How do we celebrate birthdays?
The Catholic Church celebrates this Tuesday, 8 September, the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and this date is also traditionally fixed nine months after her Immaculate Conception as the child of Saints Joachim and Anne. The birthday of Mary makes me reflect on what I should do on her birthday. As I will normally reach out to my family and friends on their birthdays, I thought of spending some time visiting the Lady’s Chapel of Our Lady of Victories, Camberwell where I reside.
As I sit and I look at the Chapel with fresh eyes, I realize its beauty. This Lady’s Chapel is located on the south transept of the Church, and the Altar of Our Lady is set against the back wall of the Chapel. The base of the altar is a white marble slab topped with four pairs of equally spaced smooth terracotta-coloured marble columns. The Statue of Our Lady of Fatima is placed in an alcove above the altar, and she is dressed in a white long sleeve robe with a small gold star on the lower edge. There is a mosaic floor in front of the altar, and the altar was erected over the remains of Fr Robinson, the priest who commissioned and oversaw the designs, building and funding of the Church. The Chapel is adorned with the stained glass window of ‘Mary at Lourdes’ on the west wall, and ‘St. John’s vision of the Glorious Woman’ (Revelations 12: 1-9) on the east wall. There is also a stunning stained-glass semi-circular window of the ‘Coronation of Mary’ on top of the Chapel.
While reflecting all these devotional and architectural beauties I imagine having a conversation with the Blessed Virgin. I imagine Mary as a young girl who says ‘yes’ at the Annunciation, as a mother who witnesses her son’s crucifixion and death, and a widow whose life was transformed by the Resurrection of her Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As I listen to what Mary will say in response, Mary’s intercession to Jesus at the Wedding at Cana comes to my mind: “They have no wine” (John 2:4).
Mary realises that there will not be enough wine as the wedding feast continues. As wine means ‘happiness, love and patience’ in the spiritual sense, we may be running out of this spiritual virtue as the global pandemic continues. Mary at the wedding at Cana encourages us to believe that there is always the best wine to come if we ‘Do whatever he [Christ] tells us’ (cf. John 2: 8). As Jesus changes the ordinary [water] into extraordinary [wine] at the intercession of Mary, let us also ask Mary to intercede once again, that Jesus will turn our ‘low wine’ with overflowing rich wine at this extraordinary time.
When this extraordinary time is changed into ordinary, the time we return to normal, you too might take a visit to the Marian Chapel of your Church and see what you might find there.