June 8, 2023

Verbatim: Meditation on the 'Madonna della Stradda'


Cardinal Michael Czerny offers a mediation on the “Madonna della Stradda.”

In the first chapters of his Gospel, the evangelist Luke recounts the birth of Jesus. He shows us the humility with which God chose to reveal Himself in the Incarnation of the Word: the long-awaited Messiah, the Saviour of the world, the Son of God made man, is born of a young virgin named Mary, far from the limelight, far from the centres of power, in a remote periphery of the Roman Empire. He is delivered in a nameless makeshift shelter, lying in a manger, needing care like any poor, helpless child.

Within the framework of this great and ineffable mystery, Luke inserts several scenes which manifest the close links among listening, faith and action.

The annunciation to the shepherds (Luke 2,15b-19), must be read in parallel with the annunciation to Mary. An angel brings news of the birth of the Saviour, which astonishes those who hear it. Both Mary and the shepherds marvel at the angel’s words. This reaction underlines the importance of placing oneself in a genuine attitude of listening before God. Without listening to the marvellous works that God has done for us, faith is not born.

The freely received Word, from which faith is generated, leads to a response “without delay.” Mary quickly sets out to visit her relative Elizabeth, just as the shepherds hasten towards Bethlehem….The shepherds, representing all men and women far from God, are involved in the dynamic of salvation. The street — there where ordinary daily life unfolds — becomes the special place to share the joy of the good news we have received, the place where we are called to be missionary disciples, evangelizers of the everyday.

Further, “making your way together” becomes the way in which this joy, in which all can share, is brought to the world. This way can inspire everyone, make the Kingdom of God present, and launch the transformation of humanity.

The Nativity story presents Mary in her vulnerable condition, acting as a mother. She speaks no words. Nevertheless, the silence within which she is the protagonist is full of meaning. ...

Having seen the child, the shepherds report what they have heard from the angel. Astonishment and wonder spread once again. It is lovely to underscore this feature of the transmission of the Gospel. What has been received is freely passed on. Among those who listen to the shepherds is Mary, but her reaction goes beyond wonder. She goes to the deepest, most mature stage of the journey of faith. ...

Treasuring is more than storing in the strongbox of memory. Rather, it is an exercise of faith that leads one to re-read the past in the light of the Word of God, to give new meaning to the present and a new direction to the future.

Meditating is more than examining facts and pausing to reflect on them. Rather, it is an exercise of believing intelligence that leads to putting together (symballo) the different aspects of a fact or a situation and observe it from a different angle….

Mary uses her faculties of mind and heart to penetrate the meaning of the Scriptures…. Thus, the event she lived first-hand…now finds further revelation in the words of the shepherds. In the humble sign of a new-born child, Mary recognizes that the Lord, the God of Israel, is faithful and has fulfilled His promise. This is why the title “Our Lady of the Way, Madonna della Strada,” is so rich in meanings and implications.

“Our Lady of the Way” reminds us that faith is a journey in which we are invited to discover the extraordinary of God in the ordinary of everyday life. It is a journey we make together, as siblings, in which Mary becomes our companion and guides us to discover the joy of the Gospel — to treasure and meditate on the Word, to praise and worship God, to gain a new perspective on our lives, putting faith to work and filling action with faith….

Rome, May 24, 2023

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