The Announcement to Zechariah Compared to the Announcement to Mary

A homily by Fr. Herbert Nicholls at the Mother of Light Convent, Saturday, November 23, 2019.

Today we end the week of reflection on the Announcement to Zechariah, but today I want to site the text in comparison to the Announcement to Mary, and her reaction to the message. 

 A 16th century writer, John of Silence, suggests that we are so familiar with this story of Mary that we imagine that we are able to make sense of it. But sometimes we are blinded by what lies right before our eyes. Aristotle said: Our eyes are like those of an owl. The eyes of the owl are blinded by the brilliance of daylight, so too the intelligence of the soul is blind to what in itself, is most evident.

John calls attention to the response of Mary when she is asked to effectively abandon the future that she has planned for herself. She had never contemplated becoming a mother, but remaining a virgin, consecrated to God. But God’s mysterious plan calls for a leap of faith. She is being asked to believe something which is humanely impossible.

She will conceive without the presence of a man, that it will be the work of God, and why is it that God had chosen her as His humble handmaid? Yet, as extraordinary as the message is, Mary does not wrestle to understand it, but she believes it.

There is a similarity in the way the angel asks Zechariah and Mary, but the way in which they respond clarify the difference. Mary responds, “how can this be?” Zechariah responds, “how can I know this?” Mary’s thoughts are about this! She pondered and reflected upon it. Zechariah’s thoughts were about himself. Mary goes to the heart of the matter, concretely and soberly wondering: How shall I conduct myself in relationship to Joseph? Would he be willing to stand by her side when her reputation was tarnished? Would he be able to endure scornful remarks and disparaging glances? And if he did not stand by her, would she be stoned to death? Despite all these terrifying prospects, Mary had the strength to say, Be it done into me, according to your word (Lk 1:38).

Moreover, Mary put aside her day to day activity to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was with child in her advanced years. It is there in the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth that the work of the Holy Spirit is manifest, in the womb of Mary, recognized by the child of Elizabeth, and by the burst of singing by the two women.

It is the two women who take center stage, there is no male voice to be heard. Zechariah is in no position to speak, much less to sing. Because he could not understand, he would not believe. His heart was not in it.

When Mary spoke her decisive word, Be it done into me, according to your word (Lk 1:38).
God’s word and Mary’s word became one for the first time since the Fall in the Garden. At that moment total agreement between God and man reigned in harmony. 

When God said, Let there be light and there was light, when God said through the angel, Let my Son be born in you, Mary answered, Let it be! And the word became flesh and dwelt among us. The greatest word that a human being has ever uttered is so simple.

Yet some will question: is that all? Yes, that is all. She said, “yes”, and she allowed God to be God! God cannot enter into a heart that is only half-way full. How much more blessed our life would be if we learned from Mary to be whole-hearted. If we learned like Mary to say, Be it done into me, according to your word (Lk 1:38). But too often we stand defiantly before God and say, I will not serve! And perhaps God will respond as He did to Zechariah, Be still and know that I AM God (Ps 46). 


Pro-Life Witness – Assonet, MA

On Saturday, November 9, Sr. Natalie Sayde attended the “Come and See” Ladies meeting at St. Bernard Roman Catholic Church in Assonet, MA. Sister presented a pro-life witness of the personal story of her conception, and how her parents felt pressured to abort by medical personnel.   Sr. Natalie Sayde only recently learned the full truth about her conception story and shared it with all the ladies as a testament to the power of life, love and prayer. 

Saturday of Consecration Week

A homily by Fr. Herbert Nichols

During this week we have focused on John 17; the prayer of Consecration by Jesus of His Church and of His children as a “temple of Christ.” Today we backtrack a bit to John 15, where Jesus instructs us how to live this consecration in a new covenant

“No longer do I call you my servants; but my friends.” Friends are invited into a deeper intimacy than employees. Though you are not my servants but my friends I have a commandment for you--

New, yet ever old—Love one another as I have loved you.” It is not you who have chosen Me-- It is I who have chosen you.” My children if you make every effort to get to know God well, you will share in the joy of His friendship.
Perhaps this message is no more ironically portrayed than in Charles Dickens’ character: Ebenezer Scrooge, who is such a curmudgeonly gruff and cruel person; that he is friendly to no one. He pushes away his pain; and takes it out on everyone around him.

Scrooge is a Victorian-era accountant who lived a miserly and solitary life; but he is capable of some emotional breaks… After the death of his business partner, Jacob Marley, introduces Ebenezer to a walk with three ghosts who will forever change his life; and make it whole again…
Focused on these messages brought by spectral visitors, Marley (Dickens) sees the opportunity to sew back together the health and welfare of an entire community.
These “spirits/ghosts/angels” certainly messengers read back to Scrooge some awful things that he has said and done. Not loving things of family or employees.

