Monday, July 1, 2013

THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, THE BOY JESUS IN THE TEMPLE, AND PIZZA


Jesus’ mother goes by many names -- The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother Mary, St. Mary, etc. Her main feast day is August 15 , but many churches also celebrate feast days throughout the year in honor of events in her life and miracles attributed to her intercession from heaven. She is honored in the Roman Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopal, and Lutheran Churches. Many people pray the Rosary, create Mary's Gardens, or dedicate other devotions in her name. One devotion, called the Seven Sorrows of Mary honors the saddest parts of Mary’s life. The following is Mary's Third Sorrow as well the fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: 


The Boy Jesus in the Temple

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 

He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
                                                                                                          Luke 2:41-52

This passage describes a milestone in the life of Jesus. At age 12, he is able to have a full conversation with the temple teachers and he teaches them as well. Also for the first time he announces to his parents that he is the Son of God. A fact they may have forgotten in the routine of their lives and the raising of their son. It’s a passage that prepares the reader for more to come in the life of Jesus, a place holder between birth and when he begins his work at age 30. But let’s zoom in on the “great anxiety” Mary and Joseph suffered as they looked for their lost son for three days.

First of all, in addition to celebrating the Festival of Passover at the temple, Jesus most likely became a Bar Mitzvah, an adult responsible for his own actions. Although an important sacred ritual, a Bar Mitzvah wasn’t celebrated in biblical times the way it is now. A modern day equivalent might be the obtaining of one’s drivers license. However, after such a milestone in their son’s life, Mary and Joseph would have considered him a young man and wouldn’t have questioned his walking home to Nazareth with another group of travelers.

It wasn’t until they arrived at the first night’s camp did they realize he wasn’t with the group that walked ahead. And then it hit, the great anxiety. For three days.

I experienced this once, certainly not for three days, but definitely closer to an hour than 30 minutes. When my son Donny was six years old, I took him and his two-year-old sister, Julia, to the beach one sunny day in January. While I stood watching Julia splash her toes in the water, Donny took off running for no reason other than for the sheer joy of it.

By the time I realized that he wasn’t turning around to run back, he was out of yelling range. And I couldn’t catch up to him with Julia in my arms. Soon he was even out of visual range. Let me take a moment now to unblock that emotional memory and see if I can describe it:

Sheer terror. My mouth went dry, my heart raced and my worse-case scenario imagination went wild. Did he run into the ocean, did someone grab him; was he hiding behind the dunes? Where was he going? Why didn’t he turn back? How had I let him get away from me?

One thing was certain, I was a terrible mother. And that’s the part that still makes me cry.

When the police/beach patrol found him, he was sitting in the sand over a mile away. They drove Donny to me and as he got out of the car, I asked him why he kept running. He said, “I don’t know.” 

I believe that he began running in fun, and then he got scared and ran in fear. He just forgot to turn around.

The relief I felt was, eh, not so much. Meaning, yes, I was totally relieved and grateful beyond words. But, it took hours for all the cortisol and adrenalin to leave my system. And I made sure that I was hugging Donny on the couch for all three back-to-back viewings of Toy Story. Donny didn’t mind all that extra cuddling either.

So it’s easy for me to empathize with Mary in her thinking that her son was walking up ahead with his cousins for an entire day and then discover that actually, he was not. I bet they didn’t make camp, eat supper, and go to sleep. No way. Mary and Joseph must have walked all night to get back to Jerusalem.

And then they searched everywhere for him. But not at the temple. Why not? Well, because they had already been to the temple with Jesus. The temple was such a part of Mary and Joseph’s lives, they didn’t believe it to be anywhere special that anyone would want to revisit. I mean no disrespect here, but I imagine it was almost like revisiting the department of motor vehicles after standing in line there the day before.

They searched the whole city and finally ended up back at the temple perhaps to seek advice or to pray more ardently. And there they found their son, their no-longer-a-child young man. But to be sitting among the elders at the temple? Who was this kid?

Wait a minute, they’re all engaged in the conversation. Listen to those questions. Watch how the elders treat him. Wow. But what’s he doing here?

How could you do this to us? We’ve been worried sick and searched for you everywhere!

And instead of a frightened little boy, a fully capable young man answers, you should have know I’d be in my Father’s house. How could you forget that I am the son of God?

In the moment -- relieved, grateful, even awed, but not yet stress-free -- they couldn’t understand him. They couldn’t remember the messages, signs, and miracles surrounding his divine conception and birth.

