Monday, March 24, 2014

ST. MARY AND THE ANNUNCIATION & PINE NUT COOKIES



Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682)

(This is an update/revision of my original Annunciation post.) 

The Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary is the announcement by St. Gabriel the Archangel to Mary that she would become the mother of the Son of God. The Feast of the Annunciation is usually celebrated on March 25 in the Roman Catholic, Anglican (including Episcopal), Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Whenever March 25 falls during Holy Week, the Feast Day of the Annunciation is moved to another date in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran Churches.


The Birth of Jesus Foretold

     In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

     But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

     Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

     The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

     Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

     Then the angel departed from her.
                                                                                                                                                         Luke 1:26-38

Nazareth was a small town in an unremarkable region of Galilee. Although Joseph was a descendant of King David, the connection had little or no meaning to Joseph’s community. He was a humble working man who had become engaged to Mary. According to the custom of their day, a betrothal ceremony was performed and Mary would live with her parents for a year before marrying and joining her husband in his house. As was customary, Mary was most likely about 12 years old at the betrothal and would marry at age 13. (See my post on St. Joseph about his own angelic visit.)

One can imagine why Mary was so confused at the arrival of an angel, whom not only talked to her, but said that God favored and was with her.

Like Joseph, Mary was humble. So it was hard for her to understand how she came to be favored by God. Also knowing the history of Moses and the other prophets, she probably knew that God was about to ask her to do something so challenging that she couldn’t do it without Him.

She was right. The angel told her that she will give birth to the Son of God who shall indeed be God on Earth, or God incarnate.

Before she even tried to ponder the idea of her being the mother of the Son of God, she asked how she could have a baby since she was a virgin and not yet with Joseph.

Gabriel explained that it will occur through the power of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps also his news of her formally barren and elderly cousin, Elizabeth, being in her sixth month of pregnancy helped Mary to understand that she too would be playing a part in a miracle of God.

Indeed her role may have been secured from the moment of her own conception, but it’s significant that Mary said that she is a servant of the Lord and agreed to serve as Gabriel described.

Mary was clearly called by God, and she wholeheartedly agreed to His will. She knew that she’d be able to handle whatever challenges came her way because God said he’d be with her throughout. Not only was God the Father and Holy Spirit with her, but her beloved son was God the Son and that relationship strengthened Mary all the days of her life on earth and continues in heaven.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is recognized as a Saint. But she is so much more than that, she's in a category all by herself.

Yet she was once a human being who said yes to God.

And therein lies our inspiration. Most likely, our mission from God won’t be delivered via an archangel, but if we look around, pray, and listen carefully, we’ll find it. We’ll know that God will be with us when we climb all the obstacles and face every challenge. If an obstacle delays or misdirects us, we’ll take a step back, learn from our experience, pray, listen, and start again.

St. Mary is the most blessed of all mothers and she is the best. We can never be as perfect as Mary. But you don’t even have to be a mother to be inspired by Mary the nurturer. She nurtured the most beloved and precious of all, and she continues to nurture us with prayers from heaven.


Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
                                                                               Collect, Book of Common Prayer
...............................................................................................
Sources:

HOLY BIBLE, NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION
MARY'S FLOWERS: GARDENS, LEGENDS & MEDITATIONS by Vincenzina Krymow
SAINT JOSEPH: HIS LIFE AND HIS ROLE IN THE CHURCH TODAY by Louise Bourassa Perrotta
American Catholic Newsletter
James Kiefer's Christian Biographies
................................................................................................

A nurturer is anyone who takes care of anyone or anything, even oneself. I nurture myself when I garden. I love every part of gardening, even the annoying parts. As St. Francis of Assisi taught, I believe that God is everywhere, from the warmest sunbeam to the boldest mosquito.

Gardening can be as addictive as running. And it’s good to have something to occupy yourself when you have a spouse who's running all the time. My favorite part of gardening is sharing the harvest to nurture others with God's bounty.

Further, gardening doesn’t have to be BIG to be enjoyed. It can be small and special. It can be a: 


MARY'S GARDEN

Ingredients:

One statue or picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Any plants that, according to legend, are connected to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Instructions:

Place any size statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary outside anywhere you’d like to group a bunch of plants around and in honor of her. So this can be a whole backyard garden, or a smaller section as shown below. Alternatively, it can be on a porch, or in a pot, or inside on a shelf.
Blessed Spring, 2014
Clockwise starting from the yellow Marigold, Columbine, Lavender, Violet Petunias, Rosemary, Patio Roses, Columbine, Lavender, African Daisies 
(All require full sun except for the Columbine which I moved to the backyard shade garden after the photo.)

