Beyond the intricate theology underlying the feast, what we treasure is that Mary made a holy place for Christ to dwell as he became incarnate, grew, lived and redeemed the world in loving mercy.
Our Gospel story today invites us to pray with the most important word Mary ever said, “Yes. Fiat.” Think about it. Mary was not TOLD to become the mother of Jesus. She was asked. She could have said, “No” … for any number of logical reasons.
I’m too young.
I’ve got other plans.
Joseph won’t like this!
I don’t trust angels.
I’m sure all of us can think of a few more very rational excuses to tell our “angels” that we’re not ready for transforming grace. I know I have quite a few of them tucked away from over the years. But Mary calls us to something more – she calls us to an “irrational season” of love which responds to the irrational love God has for us!
Mary chose to say “Yes.” She may not have had to work too hard to find the courage for it within her heart. She was already “full of grace”, having lived her short young life with a faithfulness that made her ready to bear Christ to the world.
We pray that, with Mary’s love and guidance, we too may find the courage to make choices that sanctify our hearts, readying them to receive God.
God will come to us today – not on angel’s word – but in the human form of someone poor, sick, desperate, heart-broken, lonely, or just plain tired. May our faith allow us to respond as Mary did, with a grace-fullness that invites God into the situation.
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 courage. 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, uncomprehending. 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, Spirit, suspended, waiting.
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. Consent, 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
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.
It is a day to honor Mary for giving life to Jesus for the sake of all humanity.
It is day to beg her intercession for a world so desperately in need of Christ’s continued revelation.
Mary is the Door through which Heaven visited earth to heal it from sinful fragmentation.
May Mary continue to carry her beautiful grace to broken hearts and even to the twisted souls who broke them.
Through her, may we all find healing.
Mary, Mother of Mercy, intercede for all Creation that we may embrace the Love your Son taught us.
Poetry: How Do I See Her – by Judith Evans
How do I see her? Blessed Mother, Queen of Heaven, Virgin Mary: these are names that people have given her. But who is she?
When I see the mother of our Savior, I see the courage of women:
She said “yes” and stepped into the never-before, the great unknown, unfairly judged by neighbors, nearly losing her betrothed at a time when “unmarried” and “pregnant” meant banishment or death by stoning.
I see the strength of women:
A pregnant teenage girl, she rode 100 miles on a donkey, sleeping on the ground, surrounded by Roman oppression.
I see the wisdom of women:
It was time. She knew that her son was ready before he knew it. “Do as he tells you,” she told the servants at the wedding. And then there was wine, and the greatest ministry of all time began.
I see the anguish of women:
She visualized her son’s destiny as she nursed him, cleaned him, baked bread for him. Her heart nearly stopped when she couldn’t find him, and then rejoiced when he turned up discussing theology with scholars: a prelude to a future loss, that horrific afternoon at the foot of the cross.
I see women celebrating:
Beyond all human-sized hope, her son conquered death. She had dared to believe in hope, and when hope’s light seemed extinguished, she hoped one more time.
Who is she? She is each and every one of us. Whole, messy, wounded, blessed.
Bewildered by the mystery of it all, yet willing to try one more time to comprehend God’s purpose.
Learning to receive God’s mercy and grace, realizing that we are seen and loved beyond our understanding.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation, when a newly-pregnant Mary travels to be with her shockingly pregnant older cousin, Elizabeth. Although a universal feast, it is certainly a feast for women to treasure.
The Gospel is replete with the quiet but powerful understandings women share with one another:
the haste to support one another
the blessing and bolstering of each other’s faith
the shared joy to cause a baby’s leap in the womb
the desire for mercy and justice for the suffering
the “staying with” until need’s end
Of course, men too experience many of these holy sensibilities, but today most certainly invites women to celebrate the gifts of God within their bodies, minds and spirits.
Perhaps we might pray on these things while watching this movie clip of the imagined scene:
Poetry: Two poems to honor the two blessed women of this scene
The Visitation by Joyce Kilmer (For Louise Imogen Guiney)
There is a wall of flesh before the eyes Of John, who yet perceives and hails his King. It is Our Lady’s painful bliss to bring Before mankind the Glory of the skies. Her cousin feels her womb’s sweet burden rise And leap with joy, and she comes forth to sing, With trembling mouth, her words of welcoming. She knows her hidden God, and prophesies. Saint John, pray for us, weary souls that tarry Where life is withered by sin’s deadly breath. Pray for us, whom the dogs of Satan harry, Saint John, Saint Anne, and Saint Elizabeth. And, Mother Mary, give us Christ to carry Within our hearts, that we may conquer death.
