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 a sense you carry in your heart (or in the pit of your stomach) of what you sense God is calling to be, or bear or birth. Teresa of Avila, the 16 th century Carmelite nun, said, “What good is it if Mary of full of grace if I, too, am not full of grace. And what good is it if Mary was the Christbearer if I, too, am not the Christbearer in my own time and in my own country?” 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 fear.
- 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 says 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 someone 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. 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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