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Run Toward the Fatherland

By Oliver Davies, excerpted from this month’s free Catholic book.

It is natural for travelers to hurry on to their homeland; it is natural too that they should experience anxiety on the roadway and peace when they arrive home. And so we too who are on the road should hasten on, for the whole of our life is like one day’s journey. Our first duty is to love nothing here, but to love the things above, to desire the things above, to relish the things above and to seek our home there, for the fatherland is where our Father is. [Read more…]

The Two Ways Christ Continues His Mission: A Reflection for Mass

Enjoy this reflection on John 14:15–16, part of the Gospel reading from this Sunday’s Mass, taken from The Navarre Bible: Saint John’s Gospel.

John 14:15–16

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.”

[Read more…]

Painting of the Week: Raphael–The Resurrection of Christ

The Resurrection of Christ, one of Raphael’s earliest known works, is packed with symbolic elements intended to communicate theological truths. Here are some highlights: [Read more…]

Sacraments, Modern Theology, More—4 New Resources Coming to Verbum

If you love Catholic theology and great book deals, you’ll love this month’s Pre-Pub highlights. (Pre-Pub is your opportunity to get books and collections at a discount before they publish. You can see the full list here.) [Read more…]

On Catholicity: A Reflection on This Sunday’s Gospel Reading

The Farewell Discourse, from the Maesta by Duccio, 1308–1311.

Enjoy this reflection on John 17:20–26, the Gospel reading from yesterday’s Mass, taken from The Navarre Bible: Saint John’s Gospel. [Read more…]

Verbum’s Free Book Goes Away Soon

You only have a few days left to get these resources on Mary and the Catholic tradition at a great discount. [Read more…]

Painting of the Week: Balbi Holy Conversation

Tiziano Vecellio painted this striking piece of Mary and Jesus set in an open landscape with Giorgione influences, like asymmetrical composition and full figures. The piece is true to this period in art—with classicistic, refined characters, harmonious chromatic combinations, and an approach built on the psychological ties of the characters. [Read more…]

Queen Mother: Royal Allusions in Matthew’s Birth Narrative

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash
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In Queen Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary’s Queenship—currently 50% off on Verbum.com—Edward Sri unfolds common approaches taken to Mary’s role as queen and demonstrates how the “queen mother” theme in the Davidic kingdom sheds light on her presentation as heavenly queen in the New Testament and in the Church.

In this excerpt from chapter three, Sri describes several approaches to interpreting Mary’s role in Matthew 1–2.

One approach to interpreting Mary in Matthew 1–2 in light of the queen-mother figure underscores how Matthew associates Mary and Jesus with the queen-mother-and-royal-son prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. In 1:23, Matthew portrays Mary as the parthenos whom Isaiah prophesied would give birth to the Immanuel child in Isaiah 7:14 (LXX). Thus, “according to the fulfillment of the prophecy, Mary became queen-mother of the Messiah.” In the Isaian oracle, the queen mother of Immanuel brings forth a child who would ensure the perseverance of the Davidic dynasty. Here in Matthew 1, Mary does the same, bringing forth the Davidic heir who would secure the true Davidic kingdom forever. As Serra explains,

Just as she [the queen mother in Isaiah 7:14] gave birth to a son who guaranteed the continuation of the House of David, so Mary gives birth to a son who will reign forever on the throne of David, in the house of Jacob, in the ‘Israel of God’ (cf. Mt. 28:20; 16:18; Gal. 6:16; 2 Sam. 7:16). One notes the royalty of the two women.

Another approach shows the significance of Matthew frequently placing the newborn King alongside His mother. In fact, some have pointed out how Matthew constantly mentioning the child and His mother together—five times in chapter two alone—could draw attention to Mary’s association with her royal Son in a way that recalls the Old Testament queen-mother tradition. Matthew’s recurring phrase “the child and his mother” has “a Davidic resonance” that might bring to mind the way the Book of Kings repeatedly introduces each new Davidic king alongside the queen mother (as discussed in chapter two). As Branick argues:

Matthew has the powerful figure of the Old Testament gebirah or queen-mother in mind as he repeatedly mentions Mary in this story of the birth and infancy of ‘the newborn king of the Jews’ (2:2). Just as the queen-mother was constantly mentioned in the summaries of the Judean and Israelite kings, so Matthew here repeatedly mentions Mary as Jesus’ Mother (1:18; 2:11, 13, 14, 20, 21; 12:46, 47; 13:55).