Visitation Villanelle by Sarah O’Brien
She came to me, the mother of my Lord, and grinned with amazement at the sight. All creation with me seemed to roar.
Grey haired, belly swollen like a gourd, I stood to kiss her in the morning light. She came to me, the mother of my Lord.
Her voice, as she crossed the threshold of my door, rang through my womb – from a great height, all creation with me seemed to roar.
The baby leapt – tethered only by the cord. The joy coursing through us! I shouted outright. She came to me, the mother of my Lord.
Already she faced her share of the sword She who believed all God said would be, might – All creation with me seemed to roar.
Blessed one! With your yes you moved us toward the home we long for, and all things made right. She came to me, the mother of my Lord. All creation with me seemed to roar.
Music: Also two selections for this wonderful Feastday:
Ave Maria (Schubert) sung in German, as Schubert wrote it, by the incomparable Marian Anderson
Magnificat (Bach) Imagine composing this powerful first movement based on only a single word: “Magnificat”
Happy New Year, everyone! Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate Mary, Mother of Jesus.
I begin my prayer today by asking a question posed by distinguished theologian, Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ:
What would be a theologically sound, spiritually empowering and ethically challenging theology of Mary, mother of Jesus the Christ, for the 21st century? This question has no simple answer, for the first-century Jewish woman Miriam of Nazareth, also held in faith to be Theotokos, the God-bearer, is arguably the most celebrated woman in the Christian tradition. One could almost drown surveying the ways different eras have honored her in painting, sculpture, icons, architecture, music and poetry; venerated her with titles, liturgies, prayers and feasts; and taught about her in spiritual writings, theology and official doctrine.
In my own prayer today, though, I am not reaching for a deeper theological understanding of Mary. I simply want to talk with her as my Mother, my older Sister, my Friend. I want to seek her guidance and her inspiration. I want to thank her for her continual willingness to bear Christ into the world, and into my life.
How significant it is that the Church begins the year inviting us all to Mary’s Light! Our first reading blesses us in a way that Mary might bless us:
The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!
Mary was all about giving us the LORD, not giving us herself. We see Mary best when we see her holding Christ toward us – the “God-bearer” or “Theotokos”.
This title, used especially in Eastern Christianity, originated in the 3rd century Syriac tradition. It affirms Mary as the Mother of Jesus, Who was both human and divine in nature.
Our reading from Galatians assures us that we too, by our Baptism, are the daughters and sons of God – thus becoming Mary’s own. She is our Mother too by the power of this sacrament.
Our Gospel reveals the spirituality of Mary who “pondered” all the mysterious workings of God deep in her heart. This Mary is my revered sister, guiding me as I meet the unfolding of God in my own life.
Today, let us pray with Mary, our Mother, our Sister, Bearer of God. Let us pray for the whole Church, the whole world – all of whom she tenderly loves.
Poetry: Mary Poems – Lucille Clifton (1936 –2010) was an American poet, writer, and educator from Buffalo, New York. She was Poet Laureate of Maryland and twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
Clifton traced her family’s roots to the West African Kingdom of Dahomey, now the Republic of Benin. Growing up, she was told by her mother, “Be proud, you’re from Dahomey women!”. (You will catch some of her Creole cadence in the verses below.)
Her uniquely insightful poems about Mary capture aspects of Mary’s humanity, vulnerability and womanhood that we might otherwise not consider in a religious tradition that highly spiritualizes Mary.
