Mary, Queen of the Angels
Homily for the Feast of the Portiuncula
Generally speaking, we are usually put off by people who talk about themselves. However, as we listen to the words of our first reading from the Book of Sirach, the words which Wisdom speaks of herself are both delightful and beautiful. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Wisdom is the agent which God uses to create, to bring chaos into order. She is pictured as a child playing at the feet of the Creator much as a child would play on the floor with building blocks.
The Christian Scriptures are full of references to the Hebrew Scriptures. However, in the Christian Scriptures the gender of Wisdom is changed and the title is given to the Incarnation of God’s Word in the person of Jesus. Toward the end of our reading from the Book of Sirach, one phrase in particular reminds us of a scene in St. Matthew’s Gospel. Wisdom proclaims, “Come to me, all you that yearn for me, and be filled with my fruits…” In the Gospel, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.”
The little chapel that we refer to as the Portiuncula or Little Portion is particularly dear to all Franciscans as it was the second little church in the Umbrian Valley which St. Francis of Assisi repaired. The Benedictines of Monte Subasio held the deed to this parcel of land and the church that sat on it. However, the abbot of that Benedictine Abbey decided to give the church to St. Francis with the understanding that he make it the motherhouse of the Franciscan Order. During this time of the summer months in Europe, pilgrims make their way to this little chapel that is now housed in a huge basilica to obtain the plenary indulgence that is attached to it. Hundreds will avail themselves of the Sacrament of Penance. The Plaza that since before the basilica will be filled with music and dancing young people this evening as they celebrate this great feast.
How blessed are we today to worship God and venerate the mother of God in a chapel that is named for Mary, Queen of the Angels! As our responsorial psalm for today states, we “will bless the Lord at all times.”