Father Michael Chua Kim Wah is the priest of the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes, Klang, the royal town of the state of Selangor in Malaysia.
I have just this minute returned from visiting and praying in this 1928 church, which is situated just across the road from the palace of His Royal Highness, the 9th Sultan. The Church was designed by Father Jean-Baptiste Souhait MEP, who studied architecture before being ordained priest as a missionary for the Paris Foreign Missions Society (la Société des Missions Étrangères de Paris – MEP).
The following is the homily prepared by Father Chua for this very day, the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, 1 January 2015. The Church now commemorates Our Lady on the very first day of the New Year under her most fundamental and greatest title, the Mother of the Lord. The Church places Our Lady once again in the feast of Christmas. The Orthodox Church does the same thing, but immediately after Christmas Day, on 26 December.
Father Chua meditates on the image known as Platytera ton Ouranon (Πλατυτέρα των Ουρανών), “More Spacious than the Heavens”. This comes from the (Byzantine) Akathist Hymn to the Holy Virgin:
You were made more spacious than the heavens, O Most Pure Mother, for God cannot be contained by the whole universe, and yet He chose to be contained in your womb for the sake of our salvation.
_______________________________________________________________ It is never flattering to describe a woman as “large” or “big” (EDITOR: I think what Father actually means here is “now that I have all your attentions!”).
And yet, the Church in describing the immensity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, pays her the greatest honour. Mary is described as the one “made more spacious than the heavens” or in Greek, “Playtera ton Ouranon.” Wow! that’s big! The title also refers to the icon found in most Orthodox churches in a very prominent position – high in the front apse over the Altar and is often of such scale that it overwhelms and overshadows all other icons in the Church.
The immensity of this icon can present a rather striking first impression especially to a non-Orthodox visitor. How is it that in a Christian church, a place where life centres around Christ, can an image of His mother appear to have such prominence? And so on this first day of the New Year, the Church speaks of her the greatness of the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Holy Theotokos, the Mother of God, because she carried God within her. . . Perhaps, due to attacks from Protestants, we have become embarrassed by such titles being accorded to Mary or to any other human person. How could a creature be deemed the mother of her Creator? . . .
Please read the rest of Father Chua’s homily for today on his own blog. And, oh, a most blessed Year of Grace 2015 for CP&S readers!