Monday, December 08, 2014

May It Be Done to Me

Patronal Feast day of the United States of America

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.”  Genesis 3:9-10

And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Luke 1:28-29

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her. 

St. Ambrose, the 8th century bishop of Milan, in a commentary on the Gospel of Luke, urges us to: 

“Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let her spirit be in each to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith. Every soul receives the Word of God . . . [Our soul] proclaims the greatness of the Lord, just as Mary’s soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior.”

Sometimes, I look at what is the same in the readings.  However, today, what is striking is how different Adam’s response if from Mary’s. 

Physically, Adam hid himself.  Mary did not even consider hiding from the angel.  The angel came in and they had an exchange.

Emotionally, Adam was afraid.  Mary, while greatly troubled, took the message from Gabriel to heart and was not afraid but sought to come to terms with the message, the meaning and the matter.

Spiritually, Adam was attempting to imitate God.  Spiritually, Mary became the model of the servant leader who accepted her mission from God.  The angel then departed.  Job done.  Mission accomplished.  Mother of God in place.

Part of the answer lies in what was said.  However, the other part lies in what was done.  Rather than accept the Lord’s wishes, Adam went ahead and ate the apple.  Mary, on the other hand, accepted it fully.

This image of a painting by American Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898) is telling.  It is hard to hide from the light.  When the angel appeared with the message from God, Mary did not cower like a bunch of scared disciples in the Upper Room.  She opened her doors just as Elizabeth will open doors to Mary in a short while.

The humility and obedience of Mary stand in stark contrast to the broad-shouldered, muscle-bound image of America.  Yet this humble, poor teenager is the patroness of America.  “How can this be?”  How do we as individuals and as a nation that counts ourselves as second to none become more like this handmaiden to the Lord? 

As we make room for Christmas, we inherently make room for Mary.  Physically, we bring out Nativity scenes and statues of Mary in prayer next to her newborn King.  Her image graces greeting cards.  He name is sung out in praises. 

However, at the end of Christmas, do you also put Mary away – packed up in the boxes and Rubbermaid containers you bought at Target with all the other holiday decorations.  Maybe this Christmas is the season when Mary does not get put away.  Give her a public place to dwell all year long. 

Just like Mary made room for Gabriel, for the message and the mission, what must you move aside to make way for the message the Lord has for you? 

Keep Mary out and visible as a reminder every day of how can this new attitude become manifest in me. “May it be done to me according to your word.”

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