HOMILY for the 14th Sat (II)
Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Isaiah’s famous vision recognizes that God is thrice-holy, and the Hebrew word for ‘holy’ is qadosh, which comes from a Semitic root word meaning ‘to cut off, to separate’. God is thrice-holy because he is entirely Other from his creation. For he alone is Uncreated, the great I AM, and all else is created, deriving being and goodness from him.
But the wonder of God’s love is that he is not aloof from his creation, but rather, he desires to somehow bridge that otherness. So, God makes himself known to Isaiah, and God extends his friendship to Isaiah. This is seen in the reading as purification for it is only by being made holy, that is, becoming like God, the holy and sinless one, that we can have a kind of ‘equality’ with him in the way that friends love one another. And it is as God’s friend that Isaiah can be empowered and sent out with God’s word on a mission of love. We find this dynamic time and again in God’s relationship with humanity. As St John says: “We love, because he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19).
This dynamic culminates in the Blessed Virgin Mary whom God makes pure and holy from the moment of her conception, not just so that her lips may be opened to speak his word, but, more astonishingly, so that her virginal womb might be opened to carry the Word made flesh. In Isaiah’s case, a burning coal is applied to his lips by the seraph so that he can speak God’s word. In Our Lady’s the burning ardour of divine love, charity, is applied to her so that she can give birth to God’s Word of Love incarnate. For from the moment of her conception Mary was infused with all the spiritual gifts and virtues, and above all, perfect charity, so that she could be Mother of the Lord.
Hence in the liturgical tradition, Mary is said to be “more glorious than the seraphim”, those ‘burning ones’ who are on fire with charity, because she is even more full of love than them. As such, she is even closer to God than they are, they who stand next to God’s throne. This brings out the full meaning of Mary being described by Gabriel as “full of grace”. Because she is so truly filled and transformed, so perfected by divine charity that she is closest among all creatures to God. In Mary who is full of God’s love, God bridges the gap between him, the Holy One, and his creatures because the divine Word takes flesh from her immaculate flesh, and God dwells in her sinless womb. And it is from this intimate closeness to God that she gives God’s living Word to the world.
So, it is only in God’s charity, as we’re filled with his love that we human beings can be united with God in friendship, and so, be able to speak the living Word of God. But the wonder of God’s love is that, great as Our Lady’s privileges are, God intends that we, too, should share in her greatness. For in baptism God has set us apart for himself, and God dwells in us. So, we have been made qadosh too, constituted as the qahal Adonai, the holy people of God who belong to him, and who are filled with his grace. Thus, it is as God’s friends that we are sent out as Isaiah was. And as in Our Lady’s life, so, too in ours: the Word is incarnate and dwells among us again when what we Christians say and do again makes visible to all people that God is Love; an incarnate Love that can be heard, seen, touched, and experienced.