yet, it is precisely at this time – the Holy Feast of the Presentation which we celebrated a few days ago – when God reminds that winter and darkness are passing. The feast of the Presentation is both a feast of the Church – sometimes called Candlemas — and an astronomical date marking the half way point between winter solstice and vernal equinox … and a promise that spring is on the way! But most importantly, it is a reminder to all of us that there is a light that pierces the darkness – a flame of love and compassion that warms, enlightens, and protects with a holy radiance in our hearts.
The Feast of the Presentation has many messages for us – all centered around the love of God for us. It is about the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph and their obedience to the Law of Moses, the requirement to be pure before God, and most importantly it is a message that Light has come into the world through the infant Jesus! In Luke’s Gospel we read the words of prophecy as Simeon holds the infant – “ for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:22-40). Candlemas stands as reminder to us, that Light has come into the world and darkness cannot overcome it! (John 1: 1-5)
We all face challenges in our lives – challenges that overshadow us with worries about our health, or work or with family or a broken relationship. Maybe we have a sin we struggle to overcome or a failure that has damaged our confidence in ourselves or another. Like Mary, we are encouraged in faith to carry forth the Light in our circumstances, to bear the Light to others, and in the radiance of the Light of Christ to be firm, to be hopeful, and to endure. So it was for the Blessed Virgin, how can it be any different for us?
When we consider the Presentation of the Lord, we are reminded that Simeon’s prophecy also foretold frightening things to Mary. Mary learned at the Presentation that a sword of sorrow would pierce her heart. Why would she, the Mother of God, have to suffer? Perhaps, because there is no other way to grow in holiness. Suffering tests the strength of our commitment to God. Suffering accepted patiently in faith strengthens our hope and love, for it reveals our utter helplessness and leads us to cast our cares upon the Lord (Psalm 55:22).
Suffering accepted in the light of faith purifies our hearts of selfishness so we surrender to God’s infinite love. Mary, though sinless, had to grow in holiness. Like Christ, she too had to be made perfect through suffering (Heb 2:10). And, so must we.
Here we truly understand that in our daily struggles of life or failures, our hurts, our fears, that we can take these to the Lord and in His Light, the darkness will flee and in His radiance, we will be able to endure. His Light is for us – and for us to share with others.
I encourage you to remember the words of the Psalmist – “The LORD is MY light and MY salvation; of who am I afraid?” (Ps. 27: 1) Through every trouble or difficulty, don’t forget each and every one of us has been saved from the darkness of sin and death by the light of Christ. He has broken the chains and delivered us from everything that might fill us with fear or worry. And do not doubt that the friars will keep you and yours in our prayers, that you might keep the light of Christ burning brightly in your heart.
Know that you are in the prayers of the friars and that with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we will be praying that the Light of Christ burns brightly in you and illumines all you hold dear.
If you can get through the snow, we hope you will visit on pilgrimage and join us for the Presentation Remembrance prayers, light a candle for your special intentions, or start your Lenten journey with us and join us for Ash Wednesday.
Yours in Christ and His Blessed Mother,
Fr. John Grigus, OFM Conv
Rector of the National Shrine