Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Spirit Rejoices

December 22, 2011

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent

After the boy's father had sacrificed the young bull, Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said: "Pardon, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD." She left Samuel there. 1 Samuel 1:26-28

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever." Luke 1:46-55


Father, help us to embrace all that we will encounter in life as a gift from you on our journey with you. When we face issues which may seem too great for us to handle, send your Son to help us bear these personal crosses. Grant us the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that your spirit will help us rejoice in all that we have in this holy season and beyond. Amen.


Elizabeth Kübler-Ross' seminal book on death and dying in 1969 laid out the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While Beth and many others have a lot of experience in this area and I have little, it was still intriguing to me that the psychologist John Chapman also applied these same stages to other kinds of traumatic experiences such as enforced relocation, disability, financial crisis or bankruptcy, and more.

Would a poor, unwed teenager in the middle of the Palestinian desert surrounded by an occupying army from the Roman empire not have gone through some of these stages if she awoke one night to the realization that she was pregnant?

As further evidence of her remarkable model of obedience and humility, Mary jumped past all five of these very human stages directly to joy when she learned she would bear the Son of God! After briefly questioned the Archangel Gabriel about how can this be, there was no denial that the Lord had the wrong Mary. There was no temper explosion about this can't be happening to me. There was no slinking depression and melancholy. Just as John the Baptist would leap in Elizabeth's womb when his still pre-born cousin Jesus visited, Mary leaped in her emotional state directly to, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior."

Mary most likely also would have been familiar with the story of Hannah from the Hebrew Bible that is our first reading today. The difference was Hannah sought to be blessed with the child she bore. Mary did not. Hannah turned over her son to the prophet at a young age. Mary raised the Son of God in her household until he began his public ministry. Even though Mary had role models for acceptance, humility and obedience, it still does not make her personal response any less miraculous.


Chapman explains in his interpretation of Kübler-Ross that "the 'grief cycle' is actually a 'change model' for helping to understand and deal with (and counsel) personal reaction to trauma. It's not just for death and dying.

What trauma and emotional shock have affected you this year? While death and dying are for many people the ultimate trauma, Chapman thinks that people can experience similar emotional upsets when dealing with many of life's challenges, especially if confronting something difficult for the first time.

How can these stages help you or someone you know deal with what upsets you or them in order to reach for the joy of Mary?