A Song of Mary
somewhere it being yesterday. i a maiden in my mother’s house. the animals silent outside. is morning. princes sitting on thrones in the east studying the incomprehensible heavens. joseph carving a table somewhere in another place. i watching my mother. i smiling an ordinary smile.
winged women was saying
"full of grace" and like.
was light beyond sun and words
of a name and a blessing.
winged women to only i.
i joined them, whispering
Joseph, I afraid of stars, their brilliant seeing. so many eyes, such light. joseph, I cannot still these limbs, I hands keep moving toward I breasts, so many stars. so bright. joseph, is wind burning from east joseph, I shine, oh joseph, oh illuminated night.
after the all been done and i one old creature carried on another creature's back, i wonder could i have fought these thing? surrounded by no son of mine save old men calling Mother like in the tale the astrologer tell, i wonder could i have walk away when voices singing in my sleep? i one old woman. always i seem to worrying now for another young girl asleep in the plain evening. what song around her ear? what star still choosing?
Music: A Peaceful Hymn to the Theotokos – Nuns of the Carmazani Monastery in Romania
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings offer a harmonious exultation of Mary, beloved Mother of Jesus.
The prophet Micah foretells the time “when she who is to give birth has borne.”
Even the ancient voices spoke of Mary, long before time knew her name. Their hope depended on her cosmic “Yes”, long before she spoke her first childlike word.
Hebrews speaks of the Body of Christ, that physical place where the grandeur of God took flesh, that tabernacle woven of Mary’s own body and blood, that temple made possible by her “Fiat”.
When Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.’“
Hebrews 10: 5-7
The Gospel gives us two loving women, Elizabeth and Mary, rejoicing in God’s power manifested in their lives. They need no proclamations, executive orders, bills, or injunctions. Just a soft greeting, a leap within, a confirmed trust carried in each other’s eyes.
This poem by Mark Strand captures their moment for me. These two women had waited with all Creation for the redeeming Messiah. Now it was about to happen within their lives:
The Coming of Light Even this late it happens: the coming of love, the coming of light. You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves, stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows, sending up warm bouquets of air. Even this late the bones of the body shine and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.
Music: Agni Parthene (Greek: Ἁγνὴ Παρθένε), rendered “O Virgin Pure”, is a Greek Marian Hymn composed by St. Nectarios in the late 19th century. The dulcet melody is sung here in both Greek and English. Lyrics are below.
O Virgin Pure by St. Nectarios
Refrain: O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.
O Virgin pure, immaculate/ O Lady Theotokos O Virgin Mother, Queen of all/ and fleece which is all dewy More radiant than the rays of sun/ and higher than the heavens Delight of virgin choruses/ superior to Angels. Much brighten than the firmament/ and pure than the sun’s light More holy than the multitude/ of all the heav’nly armies. O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.
O Ever Virgin Mary/ of all the world, the Lady O bride all pure, immaculate/ O Lady Panagia O Mary bride and queen of all/ our cause of jubilation Majestic maiden, Queen of all/ O our most holy Mother More hon’rable than Cherubim/ beyond compare more glorious than immaterial Seraphim/ and greater than angelic thrones.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate one of the many feasts honoring Mary, Mother of Jesus.
Today’s feast can be confusing to people. It is sometimes mixed up with the Virgin Birth – the moment when Jesus was born. What we celebrate today, however, is the moment Mary was conceived by her parents, Anna and Joachim.
Over the centuries, devotional practice has tended to make Mary more than human – to separate her from the rest us because of her great holiness. However, many theologians today encourage us to find in Mary the same human struggles and triumphs we all meet in life. In this way, we can learn from her and be supported on our own path to holiness.
Today, as we pray with our many images, devotions and understandings of Mary, may we open our hearts to be inspired by her singular witness to God’s desire to be among us.
Poetry: On a separate entry today, I have copied a few passages from the beautiful classic, ” A Woman Wrapped in Silence”. I absolutely love this book and it has been my treasured companion through at least fifty Advents (and Lents). I highly recommend it to you. Read it in small doses that you can break open in your prayer.
Music: The Magnificat – Mary’s radical prayer for justice and mercy, sung here in Latin by the Daughters of Mary (English below)
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations. He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their seat s and has exalted the humble and meek. He has filled the hungry with good things. And the rich he has sent empty away. Remembering his mercy, he has helped his servant Israel as he promised to our forefathers Abraham, and his posterity forever.
(My long-term followers will recognize this reflection. It’s my go-to for the Assumption because it covers many avenues for prayer.)
Many of us grew up in households where we were surrounded by a strong devotional faith. I am happy to be one of those people. These simple, sacramental practices awakened and engaged my young faith and offered me a visible means to respond to its stirrings. These practices also gave my parents and grandparents the tools to teach me to love and trust God, Mary, the saints, and my Guardian Angel.
