Beyond the light of burning star,
From him who made thee thou hast won
Grace to be Mother of his Son.
That which was lost in hapless Eve
Thy holy Scion did retrieve;
The tear-worn sons of Adam’s race
Through thee have seen the heavenly place.
Thou wast the gate of heaven’s high Lord,
The door through which the light hath poured.
Christians rejoice, for through a Maid
To all mankind is life conveyed!
All honor, laud and glory be,
O Jesus, Virgin-born to thee!
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete. Amen.
edication of the Papal Basilica of Mary Major (Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore) in Rome. This grand basilica is also known as the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Snow (Santa Maria ad Nives ) due to a miraculous snowfall occurring there during the hot summer months, and the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Crib (Santa Maria ad Præsepe), from the relics of the holy crib or manger of Bethlehem, in which Christ was laid at his birth, housed within.
Saint John Lateran: represents Rome, the See of Peter
Saint Paul outside the Walls: represents the See of Alexandria
Saint Peter: represents the See of Constantinople
Saint Lawrence outside the Walls: represents the See of Jerusalem
Saint Mary Major: represents the See of Antioch, where Mary spent the majority of her life.
The beginnings of Saint Mary Major date to the Constantinian period (300s AD), under the direction of Pope Liberius. According to Holy Legend, as recounted in the Breviary:
"Liberius was on the chair of Peter (352-366) when the Roman patrician John and his wife, who was of like nobility, vowed to bequeath their estate to the most Holy Virgin and Mother of God, for they had no children to whom their property could go. The couple gave themselves to assiduous prayer, beseeching Mary to make known to them in some way what pious work they should subsidize in her honor.
Mary answered their petition and confirmed her reply by means of the following miracle. On the fifth of August — a time when it is unbearably hot in the city of Rome — a portion of the Esquiline would be covered with snow during the night. During that same night the Mother of God directed John and his wife in separate dreams to build a church to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the site where they would see snow lying. For it was in this manner that she wanted her inheritance to be used.
John immediately reported the whole matter to Pope Liberius, and he declared that a similar dream had come to him. Accompanied by clergy and people, Liberius proceeded on the following morning in solemn procession to the snow-covered hill and there marked off the area on which the church in Mary's honor was to be constructed.”
Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Mary was definitively declared the Theotokos (see here and here)—the Divine Mother of God—and the basilica was consecrated in her honor. The basilica was decorated with mosaics from the lives of Christ and Our Blessed Mother, which have survived until today. Also present is the oldest surviving image of the Blessed Virgin. Known as the Salus Populi Romani, (The Health of the Roman People), this icon is credited with saving Rome from the plague. Thought to have been painted by John the Evangelist, radiocarbon dating has placed the age of this icon at approximately two thousand years old.
The Basilica of Saint Mary Major is important to Christendom for three important reasons:
1) The basilica stands as a venerable monument to the Council of Ephesus (431), during which the dogma of Mary's divine Motherhood was solemnly defined. The definition of the Council occasioned a most notable increase in the veneration paid to Mary.
2) The basilica is Rome's "church of the crib," a Bethlehem within the Eternal City. It also is a celebrated station church, serving, for instance, as the center for Rome's liturgy for the first Mass on Christmas. In some measure every picture of Mary with the divine Child is traceable to this church due to the surviving Salus Populi Romani.
3) Saint Mary Major is Christendom's first Marian shrine for pilgrims. It set the precedent for the countless shrines where pilgrims gather to honor Our Blessed Mother throughout the world. Here was introduced an authentic expression of popular piety that has been the source of untold blessings and graces for Christianity in the past as in the present.
On this Feast of this Basilica dedicated to the Blessed Mother, let us ask Our Lady to intercede for our needs. During this month of August, dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, let us honor Mary the Mother of God and pray that she will intercede for our intentions and those of our loved ones.
pardon the sins of Your people.
May the prayers of Mary, the mother of Your Son,
help to save us
for by ourselves we cannot please You.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayer to Our Lady of the Snows
Mary, Mother of God, it is our Christian belief that all who fashion their lives in imitation of your Son, Jesus Christ, and have placed their hope in Him are gathered together in a communion of saints. Those who have gone before us live in intimate communion with Christ. You are the most eminent of them, for you were drawn into His life and being as no other. You who gave Him human life followed Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Mary, look at us. Look at all who are centered on your Son. At the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating 'in full light, God Himself Triune and One, exactly as He is. All of God's people hunger to be intimately one with Him.
Mary, we are the wayfarers and we hunger for this exchange of spiritual goods with you who were so intimately close to Jesus Christ. Your image, as protectress of the Roman people, reminds us that you invite us to center on Christ. Your arms embrace Jesus fully, effortlessly. Jesus, whose burden is light and yoke is easy, wishes to be as close to every individual as He is to you. You are both wayfarer and guide to us wayfarers on our pilgrimage of faith.
Teach us, Mary, to embrace Christ fully, to make Him our Way, our Truth, our Life.
Teach us, Mary, to carry Christ to the world, and, each in our own way, to give Him birth in the hearts of many. Protect your people, Mary; protect your Church. We ask this, as we ask all things, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Inspired by the origins and spiritual history of the Holy Rosary, we continue our meditation on the psalms, one each day, in order, for 150 days.
Psalm: 102: Prayer in Time of Distress
1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.
3 For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
5 Because of my loud groaning
I am reduced to skin and bones.
6 I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
7 I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.
8 All day long my enemies taunt me;
those who rail against me use my name as a curse.
9 For I eat ashes as my food
and mingle my drink with tears
10 because of your great wrath,
for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.
11 My days are like the evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.
12 But you, O LORD, sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
her very dust moves them to pity.
15 The nations will fear the name of the LORD,
all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
16 For the LORD will rebuild Zion
and appear in his glory.
17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.
18 Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD :
19 "The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death."
21 So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the LORD.
23 In the course of my life he broke my strength;
he cut short my days.
24 So I said:
"Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you."
Day 217 of 365
Prayer Intentions: For the Graces of Our Blessed Mother; To resemble her in life, and come to Jesus through her intercession, guidance, and prayers.
Requested Intentions: Health, financial success, positive move (S); Financial security, and health, guidance, and protection for children (ML); For the religious and children of Saint Xavier’s Boarding School, India (FB); Fortitude and faith, Career success (A); Healing of a relationship, employment (A); End to debt and legal difficulties; immigration success (B); For a mother’s continued employment (S); For continued blessings on a relationship (S); For a sick grandmother (R); For the building of a Catholic community, family, and law practice (M); Those suffering from depression (J); Successful adoption (S); Healing of a father battling cancer (S).
Psalm: Psalm 102: Prayer in Time of Distress