"Not what I have, but what I do, is my kingdom." - Thomas Carlyle
Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. We had a vigil mass last night to celebrate this great Marian feast. I am spending, most of the day (the whole day) in the office working on Maryknoll reports, regional correspondence and prepping tonight's medical ethics lecture. The medical ethics class has been a lot of fun. Doctors from a few of the city hospitals have been coming to the class and the discussions have been excellent. The course is Cross-Cultural Medical Ethics...so we are looking at some of the East-West differences as well as how spirituality and cultural beliefs effect medical ethics.
The last couple of weeks I have been busy setting up the new regional office here in Jilin. With the sale of the Stanley House there are many changes. It has not been an easy process (Sometimes it is not easy being me!!) but so far so good! As you can see from the pictures it is a bit smaller than the Hong Kong office...but very comfortable. New lines give me much quicker Internet service, Hong Kong EDB has been very helpful in understanding my situation, and the folks here at the medical college have been just great. With the new guesthouse and Jilin residence the regional visitors will feel very much at home (two are here now). The next regional meeting will be held here in Jilin in early 2017!! There are many little adjustments to the move that are still being taken care of....the best part of the move so far has been fewer happy hours and lots more 东北菜 和普通话！The next six weeks will involve a few trips to Hong Kong, but hopefully by the time the Spring Festival rolls around, I will not need to travel to Hong Kong very often.
Nurse Li at work!
Office Christmas tree is up~ Many thanks to Wang Wei and Brianna for their hard work. I jokingly refer to it as the Griswold Family Christmas Tree! ^_^ The tree went up yesterday and already there are a few gifts underneath it today. Some more tree pics:
From the Oval Office
From the street below
Today's Gospel and some comments:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."
Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38
On the face of it, today’s reading might seem quite like the angel’s visit to Zechariah announcing the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:8-20). But when you look more closely you see that they are set in clear contrast to each other. Zechariah was standing right at the center of the nation’s place of worship, and “the whole assembly of the people was praying outside,” but Mary was a tiny unknown figure, remote from all centers of power. Mary’s demeanor is also contrasted with Zechariah’s: she hears God’s word with great simplicity, unlike the argumentative Zechariah. She is seen as the model believer. It is a subtle contrast: she too had a question, similar to Zechariah’s question, but there are many different kinds of ‘why’ (or ‘how’). Zechariah’s question was literally, “by what shall I know this?” (kata ti;), as if asking for independent verification; while Mary’s was simply “how” (pos;). Meister Eckhart said in one of his sermons that we should not ask ‘why’. At first sight this is surprising; he was an academic theologian whose business it was to ask many whys. But he was also clear about the differences. There is the ‘why’ that is like locking a door (“I will admit only what I can understand”), and there is the why that is like opening a door, wanting to enter more deeply. Mary’s ‘why’, I imagine, was of the second kind.
Though Mary appears in a perfect light, it is clear that it is not her virtue that has earned her the great honour that is to come. The angel’s greeting makes it clear. “Favored one,” kecharitomene; what is coming to her is God's gift, not reward for virtue. In the biblical passage the favor being offered was, of course, the conception of Jesus in her womb. There is nothing in the Scriptures about the beginnings of Mary’s own life, and no mention of course of her conception (which is what today’s feast is about), so the Liturgy uses Luke's account of the conception of Jesus instead.
Mary is the model of Christian discipleship. When her story is presented only as the story of her special privileges, that role is being taken from her. When we only stress her differences from us we are subtly pushing her away. There have been many aberrations of Marian piety, and we need to stay close to the authentic tradition. St Ambrose gave it luminous expression in his comment on this passage. "Every soul who has believed both conceives and generates the Word of God and recognizes his works. Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you to magnify the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one to exult in Christ."