Part 4 Mary and The Liturgy

Chapter m49 Homilies for Feasts of Mary



Homily Preparation

To Think About




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James A. Wallace.  Preaching to the Hungers of the Heart:  The Homily on the Feasts and within the Rites.  Collegeville:  The Liturgical Press, 2002.  ISBN 978-0-8146-1224-8  (Fr. Guerric and Dr. Stern use this as a text in their advanced homiletics courses.)

Raymond E. Brown and others, Mary in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978).

J.D. Crichton, Our Lady in the Liturgy (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1997).

Jim McManus, C.Ss.R., All Generations Will Call Me Blessed (New York: Crossroad, 1999).

George H. Tavard, The Thousand Face of the Virgin Mary (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1996).

Pope Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, Apostolic Exhortation for the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  1974 Feb 02.   Text available in English at

Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, Encyclical Letter, March 25, 1987

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Homily Preparation

James A. Wallace, in his book  Preaching to the Hungers of the Heart, in Chapter 5 "Preaching Through the Saints and the Hunger for Belonging: II--Mary"  gives the following suggestions for preaching the Marian Feasts:  (I am putting my own comments into the outline provided by Wallace)

A.  Images of Mary, Past and Present

1.  Mary, Mother of Jesus

This is the basis for the role Mary plays in our faith and devotion.

And as Jesus was God, Christology leads us to acknowledge Mary as "Mother of God"

As Mary was physically the Mother of Jesus and bore him to the world, so we today are to be "mothers" of Jesus by bring his love and compassion to the men and women of our day and culture by our words and actions. 

2.  Mary, Model of Faith

Faith is the virtue of confidence and trust in God.  Even though she could not understand the road ahead, she trusted... 

Mary is the model for our faith and confidence during those times when our road ahead is not clear...

And we are to be models for others by demonstrating our faith and confidence in God's love...

3.  Mary, Prophet of God's Justice

Luke 1:46-55 (NRSV)
46 And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."  

Mary is the prophet of justice for the poor and those living on the margin of society...   God has looked on her humility; God scatters the proud; brings down the mighty; lifts up the lowly; feeds the hungry...  Mary is a prophet of the kingdom, the reign of God, proclaimed in the parables and miracles of her Son.

We too are called to be prophets of the the reign of God where all live in a world of justice and peace.

4.  Mary, the Female/Feminine Face of God

When we speak of Mary as compassionate, tender, loving, understanding, etc., we acknowledge that these wonderful qualities of Mary are gifts of God, -- who is infinitely tender, loving, understanding, etc.

There are different schools of thought as to whether some human qualities are specifically feminine and others specifically masculine.

There are different schools of thought as to whether God is ontologically masculine or above masculine/feminine naming.

There are different schools of thought as to the role of women in society today and in today's Church.

The is one school of thought regarding devotion given to the saints:   We honor the saints because of what God has done through them.

In an address to the International Societas Liturgica, meeting in Paris, August 1981, Professor Dr. Fr. Msgr. Jounel [who was one of the principal authors of the current Roman Calendar] stated:  (my translation from the French)

By singing in each Eucharist "Holy Holy Holy Lord, God of hosts" we proclaim that God alone is pure, God alone is lucid simplicity (Transparent), God alone is love, God alone is holy, God Father, Son, and Spirit. Thus too can we say to Christ: "You alone are holy, You alone are Lord" as the apostle Peter recommends to us (1 Peter 3:15). Human persons are holy only insofar as God has made them his consecrated ones: "Be holy because I am holy, I the Lord your God" (Lev. 19:2). In the Bible the people of Israel is called a holy people because it is the people of God, the priestly and royal people (Ex. 19:5f). The Church of Christ is holy as the new people of God (1 Peter 2:9). The Church is holy and immaculate (Eph. 5:27), because Christ washed her in his blood. From that moment the holiness of the body of Christ could be communicated to those who would become his members through baptism. That is why Paul calls "saints" all Christians, both those from Rome (Romans 1:7) and those from Jerusalem. (Romans 15:25)

Little by little, however, from the time when the veneration of the martyrs began, the title of saint became reserved more and more exclusively to the faithful of Christ in whom the image of their Lord shone more fully. Saints, therefore, are Christians who have lived more intensively, their eyes fixed on Christ to follow him more closely; thus lived Stephen in his death -- or better, a saint is a baptized Christian who let himself be seized by Christ so that he could say with Paul: "If I live, it is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)

In the saints we see God's holiness; God's attributes shine forth.  We honor the saints because of what God has done through them.  And because saints live in a specific time and place and culture, the current Roman Calendar has selected saints from every historical period and every geographical region to illustrate how discipleship is possible always and everywhere. 

In the saints we see God's holiness, God's attributes, shine forth.  We honor the saints because of what God has done through them. And in no saint is this more evident than in Saint Mary -- Mary, the Mother of God.   

