The first reading for our solemnity comes to us from the Book of Sirach. It derives its title from the name of its author, Jesus ben Sira. Years ago, we called this the Book of Ecclesiasticus or The Book of the Church because of its extensive use in preparing catechumens for baptism and in instructing the faithful. Its many chapters are filled with proverbs about friendship, education, poverty and wealth, laws, religious worship, and many other matters that reflect the religious and social customs of the time.
Today we hear “Wisdom” speaking in the first person, describing her origin, her dwelling place in Israel, and the reward she gives her followers. Wisdom is personified as coming from God, yet distinct from him. Because Wisdom is given the feminine gender, the Church frequently makes the transition of the virtues enumerated about her to the Blessed Mother whom we celebrate as Queen of the Angels today.
Perhaps an even better way to envision Wisdom, however, is to think of it in terms of the Divine Logos, the Word of God, spoken of so eloquently by St. John the Evangelist. That Word became flesh in Jesus, born of Mary. As St. Paul tells us in his Letter to the Galatians, we are, because of Mary and Jesus, now adopted children of God.
Psalm 34 acts as the responsorial psalm today. It is a psalm that I pray in part every day. I was originally drawn to it because it is an acrostic psalm, constructed by beginning each verse with each successive letter in the Hebrew alphabet. However, after I became familiar with it, I found it ideal to use throughout the day, choosing whichever verse was appropriate for my mood and circumstances that day. I then try to whisper that verse to myself several times during that day.
As we honor our Blessed Mother today, we remember that she is the highly favored one, the one with whom the Lord chooses to dwell. We too hold the same treasure, the very presence of God in our midst. Francis gave birth to the Franciscan Order in the little chapel dedicated to her as Queen of the Angels. As we celebrate in yet another chapel dedicated to the Queen of the Angels, let us praise God for the gift that is being a child of God.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator