Wednesday, March 25, 2020


Today, nine months before Christmas, the Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Lord, recalling the Archangel Gabriel's announcement to the Virgin Mary (recorded in Luke 1:26-38). As on Christmas, the Church invites us to contemplate the great mystery of the Incarnation, commemorating history's most amazing moment when the Word of God became one of us. The Church ritualizes this at Mass by a genuflection during the Creed. (Of course, those of us above a certain age can recall when we always genuflected during the Creed.) Like other ritual bodily gestures, genuflecting during the Creed enfleshes our faith, challenging us to own what we profess with our entire selves not just as an intellectual abstraction. 

An enfleshed faith is, of course, very much what we need at this terrible time. For this year the Annunciation occurs in a crisis when all of ordinary life's rhythms - sacred as well as secular - have been completely disrupted by a global pandemic that more and more feels like an impending apocalypse.

All the more reason, therefore, to invoke the intercession of the woman at the center of the Annunciation scene, Mary, Mother of God, to help us find our way. For centuries in times of trouble, Popes and the people of the local Church of Rome have called upon Mary, Mother of God, for safety. Hence the special place in Roman piety occupied by the ancient image (photo) of Mary, entitled Saluls Populi Romani, presently venerated in the Capella Paolina in the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major. The image got its title from the fact that around the year 590, Pope Gregory the Great had it carried in procession around Rome during a time of plague

This is the image Isaac Hecker stopped to pray in front of, after his expulsion from the Redemptorists in 1857. This is the image Pope Francis visited after his election in 2013 to entrust his pontificate to Mary - and has regularly revisited before and after papal journeys. More recently, in response the the COVID-19 pandemic, he went on pilgrimage through the empty streets of Rome to venerated the Salus Populi Romani image at Saint Mary Major., a simple but so very powerful symbolic gesture that highlighted the perennial relevance of the incarnation.- God is with us!

Our Lady, Health fo the Sick, pray for us !

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