The Annunciation, The Magnificat: Mary’s song…
There is an altar in the grotto of the Basilica of Annunciation in Nazareth which is built over what is believed to be the remains of Mary’s family home. After the angel Gabriel announced her imminent pregnancy as conceived by the God’s Holy Spirit, one who was to be God with us: Emmanuel – this ‘Anointed Saviour’ Christ Jesus, we have her response, as carved into that altar: FIAT! ‘May it be to me…’
It honours the utter receptivity of Mary. Mary is presented to us in scripture as a type, a model, an exemplar of ourselves at our receptive best. ‘This is what being utterly open to an awareness of God’s sacred Self in Christ being birthed within us looks like.’ We don’t usually have that kind of awareness. Our life experiences – both positive and negative – impact and affect us, distract us. They tend so to fill our senses that we lose the ability to discern any sense of this sacred truth – neither being birthed into nor out from our lives.
Perhaps that’s why so many traditions insist on Mary having been a virgin, implying that she was still ‘untouched’ by life’s most complicating, obfuscating entanglements. Mary represents a life uncluttered, someone simply receptive, honestly just open, available. This – personified – is what a willing channel of God’s peace looks like. Mary models us as uncontaminated Christ perceivers/ Christ carriers, unfettered channels of God’s HOPE, PEACE, JOY and, of course, the stuff absolutely most essential to the God of our Christian tradition: LOVE!
That’s what today’s passage describing the Angel Gabriel’s visit to Zachariah, Elizabeth and Mary is mostly about – pointing us to what making room for love to be born into and out from our lives looks like. Gabriel’s promise of birthing Christ’s love is to Mary, but through Mary it’s to us all! This text is about our coming actually to conceive ‘love’. It’s about what has already been conceived within each and every one of us as we come by faith to embrace what Jesus Christ releases within – our God-created, perfectly love-aligned potential. This is us about us coming to own that enlivening, which is already perfectly within us, within others, and also within everything and everywhere else.
We see this potential unfolding in nature. By singing of how in the bulb there is a flower we are celebrating thatenclosed within every bulb’s apparent hardness is still always the unspeakable perfection and beauty of something just waiting to be unfurl and to be born. As within us: The Christ within us… Or, it’s as we sing of the seed that has within it the potentially unlimited fecundity an entire tree. Or of how cocoons have their…hidden promise of butterflies that will soon be free. It’s in the cold and snow of winter, where spring is already present, but unrevealed until its season. Something God alone can see.
Is that what God sees as God looks at us? It’s what God saw in Mary & got the Angel to announce – Mary who represents us at our least complicated and most receptive – best.
Do you actually believe that? Mary’s name comes from the ancient Hebrew name ‘Miriam’ which some point out simply means ‘beloved’. …and who are God’s most beloved? Remembering from the first letter of John that ‘God is love’ and from the Gospel of John that ‘for God so loved THE WORLD that Jesus came – and so, who, then, are God’s most beloved?
It’s the Marys of the world – it’s us. It is we who are – as is everyone else – the ‘Mary-beloveds’ of God!
But that’s truly not always obvious, is it? When we don’t feel particularly loveable, or when there are those other who are particularly unlovable… Or when life is hard, when our circumstances are difficult, our relationships breaking down…? There is so much that seems to conspire to steal that awareness from us! Depression does it. Or low self-esteem, lack of self-worth. Or perhaps an overly inflated self-esteem… That’s why and when we need God’s Gabriels to break through to us – ‘Gabriel’ which means ‘God as my strength’. We need them to bring us back into an awareness of that love!
But continuing the pregnancy metaphor: It doesn’t happen overnight. A baby isn’t just suddenly born out of darkness directly after conception. There must first be those 3 trimesters, sometimes joyful, often difficult, always emotionally complicated – as we await the timing for our progeny – for love to be born. Μακροτηυμια is a word used all through the NT, meaning both patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance as well as …forbearance, & longsuffering… It’s the image of the farmer who waits – knowing that there is seed already planted in the land, the farmer is prepared to watch & wait with μακροτηυμια – a long patience. They are prepared to wait because they know that, in the fullness of time, there will be a crop from what was sown – a new birth.
This life is always a liminal, changing space that we are given to be living through, a time when there is so much fluidity moving within us, around us. And yet we believe that birthing the LOVE of God within us and for others through us is still very real. As real as the risen Christ is real. As real as the power of healing love is real. That is the reality of Emmanuel: GOD IS WITH US! Already! Conceived! And it’s as real as we are given to allow it to be born, allowing that love-potential to blossom and grow in and through even our lives – that we all truly do become the Christ-bearing love-parcels that God intends us to be…
And so, Mary said ‘FIAT’: “May it be to me as you have said…”
We say that with her now, even as we light this 4th Advent candle of God’s love…
In Jesus’ Name
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