Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Solemnity of the Mother of God

Luke tells us that Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” It must be a heart of some amplitude and capacity. She notices the poor shepherds with messages from angels. She is well aware that she, a poor, young virgin from an undistinguished family has received an angel’s message and become pregnant with God. And she may be wondering (after all we are more than 2000 years later) why, if God has so favored her, would he allow this fulfillment of his plan to take place in a cattle stall, where she must place the Son of the Most High to sleep in an animal’s feeding trough. It makes no sense. In her heart she puts together all these incongruities. She holds them all together and wonders and reflects.  The word in Greek is sumballousa; it means literally to throw things together.  We get the English word symbol from this same Greek expression. And it is what we spend our lives doing as persons of faith, trying to notice God’s ways, trying to put it all together, catch the meaning, and get a glimpse of the transcendent behind/within the physical reality and the sometime absurdity. And very often like Mary, we believe, but we don’t really understand. We don’t have to.

Mother of God, Mother of Divine Love, Mother of God’s poverty and incongruity, Mary gives her whole body unreservedly to God’s desire, God’s desire to come near, to be small and insignificant. For the truth of who God is for us requires a body, a heart under which he can rest, a supple heart that will throw things together and let them be. Her response to the angel’s declaration nine months earlier was, “Be it to me, let it be done in me. May God grow there under my heart; I will be God’s own serving girl.” Mary is generously open to the seemingly mismatched ways of God, with an attentive curiosity. “How will this be? Why me, a poor, unmarried girl from a backwater? Why a census at the worst time possible. Why, after all our careful preparations, a stable, the hay, the trough, the barnyard smell, and strange shepherds with angelic reports instead of family and friends, familiar faces with best wishes and small gifts. Why?” The Mother of God shows us how to read the "why" and translate it into a "why not." Why not me? Why not now? Why not God with me, with us, here and now, here of all places?

Because of what Mary does, how she receives the Word and responds, the body of our earthly existence is now laden with God’s presence and transcendence. Now with faith in her Son, following her lead, we can discover that the emptiness, ambiguity and incongruities in our lives may be pregnant with presence and possibility even divinity. The Mother of God shows us how to throw it all together, trusting in the God, who does not deceive but has come to be on our side, to be with us and protect us; with him all things will be possible. If we dare trust and abandon ourselves like Mary, it is just possible that something of unsurpassed goodness and beauty will be born, not obviously but really. If like Mary we put and faith and love where we do not find it at first, we may find God in our flesh, in our reality. Let us pray this day through her intercession for peace in our world, a peace that only her Son can give.

Statue of the Virgin and Child in the cloister garth of the Abbey retreat house.