AT the last day of the Octave of Christmas the Church marks the Solemnity of the Divine Maternity of Mary which happens to be New Year’s Day as well. Unfortunately, people tend to think it is a Holy Day of Obligation because it is New Year’s Day. Nonetheless, by that happy coincidence, we usually do go to Holy Mass. The Holy Father, of venerable memory, Paul VI has also designated that same day as World Day of Peace.
Hence, a lot of things to celebrate that day. This Season of Christmas is always an opportune moment to reflect on the key role of Our Lady in the salvific plan: not of her own design but by God’s. And yet her constant consent is needed.
This month of January also marks the Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord, the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, and of course, in the Philippines, the Feast of the Sto. Niño. And for us, in the Diocese of Tarlac, as is in the Archdiocese of Lipa and in the Diocese of Bacolod, the Feast of St. Sebastian on January 20.
And speaking of January 20, the House of Representatives resumes its session that day with, according to what we know thus far, the continuation of the interpolation on HB 5043: Reproductive Health Bill. Attention to our Family and Life Workers and Advocates!
Apparently, however, the legislators have a lot of other “pressing” matters on hand such as the Charter Change and the extension and/or revision of CARP. And certainly, 2009 is the year before the 2010 elections (well, hopefully there will be elections).
A lot of liturgical celebrations, and a lot of social-political-moral concerns as well. To whom do we entrust all these? To Our Lady, of course. As our Bishops meet for their regular Plenary Assembly, we pray for them, as our concerns will be doubly theirs. At times, we, the faithful have a lot of impressions, mis-impressions I should say, about how our Bishops think and decide, speak and act. We think all too human often that we forget they have the grace of office.
We cannot and we should not expect them to please us nor give-in to all our no-matter-how-good-intentioned requests. They have the best of intentions as well but they act and decide given their deeper and more extensive seeing of things. They may not be perfect, but in God’s design they are tasked to lead and govern, to teach and preach, to admonish and correct, to encourage and build. Sine nihil episcopo, as they put it. Nothing without the bishop. That is how we act as Catholics, always in communion and in obedience to our bishops.
It may sound too medieval to modern ears. Yet since the beginning of Christianity, episkopoi, the elders have been there. They may have not worn miters nor episcopal rings. But with that concept of elders—the episkopi—brought with it the hierarchical structure of the Church. In fact, the Apostles we consider to be the first Bishops of the Church.
Around the end of the first century AD, the Church's organization becomes clearer in historical documents. Ignatius of Antioch in particular, writes of the role of the episkopo (singular form of episkopos) or bishop or elder: their role already was very important and being clearly defined.
Plainly therefore we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself (Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 6:1).
Therefore, as the Lord did nothing without the Father, [being united with Him], either by Himself or by the Apostles, so neither do ye anything without the bishop and the presbyters (Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 7:1).
I hope and pray that given especially the cultural context of our country where the bishops’ pronouncements are given great importance, we will pray a great deal for them. And that interest groups would spare them.
And since we are entrusting all our concerns and this entire New Year to Our Lady, providentially, the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue (IPVS) of Our Lady of Fatima will return to the Philippines from 01 to 21 February 2009. She will tour the Philippines, albeit limited in some arch/dioceses only. I’ll write in this column next issue her entire schedule in the Philippines. You can also check the website www.pilgrimvirginstatue.com for further information regarding the miraculous Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
May we have a blessed New Year! Ave Maria Purissima!