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Mary Our Companion – Br. Curtis Almquist

It is our custom here at the monastery on most Saturdays to remember the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our chapel is dedicated to Mary and, as guests will know, we begin Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer every day with the recitation of the “Angelus,” (as in “angels”).The Angelus remembers the account, recorded in the Gospel according to Luke, of the angels coming to the virgin Mary announcing that she will bear a child… and so the focus of the Angelus is on God becoming human in the face and form of Jesus. Some of us may come from religious backgrounds where the remembrance of Mary was very much a part of our spiritual formation; others of us may have come from a religious tradition which held the remembrance of Mary with some suspicion that she was getting in the way of Jesus (what some people call “Mariolatry”). For others of us Mary may simply be a porcelain fixture in a Christmas crèche with no other meaning, one way or the other. I’ll suggest some of why remembering the Blessed Virgin Mary may be meaning-full for you today.

•  For one, you may be in touch right now with fear. It might be fear of the unknown (the unknown present or the unknown future). It may be fear of the known, some seed of you carry in your heart (or in the pit of your stomach), some sense of what God is calling you to be, or bear, or birth. Meister Eckhart, the great German Dominican writing in the early fourteenth century, asks “What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace and if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of God is begotten in us.” Mary’s first response to the visitation of the angel – telling her what she was to bear – was fear. Mary may be a companion to you in your own fear of what God is calling you to be, or bear, or birth.

•  You may know the experience of resisting or resenting something that has been unfolding in your life, perhaps something that is costing you too much, seeming to threaten your very existence… and then to wake up some morning and realize that it’s going to be okay, and you find yourself being able to say “yes” to life again. I think this is some of Mary’s experience when she was called by God’s angel to be the Christbearer. Her first reaction was fear; her second reaction was puzzlement: “How can this be?” And then she awakens to what is being asked of her, realizing it is something she can do. She finds herself able to say to God, Okay: “Be it unto me according to your word.” You may know what it is to finally be able to say “okay” to God, to make peace with your destiny. Perhaps Mary may be to you an “ally” as you face your own impossibilities, to find the freedom to say “yes” to your life: what you would not have chosen but cannot avoid in life. Your saying to God, in your own words: “use me, take me, call me as you will.”

•  You may find in Mary some deep inspiration as a companion to someone else’s suffering. You may know this person well, love them deeply, carry them in your heart, laugh when they laugh and weep when they weep, and yet, in the moment of their deepest suffering find yourself mysteriously repelled, knowing the temptation to leave them, abandon them, create some distance from them… not because you don’t love them but because their suffering is so great, and you don’t know if you can abide it because you love them so much. Here we have Mary, this image of the pietá , holding Jesus in his suffering, finding the strength and courage to stay with this loved one who suffers. She may be a courageous companion to you and your loved one in the hour of suffering.

•  Lastly, you may find in Mary an intercessor. If the God whom Jesus called Father is too hidden from you just now, too ferocious, too exacting, too awesome, too silent, you might find some comfort in access to Mary, who seems to have God’s ear: Mary, as someone to whom you can safely whisper your desires or despairs… trusting that that message, through her, will get to where it belongs.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God: Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

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8 Comments

  1. Janet Gilbert on August 19, 2016 at 11:42

    I use the Anglican rosary mostly. Many times I repeat the Hail Mary but struggle with my true relationship and belief. The words are so comforting as I work my way from bead to bead…maybe that comfort is all I need. Thank you for your insight

  2. Miguel Rodríguez on August 18, 2016 at 21:37

    Excellent reflection, Brother Curtis! Thank you for sharing it with us.

  3. Joyce McGirr on August 16, 2016 at 09:07

    When my husband was ill and dying, the image of Mary was of great comfort to both of us. We prayed the Hail Mary quite often together and I sang Ave Maria to him while he lay in bed. After his death, I found a dirty old broken statue of Mary placed near a large statue of her in a garden behind the church where I was going for spiritual direction. I asked if I could take it home with me and the answer was,of course. So I brought it home and placed it in my little patch of a garden and planted flowers near her and sat and prayed there every morning. And I was raised Protestant! Go figure. The grace of God is wondrous. Thank you for this beautiful reflection on Mary. I love it. I often wonder where she actually went afterwards-there are stories and legends I know, but it still is a mystery. I believe she had a strong community around her to help her in her grief. She really touches the human soul. I went to grief counseling led by Roman Catholics at a Roman Catholic Church and when I walked in the room, the statue of Mary was on the table, the same one I had on my husband’s prayer card at his funeral. It was comforting to see her. Then they moved it away-oh well. I need to move on as well. Thanks for listening.

  4. Carole Trickett on August 15, 2016 at 15:06

    I have always found Mary to be of comfort and of relevance. I am grateful for you reglection. I have been calling upon Mary (Meriam) these past weeks, newly widlowed, seeking/exploring new parts of self.

  5. Margaret Dungan on August 15, 2016 at 10:04

    Thank you for this Br. Curtis. It is an aspect of my faith that I have struggled with over the years. You have carved out a way for me and I am very grateful.

    Margaret.

  6. Marshall Keys on August 15, 2016 at 07:46

    I have been reading the little meditations of the Brothers and collecting some of them in my iPad commonplace book for reflection and sustenance.

    But this a case where a longer account — this sermon — was more useful to me by far than the meditation that linked to it.

    All I saw in the meditation was Anglo-Catholic rant: “Mary, who seems to have God’s ear . . . .” I still find it offensive on a number of grounds, and I certainly do not believe what it seems to imply: that access to God needs to be nor even can be mediated by anyone.

    But The Lord sometimes takes us where we don’t want to go, and I was brought to this sermon, where there is much to reflect on and much on which we agree.

    But I still reject the idea of Mary as intercessor as I reject and will continue to reject extra-Biblical doctrines like the assumption.

    But you did get me to think about it! I suspect that the Day will come when we both (metaphorically) stand before the Lord and say, “How could we have been so blind! It’s not that way at all!”

    Yours in Christ

  7. CR on August 15, 2016 at 07:01

    Beautiful. Thank you.

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