Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“One and all were born in her.”
This quote from Psalm 87 originally refers to Jerusalem. Psalm 87 was especially dear to exiles and pilgrims. It expressed their deepest sense of themselves, and their hope for their children: to identify Jerusalem — the place where God dwells — as their home.
In St. Louis people ask: “Where did you go to school?” In ancient Judaism they asked: “Where were you born?” If you couldn’t be born in Jerusalem physically, at least it could be your spiritual home.
This Psalm and this sentiment are used this week in conjunction with the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church. This feast, instituted just a few years ago, is celebrated the day after Pentecost. The readings for the day help us to focus on Eve as “the mother of all the living,” and then on Mary as the mother of all those living in Christ.
It’s worth reflecting on the legacy of those two mothers: how each of us was born in Eve and the legacy of sin, and how each of us can be born in Mary and the legacy of grace. The question is: which of those legacies do we want to claim?
The legacy of Eve lives in all of us. We can truly say: “One and all were born in her.” This legacy is receptive to the suggestions of the enemy of human nature, who encourages us to be like God but apart from God. Looking around our culture we see many habits that are rooted in this legacy; people “play God” in all sorts of ways. When we do that, we claim Eve as our mother: “I was born in her.”
The legacy of Mary can live in us, as well. This legacy, by contrast, is receptive to the Holy Spirit, through whom God’s very life comes to dwell in us. That’s the paradox of the enemy’s temptation. There’s a kernel of truth in it: we’re meant to be like God! But we’re meant to be like God with God, and through God’s power, not apart from God. What Eve reached out to take for herself, Mary received as a gift.
Looking around, we see people whose habits are rooted in this legacy. Mary carried the love of God in her womb, and brought Him forth for our salvation. Some people carry the love of God and the truth of the Gospel in their hearts, and bring them forth in their words and deeds for the benefit of others. When we do that, we claim Mary as our mother: “I was born in her.”
Looking back on the week behind us, where would we say we were born: in the legacy of Eve, or in the legacy of Mary? Looking to the week ahead, where do we want to be born?
Mary, mother of the Church, pray for us!