During this Advent week of Love, I’d like to take a look at love through the eyes of the woman who carried Jesus from conception, through birth, childhood, and then through to the cross---Mary.
God initiated our love relationship by creating humankind. He then lovingly outstretched his arms to us in Jesus. God is certainly our first and foremost example of overflowing and very specific love. Emmanuel, God with us.
We know that Jesus was divine as Son of God. He was also given his humanity by Mary. So what kind of human was Mary and can I model myself after the best of who she was?
A WOMAN OF HUMILITY, COURAGE & FAITH
A while back, I attended an Advent retreat. In one of the sessions, the speaker showed us an image of Mary hearing that she was the chosen one, the one to carry the Messiah. It is a beautiful depiction by Henry Ossawa Tanner, entitled, The Annunciation.
In the image I saw the humble heart of Mary.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1)
This is the kind of woman I want to be. Humble, listening, and responding with grace. Certainly she was fearful, but this did not deter her from responding to the invitation of God.
Later, while visiting with her cousin, Elizabeth, Mary broke out in a song of faith about who she was carrying in her womb:
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:46-50)
She was able to see the big picture, even from the very beginning. She may not have known all of the details, but she was willing to submit herself to God’s plan that would span generations.
A WOMAN WILLING TO GIVE IT ALL
I’d like to share an excerpt from The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander. I’ve never read anything that so poignantly depicts Mary’s part in Jesus’ humanity.
"TO GIVE HUMAN NATURE TO GOD"
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.
The world around her must have been informed with more than its habitual loveliness, for she was gathering it all to the making of her son.
He was completely her own, utterly dependent upon her: she was His food and warmth and rest, His shelter from the world, His shade in the Sun….the four walls and the roof of His home.
It must have been a season of joy, and she must have longed for His Birth, but at the same time she knew that every step that she took, took her little son nearer to the grave.
Each work of her hands prepared His hands a little more for the nails, each breath that she drew counted one more to His last.
In giving life to Him she was giving Him death.
All other children born must inevitably die; death belongs to fallen nature; the mother's gift to the child is life.
But Christ is life; death did not belong to Him.
In fact, unless Mary would give Him death, He could not die.
Unless she would give Him the capacity for suffering, He could not suffer.
He could only feel cold and hunger and thirst if she gave Him her vulnerability to cold and hunger and thirst.
He could not know the indifference of friends or treachery at the bitterness of being betrayed unless she gave Him a human mind and a human heart.
That is what it meant to Mary to give human nature to God.
My thoughts here come simply from what I read in the gospel passages. This much is clear to me: Mary was a loving young woman, willing to hear and respond to God's clear invitation to help bring Jesus into the world.
My prayer for all of us is that we will experience Love both by what God gave in his divinity and what Mary gave in her humanity. And may we all be willing to bring Jesus to others with the same humility, courage and faith.