Mary, in showing us God's attributes, often reveals to us those aspects of God which certain cultures identify as "feminine" and offers a healthy balance to an image of God that (certain cultures would say) is exclusively "masculine."  This is the role of saints:  they make visible for us aspects and qualities of the invisible God.  But the key is this:  They manifest attributes of God as gifts God has given them; they do not manifest attributes that God does not have or qualities absent in the Godhead!

We too are called to be saints, to find our gifts, to exercise our gifts and thus be signs and sacraments of God, who alone is Holy.

5.  Mary, the Woman

Galatians 4:1-7 (NRSV)
1 My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property;
2 but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father.
3 So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world.
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.
6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"
7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

This is the earliest written reference in Christian literature of Mary.  Mary as "woman".    "While so much of even today's popular religious art presents an image of Mary as the Fairy Queen, the 'lovely Lady dressed in blue,' she is first of all a woman, born into a specific time, place, and culture.  She lived in an occupied country where violence and poverty were part of the landscape."    (Wallace.  Preaching to the Hungers of the Heart, p 157)

We, too, both men and women, are called to take our place in today's society, achieving holiness in a specific time, place, and culture. 

B.  Paul VI and Marion Devotion

Principle 1.  PRIMACY OF CHRIST.  In the first place it is supremely fitting that exercises of piety directed towards the Virgin Mary should clearly express the Trinitarian and Christological note that is intrinsic and essential to them.   In the Virgin Mary everything is relative to Christ and dependent upon Him.  (#25)

Wallace:  Mary is to be seen within the mystery of the Church...  "The Madonna is not happy when she is placed before her Son." -- John XXIII 

Principle 2.  BIBLICALLY BASED.  Every form of worship should have a biblical imprint. (#30)

Wallace:  Homilies are to be based on the readings, use biblical language and imagery, imbued with the great themes of the biblical message...

Principle 3.  LITURGICAL YEAR.  Devotions with consideration for the liturgical seasons should be so arranged as to be in harmony with the sacred liturgy.  (#31)

Wallace: The homily leads us from the Liturgy of the Word to sentiments of gratitude which find expression in the Eucharistic prayer...  homilies on the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe within Advent speak of the "joyful expectation" fundamental to the season...  homilies on the solemnity of Mary the Mother of God are related to the joy of the Christmas season...

Principle 4.  ECUMENICALLY SENSITIVE.  Because of its ecclesial character, devotion to the Blessed Virgin reflects the preoccupations of the Church herself. Among these especially in our day is her anxiety for the re-establishment of Christian unity. In this way devotion to the Mother of the Lord is in accord with the deep desires and aims of the ecumenical movement, that is, it acquires an ecumenical aspect.  (#32)

Wallace:   "For all Christians, Christ is the one mediator, the source and center of the Church's communion, the Lord and Savior.  Mary must not be placed over and against Christ as was done during the medieval period with its attribution of the kingdom of justice to Christ and the kingdom of mercy of Mary."  (Wallace, Preaching, p 161)

Principle 5.  CULTURALLY AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY SOUND.  Devotion to the Blessed Virgin must also pay close attention to certain findings of the human sciences.  Woman's equality and co-responsibility with man in the running of the family are being justly recognized by laws and the evolution of customs.  (#34) 

Wallace:   This anthropological guideline "keeps Mary within the circle of the community of believers as fully human, as one with whom we can identify."  (Wallace, Preaching, p 161)

C.  Preaching on the Marian Feasts

1.  Mary as Model

Here we are invited to look at the Mary of history, Miriam of Nazareth, and see a model of faith, determination, generosity, compassion....  Mary continually says "yes" and we are invited to continually say "yes" to God.

2.  Mary as Mirror

The "privileges" given to Mary are not for her alone but present Mary as a "mirror" of our own destiny.  We are born free from original sin in the Sacrament of Baptism.  We too are destined to be assumed into heaven Body and Soul on the day of Christ's Coming.

3.  Mary as Mentor

We can learn from Mary as a teacher, mentor.  She teaches us how we are to react in time of sorrow, in times of doubt, etc.

4.  Mary as Metaphor

Mirror of justice, Seat of wisdom, Tower of David, etc.  "Mary as Metaphor" invites us to move into the realm of the imagination, of poetry, affection -- the realm of mystics and troubadours...

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To Think About

At the end of his chapter on homilies for the feasts of Mary (in Preaching to the Hungers of the Heart), Fr. Wallace offers these suggestions for preparing the homily:

(a) Ponder the image that the feast presents. What aspect of the heart does it speak to and invite you to address?

(b) How does the feast relate to the assigned or suggested Scripture readings? Spend time with each text, looking for ways to link the text, Mary and the community in light of the gospel proclamation the texts contain.

(c) How does the feast, along with the Scriptures, encourage you to present Mary: mirror of God's attributes, model of human response, mentor to the community, metaphor of grace? If more than one, which would be most beneficial for the community at Eucharist? 

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 03/29/12 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at