Mary's Gardens became popular during medieval times. The custom remains strong for many peoples and is a lovely way to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Here are some of the most popular modern-day Mary's Flowers and their legendary connections to The Blessed Virgin Mary:

Rose (Our Lady’s Rose) is connected to Mary in many ways. Red roses in particular symbolize her sorrows. It’s said that roses filled the air during her Assumption into Heaven. A “rosary” was originally a rose garden dedicated to Mary. Then in the 12th century The Rosary became a devotion, a garland of prayers.

Madonna or Easter Lily (Annunciation Lily) symbolizes Mary’s purity. Legend has it that Gabriel held a lily in his hand during the Annunciation.
    
Violet (Our Lady’s Modesty) is a modest, simple flower that, according to tradition, was growing outside Mary’s window when she told Gabriel, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word,” - a humble girl courageously accepting God’s role for her. It is said that as Gabriel departed, he blessed the flowers with their delicate fragrance.

Columbine (Our Lady’s Shoes) is believed to have grown in the garden of her cousin, Elizabeth, whom Mary visited soon after the Annunciation. Mary touched the flowers and gave them their fragrance. The purple blooms represent the sorrow of Mary at the Cross and the flower is shaped like a dove representing the Holy Spirit.

Daisy (Mary’s Star) represents the star that led the Magi to Bethlehem and to the Holy Family on the twelfth day after Jesus’ birth.

Clematis (Virgin’s Bower) is believed to have sheltered and hid the Holy Family one day and night as they fled into Egypt and away from King Herod’s soldiers who were searching for the Baby in order to kill him and the other Holy Innocents.

Lavender (Mary’s Drying Plant) is where, according to legend, Mary hung Jesus’s freshly washed clothes to dry. Their sweet fragrance comes from His clothes.

Rosemary (St. Mary’s Tree) shares a part in both legends. Rosemary sheltered the Holy Family along with Clematis and held Jesus’s freshly washed clothes to dry in the sun along with Lavender.

Marigold (Mary’s Gold) blossoms are believed to have been used by Mary as coins, especially during the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt and their encounter with robbers.

Lily of the Valley (Mary’s Tears) are said to have appeared as Mary’s tears hit the ground when she wept at the Cross.

Recently I discovered that, according to legend, Jesus played with pine cones as a child in Nazareth. 

Pine trees along the Israel Trail

In honor of this legend, Italians make a traditional cookie called pignoli (pine nut). For lovers of almond flavoring, this cookie is perfect. You'll find a great recipe at Shockingly Delicious

Because I have a policy not to post recipes on this blog that most people wouldn't like, I offer my own, non-almond flavored cookie. Now by "most people," I mean me. Feel free to call me a nutjob, but please don't try to sell me on almond flavoring, an extract that I believe many of us have in our spice rack, but no one actually uses. The same goes for Amaretto. Vanilla and lemon on the other hand, mmm, mmm. 

Did people bake pine nut cookies in first-century Nazareth? Did they even make cookies? We don't know. But, there is evidence of their making fruit syrups and jams. So the Blessed Mother probably made sweets for her Sweetness and this recipe honors that tradition:


PINE NUT COOKIES




Ingredients:

2 stick (1/2 pound) butter, at room temperature

1 ½ cups sugar
2 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup lightly toasted pine nuts

Instructions:


  1.  Preheat oven to 375˚ F.

  2.  Place butter in electric mixer bowl. Cream.
  3.  Add sugar and blend.
  4.  Add egg, vanilla and lemon juice. Mix.
  5.  In another bowl, place flour, salt, and baking soda. Mix with fork.
  6.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.
  7.  Add pine nuts and blend.
  8. Drop by rounded regular teaspoon onto parchment paper-covered cookie sheets about one inch apart.
  9. Bake for 9 - 11 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.
10. Cool on wire rack.


Makes about four dozen. Enjoy!

Bonus Material:


Easter Eve, 2013

Autumn, 2012
  
Confession: I accidentally killed my lavender plants by over pruning them last summer and had to start over with new plants this spring. But I'm learning, so there's that.

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