In 1999, Tim Drake was working in the communications department of Catholic Charities, whose offices were in an old building called the Zardetti House, located on the campus of Cathedral High School in St. Cloud. One day, something led Tim to the attic. There, among other treasures, he found a painted portrait of Pope Leo XIII, who officially created the Diocese of St. Cloud in 1889.
The image of Mary as Queen Mother is directly related to the first official Marian dogma defined by the Church: Mary’s status as Mother of God. The Greek word for the title is Theotokos, which literally means “God-bearer.” That title is one of the oldest and most commonly used titles for Mary, with Christians using it in the very first centuries of the Church. The title also appears in one of the oldest known Christian prayers, the Sub Tuum Praesidium (“Beneath Your Protection”), an early form of the Memorare that dates to the third century.
Imagine the level of excitement in your home if you just learned that the president of the United States was coming for dinner in four weeks. You would want to shine the silver service, get out the best dishes, mow the lawn, and have your best suit cleaned. You would enthusiastically tell all your friends and family about the important guest. Preparing for that guest would change your life.
If you ask people, including many Catholics, about the Immaculate Conception, there is a great chance they will tell you that it is the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary. The Immaculate Conception is actually the conception of Mary. The Immaculate Conception reveals to us that Mary was freed from the stain of original sin at the moment of her conception, and remained free from sin for her entire life.
This fresco of the Visitation by Giotto speaks in the language of the Bible, specifically of the Gospels. In a few sparse words it tells us the essentials and carries within itself the content of divine Revelation. There are no ornaments or descriptions, no flamboyant gestures or rhetoric. Like Scripture, this fresco has an inspired simplicity. It gets to the heart of the event.
The Sermon on the Mount concludes with two apocalyptic warnings, and on this two general comments must be made. First, the Sermon on the Mount is not a presentation of general ethics for middle-class people based on pure reason. Rather, it’s an ecclesial ethic, Jewish in ethos, brought by the Jewish Christ Jesus, and it’s apocalyptic through and through, geared for the final age of the Church. Second, it does not stand on its own as timeless teaching rooted in naked reason but rests on Jesus Christ’s authority. He is its source and point of reference. Jesus here is not some prophet speaking the words of the Lord but the Lord himself come to earth speaking his own divine, dominical words directly.
The Gospels are the theological center of the canon of Scripture, and the Gospel of Matthew stands first among the Gospels. Now the Bible and the Gospels within do not stand alone as mere documents to be read, believed, and acted upon. Rather, the Bible finds its true home in the liturgy, for the biblical texts were written for and used in worship from the first, both in ancient Israel and in the earliest Church.