He got up and walked home with them where he did his chores and behaved as his parents expected.

He continued to grow. He loved his parents and was respected in the community as a proficient carpenter and maybe also as one who sought knowledge and gave really good advice.

Mary remembered this event and added it to her memory of the events of his birth. During Jesus’ childhood, Mary got lost in the day-to-day enjoyment of watching her son grown up. But now she remembered that he was more than her human son. She prepared herself for the day when he would leave her. And maybe when no one was looking she smacked herself upside the head for not checking our Father’s house first. Of course, he’d be there.

How long did Mary berate herself for not seeking her son in the temple first? Did she consider herself a terrible mother as I did when I lost my son? Perhaps, for a little while maybe. And then she stepped outside the routine of raising her son -- washing his clothes, cooking for him, watching him grow as a carpenter under the careful guidance of his father, Joseph. But Joseph, who loved Jesus with all his heart, was not his father. She stepped back and remembered that Jesus was the Son of God.

She remembered after The Annunciation what she told her cousin Elizabeth during The Visitation; soon to be mother of John the Baptist, when she asked why her baby jumped inside her when Mary walked in:

For He has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely from now on all the generations will call me blessed.
                                                                Luke 1:48 

She remembered that although she felt unworthy, God chose her to be the mother of his Son. She knew that she was to do the best job she could to raise him and then she had to let him go. At some point, I’m sure she realized that God understands our human fallibilities and forgave her for not seeking His Son in His house first.

Obviously, there’s a lesson in there for me as well. God has long ago forgiven me for my error in judgment in allowing my six-year-old-son to run away from me. Yet, I still feel unworthy. Not unworthy to be a mother of two wonderful children, but unworthy of the overwhelming gift of love that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ -- The gift of His birth, His good works and messages on earth, and the ultimate sacrifice of His life for me and my sins.

As I always see my beautiful baby in the face of my strapping 17-year-old son, how can I not see the perfect miracle of life born on Christmas day in the face of the grown man suffering and dying on the cross? Suffering made even worse by seeing the anguish of his mother as she watched hopelessly at his feet.

“Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.”  
                    The Breaking of the Bread, The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, page 365

Every Sunday at our Father’s House.

Sources:
HOLY BIBLE, New Revised Standard Version
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I have a connection to the Blessed Virgin Mary for whom (after generations of Maria Virginia’s before me) I am named. She is my muse.

It took me a long time to respond to this connection. Twenty years ago when we first moved from Connecticut to North Carolina, a friend suggested I pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary to help deal with my anxiety and loneliness. I set up a little area with a tiny statue of the Blessed Mother that my grandmother had given me years before. I lit a candle, prayed The Hail Mary, and asked for intercession with particular problems.

When I realized the ease with which these problems were being solved, I stopped these prayers. I felt unworthy of this connection; The Blessed Virgin Mary had much more important problems to deal with than mine.

Time went by, we raised our children. I worked on the craft of writing. I began to research and write stories about the saints. I was most attracted to the fact that the saints where ordinary people who took extraordinary steps in the name of God. I wrote a children’s chapter book about the saints and received a professional critique at a writer’s conference in which I was advised to develop the story into a middle-grade novel.

I tried to do this for several months. I failed. So I took some time off from writing to deal with this writer’s block by working on a non-writing photo sorting project during Lent of 2012.

One night in desperation as to my writing direction, I prayed to The Blessed Virgin Mary for intercession. I awoke the next morning with the realization that I didn’t know enough about the saints to write a whole fictional novel about them. I was to spend time researching and writing about them in a blog called Saints and Recipes.

I’ve kept my connection to The Blessed Virgin Mary open ever since. The coincidences I’ve allowed myself to see continue to amaze me. It wasn’t until I started this blog that someone else pointed out to me that I live on MARYwood Drive. Smack my head. Lived here for twenty years. Duh!

Maybe I needed to become a mother, maybe I needed to gain some confidence, maybe I needed to try very hard by myself before I could ask for, be open to, and appreciate help and guidance from the Blessed Mother.

As I’ve studied the saints, I’ve learned that when I pray for intercession from Blessed Mother Mary, the Archangels intervene for me on earth, and in this way God’s will for me is carried out.

