Homily by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna
Archipretal Church of Naxxar
6th September 2017
Above the titular painting of the old, archipretal parish, we find this inscription in Latin: quasi aurora consurgens. These words remind us of one of the earliest hymns that celebrate the nativity of the Mother of our Saviour. This ancient feast was compared to the dawn that signalled to Christians that they will soon see the sun rise. You might rightfully ask me, why does the prophet Malachi compare the Messiah to the “sun of justice [righteousness]” (Mal 4, 2) while the nativity of his Mother is likened to the dawn, the aurora, that fills everyone’s hearts with hope and joy after the darkness of the night?
We can only imagine how the birth of this girl brought untold joy to her mother and father, to Anne and Joachim. In turn, this birth fills us with joy because we know that this is a very singular girl, the Bambina, who was predestined by the Lord for a unique mission – that of becoming the Mother of the word of God, of the Divine Word that became flesh.
The list of personages that the Archpriest has just proclaimed from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew do not point to Mary for the account follows the lineage of Joseph, who received this specific invitation: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1,20). The angel is telling Joseph: “Welcome Mary in the house of David, in the house of Abraham, because she is also the daughter of Abraham in faith like she is the daughter of David in her mission of building David a house”. The angel Gabriel tells Mary: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David” (cf. Luke 1, 32). She is therefore the Mother of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham. Yet, Jesus is the son of David, son of Abraham in flesh due to Mary, in law due to Joseph.
Because of Mary, God is not far from us, he is with us, one of us
Mary and Joseph provide Jesus with the guarantee that he will enter into a family of humanity in order to save it. Because of Mary, and also because of Joseph, Jesus enters into our family, he is one of us, he is the Immanu-El. Because of Mary, God is not far from us, he is with us, one of us. Therefore, on Mary’s birthday we rejoice that the Lord prepared his temple in Anne’s womb, that this temple is born. This temple of the Lord is a person, it is a young girl given a modest name that every generation calls blessed! The meaning of the name given to this Bambina, to this girl, lies in its Jewish roots. Her name means a drop from the ocean: Stilla Maris, a drop from the ocean! No wonder then, that when this girl grew up, she uttered these words in Elizabeth’s house: “for [the Lord] has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant” (v. 48). Humility is not demeaning. Rather, it helps you look upon the Lord and tell him: “Thank you Lord, that in spite of my lowliness, you have done great things for me” (cf. vv. 48-49).
The nativity of Our Lady is also our victory, her victory and ours together
The first church in Malta dedicated to the nativity of Mary harks back to the 13th century and it was only during the Great Siege of 1565, that we came to believe in the protection of Mary, our Mother. And this is why for us Maltese – and this is strictly a Maltese sentiment – the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is also our victory, her victory and ours together, not in a triumphalist manner because while we rejoice in this dawn that tells us that we will soon meet “the sun of justice [righteousness]” that is her Son Jesus, it is also telling us that in her we have someone who intervenes for us, defends us, protects us. We have proof after proof of this throughout the long history of our nation. Above all, Mary’s nativity, she who was conceived without the stain of sin, is also the advent, the good news, the Gospel of her Son’s victory over sin, her Son’s victory over death.
The Church, in the Liturgy of the feast, proclaims the following verse in the Hallelujah: “Blessed are you, holy Virgin Mary, deserving of all praise; from you rose the sun of justice, Christ our God”. And if the Son is the sun, the Mother is the dawn. Quasi aurora consurgens.
I would like to ask for a particular grace from Marija Bambina; the grace that children will not be a commodity, or made by technology
While we were listening to the list of Joseph’s ancestors being proclaimed, we recognize that every birth in every generation was a gift. On this special day, I would like to ask for a particular grace from Marija Bambina, the grace that children will never be a commodity, or made by technology, but that they continue to be a gift received from God and thus we welcome them like God intended – a gift, and a precious gift at that.
May we Christians have the good sense and wisdom to overcome all sorts of temptation to declare “it is my right to have children”, but rather we should say “I will pray to the Lord to bless me with children”, so that when we welcome them, and I pray that we always do, every birth will be considered a blessing and not a misfortune, and thus we would be able to say: “Thank you, Lord, we co-operated with you in creation of this ‘bambina’, of this girl, of this boy. We give you thanks because although we co-operated with you, children will always remain a gift, neither a right nor a commodity”.
We will also pray for those who wish to have children and cannot so that the Lord opens sources of life in the heart of the human being
Even as we rejoice in the birth of this girl, Mary, the Mother of the Saviour, we pray for those people who wish to have children and cannot, so that the Lord opens the sources of life in the hearts of men and women to emulate the generosity of those who choose to adopt, of those who choose to foster other people’s children by providing them with a home.
I now address my concluding words to parents and grandparents. We rejoice in the nativity of the Bambina, but we know that she needed people to take care of her and educate her. It is our duty to take care of our children and our children’s children by providing them with a good and Catholic education, and by cherising them as parents would in the hearth of the home.
When I look upon the beautiful mantle that is enveloping the Bambina, I imagine that this mantle represents our love that is embracing this glorious figure. May every baby be supported and cherished by such a mantle, not necessarily made of velvet, if you know what I mean. May our children be raised lovingly so that every thing we do for the Bambina, we also do it for our children by keeping the peace in the family, in the hometown.
Let us pray to the Blessed Virgin to watch over our youth by following them like the canopy over their heads so they will come to no harm while at the same time allowing them the freedom to make their own choices. We will pray so that the Lord will be their protection from the perils of the soul and body and when we look on the Bambina we tell her: “See, we made a beautiful mantle for you to protect you and honour you. Be the one to protect the children of this hometown.”
Viva Marija Bambina!
✠ Charles J. Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta