And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." In these few words, all of human history was forever changed. They came from the heart of a simple, young Jewish woman named Miriam or Mary. They proceeded from a humble and honest self assessment and led her to a complete surrender of herself in love to God. That is the heart of holiness. We need to "unpack" the depth of the meaning of these words if we hope to both understand and to stand in them. Then our own personal histories can be changed.
This call to "Fiat", to surrender to God, is not another "formula" or a new multi-step "how to" promise of "solutions" to the problems of life. It is not the answer to a riddle or the meaning behind some mystery.
Rather it is a path, a way, of living a life of surrendered love. It leads to a deepening process of conversion and allows the Love that Mary bore to be incarnated in and through each of us. This process is the way of "holiness" and lies at the very heart of the Prayer of Mary. It is a path to true peace. Every single man and woman alive today is invited to pronounce -with their entire being- the "Fiat" of surrendered love.
The author of the rich New Testament letter to the Hebrews tells us of Jesus Christ that he is able to understand us because He became one of us:
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15)
The Christian claim is that the Eternal Word, coexistent with the Father and the Spirit in the perfect unity that is Trinitarian Love, became a real man in time and history. He did so first within the womb of a thirteen year old Virgin who said "Fiat" and then through her became manifested to the nations.
As a pre-born child, He sanctified all mother's wombs by dwelling within the first temple, the new Ark of the New Covenant, the womb of His beloved self-chosen mother.
Years ago a book on prayer entitled "The Prayer of Jabez" promised to help the reader understand how to expand their own "tent-pegs." That may be a helpful beginning if it truly assists us in expanding our personal capacity to understand that there truly is a God who can, does and will act in our very real, human daily experiences if we have a genuine relationship, a life dialogue, with Him.
However, it is only a beginning. After all it is not really about our tent pegs at all, it is about His dwelling-place among us.
Seeing prayer as only a way to expand our own territory is something like trying to learn to swim by swimming in a backyard wading pool. It is only a start. The Prayer of Mary teaches us to swim in the ocean of life with all of its undertows, by helping us to grasp the deeper truth about the spiritual life and the purpose of prayer.
We are to become the very tent and the ark within which that same God still takes up His residence, still comes to dwell. It is when we begin to touch and grasp this profound insight that we not only find ourselves transformed but learn how to allow ourselves to become the very vehicles through which Love is incarnated for all those around us.
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