The saints were amazing spiritual heroes on earth and I consider them our friends in faith from heaven. I love every saint I’ve studied so far for this blog. Through their wisdom and life stories, I’ve uncovered within myself a deeper love for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Open yourself up to the connection that is between you and your patron saint. Perhaps you are named for your patron saint, perhaps your birthday falls on your saint’s feast day, or perhaps your saint is the patron saint of your occupation, church, or hometown. Perhaps the outrageous faith of St. Francis of Assisi appeals to you, or the amazing visions of St. Julian of Norwich speak to you, or the spiritual motherliness of The Blessed Virgin Mary comforts you. Follow this blog, search the internet, visit the library and then make your choice. I have faith that the one you choose is the one that’s already been knocking on your door.

Sources:

HOLY BIBLE: NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION

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Speaking of connections, in honor of all the Maria Virginia’s in my Italian lineage, I share this recipe I recently taught my children. In all its international glory and gourmet versatility, pizza was once the food of peasants. Vegetables on bread with a little cheese -- a dish served when there was no meat, handed from mother to child, down through the generations.

Almost Homemade, Hand-tossed Pizza


Dough
Ingredients:

1 cup warm water (100˚F to 110˚F ) 
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast
3 cups bread flour
About a ½ cup bread flour for working with dough
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil spread inside dough rising bowl

 1. Heat water, use a candy thermometer to takes its temperature. Pour into large measuring cup. Make sure it's between 100˚F and no more than 115˚F.

 2. Stir in sugar.

 3. Stir in yeast. Wait 7 minutes.

 4. Meanwhile, in a food processor or mixer with a bread hook, place 3 cups flour and salt. Stir.

 5. If a foam layer has developed on top of the yeast mixture, than the yeast is alive or proofed. If not, the yeast package may be outdated, or the water was too hot, or the sugar left out. Try again. (This isn’t really as easy as it sounds. Be patient with yourself.)

 6. Pour your proofed yeast mixture slowly into the bowl of flour and salt while the mixer or food processor is running on low.

 7. Add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.

 8. Stop and scrape sides of bowl. When all the flour is mixed into the dough, remove dough, shape into a ball, and place in a bowl spread with olive oil. Roll the dough ball around to coat with olive oil.

 9. Cover bowl with a damp dish towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot around 85˚F. Some ovens have a “proof” setting, or you can turn the oven on “warm” and then turn off. Make sure oven is not too hot with oven thermometer. Or, during the summer, place outside in the shade.

10. Punch dough down until most of the air is gone. Roll dough in bowl, cover with damp dish cloth, let rise again in a warm, draft-free-spot at around 85˚F for 30 minutes or until dough doubles in size.

11. Punch dough down again and separate into 4 equal portions for 4 individual pizzas. (You can also combine for one large pizza, or half for two small pizzas.)

12. Refrigerate or freeze for later use. Or, knead dough for about one minute and then begin to flatten dough ball between your hands and a flat surface sprinkled with flour. Pick up flattened dough and continue to flatten it between your hands. Toss dough, catching it with the knuckle of one hand while spinning it with the other. This is tricky. The more experience you get, the higher you can toss. Work over the counter and not the floor.

13. Place flat on floured surface.

Sauce
Ingredients:
1 (14.5) can crushed San Marzano or plume tomatoes, undrained
3 oz. tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried basil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 clove minced fresh garlic or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

 1. Mix all ingredients in pot or frying pan. Simmer on stove for 5 minutes.

 2. Let cool.

Or follow the recipe for Garden Fresh Tomato Sauce.

Toppings
Ingredients:

1 pound shredded, whole-milk mozzarella
Chopped vegetables or meats such as pepperoni

Assembly and Baking

 1. Place pizza stone in oven. Preheat oven to 500˚F.

 2. Spread sauce on on flattened pizza dough leaving about one inch on the out edges for crust.

 3. Sprinkle with cheese and arrange toppings.

 4. Sprinkle corn meal on pizza peel.

 5. Slide pizza onto peel.

 6. Slide pizza onto pizza stone in preheated oven with a couple of shakes.

 7. Bake between 9 – 11 minutes. Keep checking. When it looks like you want to eat it, it's done.

 8. Slide pizza peel under pizza to take out of oven. Then slide pizza off onto a clean cutting board.

9. Repeat with other pizzas. Cut and serve.

Options:  There are plenty of options when it comes to pizza – all kinds of different sauces, cheese, and toppings. In fact, pizza’s available in so many forms, why make it ourselves at all?

Do it for the joy that comes with creating and sharing homemade meals prepared with fresh ingredients and also because playing with dough is fun.