Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - <'If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will anyone gain by winning the whole world and forfeiting his life?> (Mt 16, 24). The Lord Jesus never forces anyone to follow Him and so he says: “If anyone…”. But for those who do heed his call, he sets precise conditions of which the finality is to reach the Supreme Good, that is God.
It is as if he were saying, in other words: to have Me, you must renounce self, to have God, you must renounce everything which is contrary or opposed to Him, starting with your own selfishness! These words may seem “demanding” to those who refuse to see the extraordinary "gain" which comes from this renunciation. This “gain” is God himself: His Life, His Love, His eternity! No little thing!
The most perfect example of selflessness, after Christ himself, is without a doubt Mary, his Mother, who shows with her whole life the lofty heights to which God "raised" her; Mary who made herself the lowliest of all creatures, who "lowered" herself to become the humblest of all.
The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI speaks of her being “emptied of self”: “The Mother of the Head is also the Mother of all the Church; she is, so to speak, totally emptied of herself; she has given herself entirely to Christ and with him is given as a gift to us all. Indeed, the more the human person gives himself, the more he finds himself. ” (Benedict XVI, homily 8 December 2005).
“To lose one's life” is, according to the logic of the Gospel, to “find it”: “to empty oneself” in order to give oneself to Jesus, is to truly become His disciple. The Lord is not content with discipleship which fails to bring about a change. He desires “all" of us, in order to give us “all” of Himself.
<'You see before you the Lord's servant> (Lk 1, 38). This was the programme of Our Lady's "self-emptying". A servant belongs not to self, because he or she is entirely at the service of another person. The Blessed Virgin Mary consecrated herself entirely to the Will of God, she chose to “lose” “self”, to 'lose' her life; this she did, year in, year out, minute by minute, choosing to belong to God, rather than to herself. Her words in reply to the angel who announced the birth of the Son of God, the Most High, <'But how can this come about, since I have no knowledge of man?'> (Lk 1, 34), are the key to understanding to whom she belonged: I belong to God, and to Him alone!
The Church on September 8th celebrates the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was born and, in a way, the Son was also mystically born with her, since Mary carried in her soul a fullness of grace which stemmed from the One who was to be born of Her. She had been sublimely redeemed, “preserved” from sin “in view” of the merits of the Redeemer. This is why she is referred to as the Dawn which precedes the rising Sun.
Just as the light of dawn is a reflection of the Sun, so too the grace in Mary is the reflection of Christ's Grace, which goes before Him and comes after Him. In a profound comment on the birth of Mary, Saint Andrew of Crete says the feast reveals to us the summary of the benefits of Christ and the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. “This is the unveiling of the mystery, this is nature made new, God and man and the deification of the human nature assumed by God. But so radiant, so glorious a visitation of God to men needed some prelude of joy to introduce to us the great gift of salvation. The present feast is such: the prelude is the birth of the Mother of God and the concluding act is the union which is destined between the Word and human nature. A virgin is now born and suckled and moulded, and is made ready to be Mother of God, the king of all for ever” (From the second reading of the Office for 8 September, by Saint Andrew of Crete).
The heart of the believer can only burst into praise of Mary's sublime greatness and sing with love and veneration:
“ Hail, O Mother of the Star Without Setting!
Hail, O Radiance of the Mystical Day!
Hail, O you who quenched the flame of error!
Hail, O Light of those who search the Trinity!
Hail, O you who unthroned the Enemy of Men!
Hail, O you who showed forth Christ the Lord, Lover of Mankind!
Hail, O you who cleansed us from the stain of pagan worship!
Hail, O you who saved us from the mire of evil deeds!
Hail, O you who made cease the cult of fire!
Hail, O you who guide the faithful toward wisdom!
Hail, O you, Delight of all the Nations!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!
(From the 5th century Akathistos liturgical hymn).
(Agenzia Fides 3/9/2008; righe 62, parole 830)