Alleluia: Full of Grace

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary
June 25, 2022

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Mary, blessed mother of Jesus, and thus of us all who have been born anew in him.

Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed is the Virgin Mary
who kept the word of God
and pondered it in her heart.

What can this beautiful mother teach us, she who kept and pondered the very Word of God?

In order to grow fully in to God’s heart and will, this holy woman held the Word – the way the dough holds yeast to allow its own transformation.

So that she might blossom into the fullness of her own beauty, she caressed faith’s slow-forming bud in the dark protection of her prayer.

Like all of us, Mary was not divine. She was not supernatural. She was an ordinary, good woman who loved God with extraordinary passion.

She spent her days clearing her heart-space of any clutter that would keep her from God. And slowly, that Divine Presence ripened and revealed itself in the flash of an angel wing and the soundless message that would transform all time.

We too, in our particular ways, are asked to allow God the space to imagine Divinity into flesh through our human experience.

Mary believed that God could and would do such a miracle for love of us. She let the Truth of Jesus live, not only in Him, but in her own mother’s life.

This generous mother then became the first disciple, keeping company with Jesus through his Passion, Death and Resurrection

Indeed, we have much to learn from her.

Poetry: Annunciation – Denise Levertov

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,

almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.


Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.


She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.

This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,


She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
                                                       raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
                                  consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
                               and the iridescent wings.
              courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

Music: Two versions of the magnificent “Ave Maria”.

Ave Maria – Franz Schubert – sung by Ms. Jessye Norman, in German as written by Schubert.

( I had the immense privilege and pleasure of meeting and working with the great Jessye Norman when I chaired a UNCF event in Philadelphia many years ago. She, in her own way, was a bit “divine”!)

Ave Maria – Charles Gounod – sung by Ms. Jessye Norman in Latin, as written

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