I remember with gratitude the many parameters of that deep devotion which accompanied our fundamental practice of a sacramental and liturgical life.
Our home had a crucifix in every room to remind us of God’s Presence
Over the main door was the statue of the Infant of Prague and the first Christmas card we had received depicting the Three Kings to bless us on our journeys.
All year, Dad’s fedora sported a tiny piece of straw tucked into its plaid band. He had plucked it from the parish Christmas crèche, near to St. Joseph who was his patron.
During a really violent thunderstorm, we might get a sprinkling from Mom’s holy water flask kept for especially taxing situations.
And, maybe because we live not too far from the east coast, we had one special summer practice. We went into the ocean on the Feast of the Assumption, believing that, through the water, Mary offered us special healing and graces on that day.
I can still picture young kids helping their elderly grandparents into the shallow surf. I remember mothers and fathers marking their children’s brows with a briny Sign of the Cross. There was a humble, human reverence and trust in these actions that blesses me still.
While that August 15th ritual, like similar devotions, might seem superstitious and even hokey to some today, the memory of it remains with me as a testament to the simple faith and deep love of God’s people for our Blessed Mother.
It was just such devotion and faith, expressed over centuries by the faithful, that moved Pius XII to declare the dogma of the Assumption:
“We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” (MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS 44)
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus(The Most Bountiful God). The world at that time was still healing from the horrors of World War II. The Pope himself, no doubt, was wounded beyond description by what he had witnessed. One can hear his deep pain as he begins his letter by saying:
“Now, just like the present age, our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue. Nevertheless, we are greatly consoled to see that, while the Catholic faith is being professed publicly and vigorously, piety toward the Virgin Mother of God is flourishing and daily growing more fervent, and that almost everywhere on earth it is showing indications of a better and holier life.”
This belief is complementary to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854. These two articles of faith embrace the totality of Mary’s life which was uniquely blessed among all humans. Mary gives us, in our humanity, both a model of and a supportive invitation to holiness.
Marie T. Farrell, RSM presents a scholarly and insightful essay on the Assumption here. Her work gives us a rich understanding of the theological layers within this teaching.
Sister Marie closes her essay with these words: Mary assumed into heaven and Spiritualised in her whole personhood is a prophetic symbol of hope for us all. In his Resurrection-Ascension, Jesus has shown the way to eternal life. In the mystery of Assumption, the Church sees Mary as the first disciple of many to be graced with a future already opened by Christ, one that defies comprehension for ‘…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him…(1 Cor 2: 9)
Musical Reflection with Song below: Prayer of Pure Love ~ Letty Hammock and Sue K. Riley
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 87, allowing it to focus us on Mary, the Mother of Christ and thus of the Church.
With her “Yes”, Mary engaged the Spirit of God and, like the ancient Holy City, became a dwelling place of Grace.
Glorious things are said of you, O city of God! And of Zion they shall say: “One and all were born in her; And the One who has established her is the Most High LORD.”
In her book “Truly Our Sister”, theologian Elizabeth Johnson helps us to understand Mary as a companion, guide, and inspiration:
One fruitful approach to the theology of Mary, historically the mother of Jesus, called in faith the Theotokos or God-bearer, is to envision her as a concrete woman of our history who walked with the Spirit.
As I pray with Mary today, I picture her sitting with the young disciples after the mind-blowing experience of Pentecost. The whiff of Divine Electricity still pervades the room, still jars their senses to an indescribable timbre!
Mary is stilled with a silent understanding. From the abundance of her wisdom, gained in her daily presence with Jesus, Mary gently focuses, calms and directs these new evangelists for the task before them.
Mary is someone who has had her own “visitation by the Spirit”, many years before. Pentecost, for Mary, is a kind of “second Annunciation “. She knows what the willing reception of the Spirit will mean for one’s life.
Indeed, this moment – and their response, like hers so long ago – will bear God’s life into their world.
We call on Mary today, as Church and as individuals, to be with us as we are re-fired in the Holy Spirit. As we reflect on her and the way she opened her life to God, may we grow in faith and desire to open our own lives to the Spirit’s transformative power.
