A statue of the Holy Mother at St Paschal’s has been a soothing presence to me for the last 18 months. I typically stand on her side of the sanctuary, as it puts me across from the children’s choir whose invocation has such a compelling simplicity. But the calling that reaches me through her image has become a compulsion of its own.
“Come here. Rest in my peace for a time.”
This confident and generous assertion of self contradicts the popular image of the young virgin. It began nagging at me this Christmas. Was she simply the passive, albeit perfect, receptacle for her nation’s Messiah?
I cannot reconcile that with the Gospel of Luke. The song that he records she sang to Elizabeth was not a literal event, but rather a way of placing into context the spirit that moved her into the tide of events. It reads, in part [NIV Luke 31-33]:
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
Would these have been the words of a 14-year old? Obviously not, but would they have been far from her concerns?
What is it like to be a child in a state ruled by tyranny? We in the developed world forget, but it is to be told to look to the ground when the tyrant’s men appear, to hide when they come with weapons at the ready, to whispered news of families taxed into poverty. Not lessons shared idly, but as a parent’s moral necessity to ensure that children survive.
Would it have been unexpected for an empathetic and intelligent girl to contrast this reality with the promises of her faith? Would it have been a surprise for her to conclude that this was a time for God to honor his promises to his people?
There are two ways to fall on the edge of this dilemma: into doubt, and onto certainty. What I feel is the presence of certainty in this young lady. Certainty that God would honor his promises. Certainty that holy men always came into the world through a woman that loved their God. Certainty that such a woman would be found, perhaps a woman like her mother or a beloved aunt. Certainty expressed in prayer early in the morning and before laying down to rest at night.
And through that expression of faith, the angel that had waited, as angels must, for the day of their service to Love, awoke in heaven, and came down to explain: “Yes, it will be done, and this is how.”