As you sit there for a moment, imagine someone reading back to you the things that you have said or done in a moment of anger. Perhaps the ties that you were short with a MYO teen or perhaps one of your own community members… you might begin to wonder about what you said or didn’t say or perhaps you chose to walk away and ignore someone. 
The character of Scrooge is based on the propositions of what if—what if I reacted cruelly? What if I let my anger get the best of me? All the characters in this play work together to help Scrooge to open his heart.
You and I can use this painful resume as a beginning move from the week of consecration to the week of repentance/ renewal. What a wonderful, opportune time that Mr. Dickens offers us to grow like Ebenezer—to grow through this glorious season of preparation for the birth of our Savior.
To come to the realization: God loves us, everyone.  


Healing from Abortion: Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat – Stockbridge, MA

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh, MSCL

I attended and participated in a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA on Friday, November 1st through the 3rd.  Rachel’s Vineyard was founded by Dr. Theresa Burke, co-author of Forbidden Grief,[1] to provide a safe place for women and men to express, release, and reconcile painful post-abortive emotions and to begin the process of restoration, renewal and healing.[2]

I, personally, am not post-abortive, however, God stirred my heart to attend one of these retreats to understand the pain of abortion and its devastating effects on the human person, in order to be better formed to help our Maronite women and men suffering from the pain of abortion.  I can honestly say, after having attended this retreat with six other women and one gentleman, that the pain of abortion goes so much deeper than anyone can ever imagine, and touches some horrendous traumas and painful memories.

We are ever so good in our society at brushing aside abortion as simply “another medical procedure” or an “emptying of the contents of the uterus”, or “no big deal, just get on with your life”, but I can assure you, after attending this weekend and attentively listening to each retreat participant and their deep post-abortive grief, that this is simply not the truth. 

The shroud of darkness and silence that penetrates our culture regarding abortion is overwhelming. Very few open up about their painful trauma with abortion and are content to sweep it under the carpet. However, the undealt-with trauma of abortion, has many negative effects on one’s spiritual, emotional and psychological well-being. Dr. Burke’s book helps in understanding this, and I personally understood this first-hand during my retreat experience.

All of us retreat participants, including the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat facilitators and team, started on Friday night as complete strangers, but by Sunday afternoon, we were a beautiful family. Most of the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat team are post-abortive women themselves who completed their weekends in years past and now want to help others heal from post-abortive grief, as they themselves did. They were a beautiful, attentive and caring team, working alongside a professional therapist, and a Priest from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.    

During the course of the weekend, I witnessed powerful miraculous transformations. Women who had once been engulfed and plagued by shame, guilt, self-loathing and unforgiveness, tasted and experienced the healing mercy of God and were transfigured by it. I was humbled by the experience and what I was able to witness. All I could do was praise God for the ocean of His great mercy and the power of His grace which transforms all darkness into light.

Not only were the retreat participants able to reconcile with God over the course of the weekend, they were able to reconcile inwardly with themselves and with their unborn children in Heaven, and were given countless opportunities to honor the dignity and memory of their unborn children. 

On a personal note, this retreat was life-changing for me and I am not even post-abortive. Imagine what a retreat like this can do for those women and men in our communities who are struggling with post-abortive grief, but are too ashamed to come forward and break their silence. A Rachel’s Vineyard retreat is a safe, confidential space to process and heal from grief. Jesus came to liberate us, to set us free from the sins that torment us, and Rachel’s Vineyard is an opportunity to be liberated from what many falsely call “the unforgiveable sin”.[3] There is, of course, no sin that God cannot forgive, on the contrary, He longs to forgive us and set us free.    

To find a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat near you, please see their website https://rachelsvineyard.org this is how I found the retreat I attended in Stockbridge, MA or call the national line on 877-467-3463.

[1] Dr. Theresa Burke with Dr. David Reardon, 2002, “Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion”, Acorn Press. 
[2] Rachel’s Vineyard website: https://rachelsvineyard.org


Syriac Translation from the Liturgy of the Glorious Birth

Maronite Seminarian 
Alejandro Landin, Translator 

Today a child was born, and His name was called Wonder [Is 9:5]. Indeed, God is Wonder because he has shown Himself as a baby. ܝܰܘܡܳܢ ܐܶܬܺܝܠܶܕ ܝܰܠܕܳܐ ܆ ܘܰܫܡܶܗ ܐܶܬܩܪܺܝ ܕܘܽܡܳܪܳܐ ܆ ܕܘܽܡܳܪܰܐ ܗ̱ܘ ܓܶܝܪ ܐܰܠܳܗܳܐ ܆ ܕܰܐܝܟ ܥܘܽܠܳܐ ܚܰܘܺܝ ܢܰܦܫܶܗ ܀ 
Behold! The Virgin conceived and gave birth to the […]