‘Awe and Wonder’

By Bishop Steven J. Raica | Public Domain Image | January 2022

‘Awe and Wonder’

Bishop Raica Celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Dear friends, again, on behalf of all of us here at the Cathedral of St. Paul and the Diocese of Birmingham, I wish you all a very Happy New Year. May it be a year filled with grace and peace!

I’d like to focus on three things, very briefly, that present themselves for our consideration:  the shepherds, Mary, and peace.

Whenever we find ourselves before a Christmas scene, we stop and look in wonder and awe. There is a beauty there that transcends time. Yes, it is a beautiful thing. In fact, the Gospels don’t say much, if any words are exchanged. We have the various figures – Mary and Joseph, the infant lying in a manger, the shepherds who say they should go and see what has taken place, then later the Magi, but no words while they are there. It is a place of silence and reverence. In its simplicity, one of the most dramatic things has just occurred and all we can do is to be in awe and wonder!

Now, in one sense, we have been shortchanged in the Gospel reading for today. It begins with a verse of the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2 verse 16. I would like to also include verse 15 which puts everything in context. It says: “… the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’”

“When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.”

“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

“This thing,” this message, and these things are not just objects as the noun “thing” would suggest. Rather, “this thing” is really the Word (in Latin – verbum). In silence we find the Word that somehow spoke to the shepherds and Mary in a way that even surpasses speech. It is a sense of awe and wonder by which our hearts know a reality beyond what language can explain or grasp.

It is this Word that enlivened Mary as she pondered them in her heart.

Finally, every Jan. 1 is dedicated to prayer for peace in the coming year. We sure need it! If you’re in any doubt, just open social media or listen to or watch the news. This world day for peace is something that we know is so very necessary to keep our prayer focused before the Lord. It is something for which we must continue to beg. Peace is not merely an absence of conflict or violence, but a true respect one for another - a respect that mutually honors the dignity of the other regardless of life circumstances and recognizes that each person becomes an instrument of the way that God works in the world.

May we be persons who go in haste to meet Christ and, alternatively, allow Christ to meet us - to walk with Him, to ponder this Word in our lives like Mary, and, in this very special year, to pray and work for peace.

“May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!”