Elizabeth Johnson encourages us:
“to relate to Miriam of Nazareth as a partner in hope in the company of all the graced women and men who have gone before us; to be encouraged by her mothering of God to bring God to birth in our own world; to reclaim the power of her dangerous memory for the flourishing of suffering people; and to draw on the energy of her memory for a deeper relationship with the living God and stronger care for the world.”
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 courage.
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, uncomprehending. 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, 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, Spirit, suspended, waiting. ____________________
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. Consent, courage unparalleled, opened her utterly.
Music: Vespro Della Beata Vergine – Claudio Monteverdi
From the baroque period, Monteverdi praises Mary in his masterpiece, Vespro Della Beata Vergine commonly referred to as Vespers of 1610. The work is monumental in scale and difficult to perform, requiring two large choirs who are skillful enough to cover up to 10 voice parts accompanied by an orchestral ensemble. Here is just an excerpt.
Lauda, Jerusalem, Dominum: lauda Deum tuum, Sion. Quoniam confortavit seras portarum tuarum: benedixit filiis tuis in te. Qui posuit fines tuos pacem: et adipe frumenti satiat te. Qui emittit eloquium suum terræ: velociter currit sermo ejus. Qui dat nivem sicut lanam: nebulam sicut cinerem spargit. Mittit crystallum suam sicut buccellas: ante faciem frigoris ejus quis sustinebit? Emittet verbum suum, et liquefaciet ea: flabit spiritus ejus, et fluent aquæ. Qui annunciate verbum suum Jacob: justitias et judicia sua Isræl. Non fecit taliter omni nationi: et judicia sua non manifestavit eis. Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion. For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee. He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest wheat. He sendeth his commandment to the earth; his word runneth swiftly. He giveth snow like wool; he scattereth hoar frost like ashes. He casteth forth his ice like morsels; before his cold who can stand? He sendeth out his word, and melteth them; his spirit blows, and the waters flow. He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and judgements to Isræl. He hath not dealt so with any nation; and his judgments he hath not made manifest. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, without end. Amen.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 89, as the Church celebrates the blessed humanity of Mary.
Yesterday and today, these beautiful “heart” feasts follow one upon the other, reminding us that both Jesus and Mary loved with human hearts like ours – Jesus as God, and Mary as God’s transformed Mirror.
As we pray with Mary today. Psalm 89 offers us a perfect context. The psalm was likely composed during a difficult time, when Israel began to doubt Yahweh’s enduring promise to care for them – some say during the Babylonian Captivity.
The psalm reminds the People of the Covenant and the Promise:
I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant: Forever will I confirm your posterity and establish your throne for all generations.
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him, and my covenant with him stands firm. I will make his posterity endure forever and his throne as the days of heaven.
Mary, born of the House of David, is the ultimate deliverer of that Promise in the person of her son, Jesus Christ. When, just before Jesus’ birth, Mary prays the Magnificat, we can hear echoes of Psalm 89:
And Mary said, Mysoul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior….
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly….
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
In our own times of trouble, or when a long endurance is required of us, our faith in God’s promises might waver too. Mary is a good one to talk to in such times. Her faith was refined from all need to place stipulations on God’s timing. She believed. Period.
And she wants to nurture that gift in us.
Poetry: I think Mary and psalmist would have liked this poem by Kahlil Gibran. I hope you do too. For me, it speaks of how faith deepens, as Mary’s did.
In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips,
I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying,
“Master, I am thy servant. Thy hidden will
is my law and I shall obey thee for ever more.”
But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest passed away.
And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain and again
spoke unto God, saying, “Creator, I am thy creation.
Out of clay hast thou fashioned me and to thee I owe mine all.”
And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings passed
And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain
and spoke unto God again, saying, “Father, I am thy child.
In pity and love thou hast given me birth,
and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom.”
And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant
hills he passed away.
And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain
and again spoke unto God, saying, “My God, my aim and my fulfillment;
I am thy yesterday and thou are my tomorrow.
I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky,
and together we grow before the face of the sun.”
Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness,
and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to
her, God enfolded me.
And when I descended to the valleys and the plains God was there
Music: Psalm 89: Forever I Will Sing the Goodness of the Lord – Brian J. Nelson; cantor David Adams