One more approach to viewing Mary in terms of the queen-mother tradition in Matthew 1–2 examines her position alongside her royal Son when the magi pay Him homage (Mt. 2:11). As mentioned above, this scene involves a number of Davidic kingdom themes: Jesus is called the “king of the Jews” (2:2). The star guiding the magi recalls the star in Balaam’s oracle about the royal scepter rising out of Israel (Num. 24:17). The narrative centers on the city of Bethlehem, where David was born (1 Sam 17:12) and out of which the future Davidic King would come (Micah 5:2). And the magi bringing gifts and paying the child Jesus homage recall the royal Psalm 72:10–11 (cf. Is. 60:6).

[…]

Matthew clearly places his infancy narrative in the context of the hopes surrounding the Davidic kingdom. Interpreting Mary with those Davidic traditions in mind, we can see that, as mother of the newborn Davidic heir, she could be understood as a queen mother.1

For more biblical theological works on Mary, get this month’s free book and other discounted resources.

Editor’s note: This excerpt was slightly adapted for readability. 

Painting of the Week: The Denial of Saint Peter

Caravaggio’s Denial of Saint Peter is thought to be one of the artist’s two last works (the other being The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula). [Read more…]

Weakness as the Way to God: In Honor of Jean Vanier (1928–2019)

Yesterday it was announced that Jean Vanier has died. The well-known philosopher, theologian, and humanitarian was 90.

Vanier was best known for founding L’Arche in 1964, a global network of communities where people with and without disabilities live together in solidarity. His experiences in these communities fueled many powerful writings, including the excerpt below.

Pope Francis called Vanier before his death to thank him for his ministry and witness. Vanier uniquely embodied the Lord’s compassion and gentleness in our time. Paired with his gifted writing and intellect, those virtues were an inspiration to millions.

Below is an excerpt from Living Gently in a Violent World, coauthored with Stanley Hauerwas.

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[. . .] When we meet people with disabilities and reveal to them through our eyes and ears and words that they are precious, they are changed. But we too are changed. We are led to God.

Shortly after the genocide in Rwanda, I met with people from the Faith and Light communities there. They came from the villages, and we had a beautiful little retreat in the cathedral of Butare.

During a very moving moment, many mothers of children with severe disabilities came forward during the celebration of the Eucharist and lifted their children up as a gift to God.

Later, we had a meeting with all these women. I asked, “What has Faith and Light brought to you?” And they said, “We no longer feel ashamed.”

When we read Deuteronomy 28, we see that at the heart of the Jewish vision is the belief that disability and sickness are caused by sin. A son with a disability reveals that somewhere in yourself and your family you are doing things against God, against truth and against love. This vision is frighteningly powerful. That is why in the ninth chapter of John the immediate question the disciples ask Jesus when they see a man born blind is, “Is it because he has sinned or because his parents have sinned?” Jesus answers, “Neither he nor his parents have sinned, but it is so that the work of God may be manifested in him.”

[. . .] Francoise came to our community nearly thirty years ago. She walked only a little and couldn’t eat by herself. She had a severe learning disability. She is now about seventy-five, older and weaker. She has become blind and lives in a little home where there are ten people with severe multiple disabilities. Francoise is really quite beautiful. What touches me is how the assistants wash her and prepare food for her. But she can’t see the way they prepare the food and feed her, and I ask myself, “What is the mystery behind this woman of seventy-five who cannot leave her bed and who cries out now and again?” The assistants say, “She is our mama, our little grandmother.” They love her with tenderness and gentleness. What is the meaning of this mystery of people with severe disabilities?

I know a man who lives in Paris. His wife has Alzheimer’s. He was an important businessman—his life filled with busyness. But he said that when his wife fell sick, “I just couldn’t put her into an institution, so I keep her. I feed her. I bathe her.” I went to Paris to visit them, and this businessman who had been very busy all his life said, “I have changed. I have become more human.” I got a letter from him recently. He said that in the middle of the night his wife woke him up. She came out of the fog for a moment, and she said, “Darling, I just want to say thank you for all you’re doing for me.” Then she fell back into the fog. He said, “I wept and I wept.”

It all sounds so crazy. But when something is totally crazy, it may be that we have to go deeper. There’s a mystery, and maybe it comes back to the question of who God is and where God is.1

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