Together with Calvary, the Annunciation is a 'key moment in human history,' experts say during annual Miles Christi lecture series
PLYMOUTH — It's almost impossible to talk about God's plan for salvation in a Catholic context without discussing the pivotal role played by the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Chosen from among the human race to carry God's son, Mary's status as "full of grace" carries important theological truths for those who seek to know and understand Jesus Christ.
Miles Christi, a religious order that specializes on the sanctification of laypeople, mainly college students, hosted its 30th Conference for Study and Prayer at the Inn at St. John’s Resort in Plymouth on Feb. 18-19, titled “Behold Your Mother,” a series of lectures on Mary, Mother of God.
An estimated 184 attendees took the opportunity to dive deeper in the Marian mysteries of the faith during the two-day conference.
“We’ve never dedicated a whole conference about Mary, which is why we chose her and Marian topics for this conference,” Fr. John of God Bertin, MC, seminarian formator for Miles Christi, told Detroit Catholic. “The topics and lectures are covering all the mysteries of the life of Mary, using Scripture and the tradition of the Church.”
The conference featured Lawrence Feingold, Ph.D., professor of dogmatic theology and Christology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis; Robert Fastiggi, Ph.D., the Bishop Kevin M. Britt Chair of Dogmatic Theology and Christology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit; and Tim Staples, senior apologist at Catholic Answers.
Feingold delivered three talks over the course of the two-day conference, including his Saturday afternoon lecture, “Hail Full of Grace: The Annunciation and the Life of Mary,” during which he described the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she would give birth to Christ as the second-most pivotal moment in salvation history, following Calvary.
“It is one of the most important points in the history of the world, together with Calvary. The heart of human history of the world is in this event,” Feingold said. "The Annunciation and the Cross — one was private, the other was public. We are looking at a key moment in human history, this great mystery hidden from the eyes of the world, but only to Mary.”
Feingold described the Annunciation as a reversal of religious expression: Instead of man seeking out God, God seeks out man in the form of Mary, whom He selected to bring the Word in the world.
Feingold said the particulars of Mary’s situation, being a daughter of Nazareth, betrothed to a man from the House of David, but still a virgin, were all essential elements to Jesus Christ coming into the world to claim His eternal kingship and proclaim his divinity to the world.
“God is the master artist, Who has planned all of this, especially these details at the center of all history,” Feingold said. “He wanted to come into the world not in the womb of an unmarried woman, but a married woman, a woman married to a son of David, so to fulfill the prophecy God made to David, where his descendant would be a king, whose kingship would be universal, who would be called the Son of God.”
Staples spoke after Feingold on Saturday, detailing his conversion to Catholicism and his journey to Catholic Answers in his talk, “Mary, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin.”
Staples said his journey from Jimmy Swaggart Bible College to the Catholic faith included encountering different Marian doctrines with which he had to wrestle before coming into the Church.
“You hear all the time from Protestants, ‘What's the big deal about Mary? All that matters is Jesus,’” Staples said. “We’ll answer that question over and over. In the Gospel of John, the scene at Calvary, where John is among the blessed women at the cross where Jesus is suffering, John is looking up, gazing at his dying Savior. It’s the pinnacle of redemption occurring right there — John is looking at Jesus, at all of salvation, and what does Jesus say? ‘Behold your mother.’”
To separate Mary from Jesus would be akin to separating a finger from the body and expecting the finger to live, Staples said. By honoring Mary, the woman selected by God to bring God into the world, one is praising Christ himself.
This is especially poignant, Staples said, when one considers that Mary, who carried Christ in her womb, was a recreation of the Ark of the Covenant, which for the Israelites contained God’s word.
Elizabeth's greeting to her cousin Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus, "Who am I, that the Mother of my Savior should come unto me?" reflected the words of King David when the Ark was brought before him after David captured Jerusalem, Staples said.
Staples recalled how in the Book of Samuel, a caretaker of the Ark, Uzzah, reached out to steady it with his hand as the Ark was being carried by oxen. When Uzzah touched the Ark, God struck him dead.
If the Ark of the Covenant was so sacred that no man could touch it and live, Staples said, how could the vessel that carried God himself be anything less than holy and without blemish?
“What if the ark was to come to life? It would be unthinkable that the ark, which became the instrument of death for Uzzah when he touched it, would be sinful or touched by anything that was sinful,” Staples said. “David proclaims, ‘Who am I that the ark of the Lord should come to me?' So Elizabeth, quoting verbatim David, says, 'Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come unto me?' We can see the implications here for everything else with perpetual virginity and sin.”
Staples and Feingold participated in question-and-answer sessions both days, and Fastiggi hosted his own Q&A on Sunday after his presentation, “The Woman Clothed with the Sun: From Mary’s Assumption to Her Apparitions."
Staples and Feingold also held a roundtable discussion with young adults at the Miles Christi Family Center in South Lyon on Saturday night.
Fr. Bertin said the annual conference was a way for Catholics to intellectually supplement their faith. Beyond the lectures, the conference featured Mass, Eucharistic benediction, and rosary with a livestream from the Marian grotto in Lourdes, France.
“Many attendees really appreciate the intense spiritual life of the conference, including adoration, confession and Mass,” Fr. Bertin said. “The talks are full of teaching, insightful. It is not a class on theology, but it is an exposure to theology that’s taught in a way that is very easy to understand.
“Many times, we Catholics live our faith, but we don’t know our faith that well,” Fr. Bertin added. “Many times, we are happy with what we receive in catechism class, but we don’t take into account that our faith needs the intellect. This conference is a chance to dive deeper into the knowledge of the mysteries of the faith.”
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