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Handmaid of the Lord
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Madonna Annunciate - Francesco di Girgio Martini - 1469
By Deacon Keith Fournier
Mary's Fiat was spoken from the heart. In a Biblical context, "heart" is a word that means much more than the fleshy organ at the center of our chest cavity. It refers to our center, the core of each one of us, the place where our deepest identity is rooted, and from which our fundamental choices about life are made.
Mary's heart was - and is - profoundly humble.Â This young woman was not full of herself, not self-protective, not cynical. She was therefore able to completely surrender herself in love, to Love. Her initial assent to the Angel Gabriel's announcement reveals the very meaning of another Biblical word, holy. Holiness is not about being religious or looking pious. It is about being selfless. Mary was holy, and she shows us the way to become holy, too.
In the original languages, the words in Holy Scripture which are translated into the English word "holy" means set apart or consecrated. They refer to people or things that are totally given over to God and His worship. If we want to be holy, we need to explore the meaning of these words and make them our own.
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In our common parlance, the people or items involved in temple worship are entirely dedicated to God's service. It is in that sense that we, too, are called to be set apart for the living God. We are to make a place for Him within ourselves and within the world. We are to bear His message through a lifestyle that radiates His love.
It is only by embracing ideas of being set apart and consecrated that our own personal histories can be truly transformed. This happens through conversion, or "metanoia", which, in Greek, means "to change." Our hope for change, for becoming holy, is to open our lives to the One who is the source of all goodness and holiness.
We are called to respond to the Lord'sÂ invitation, to say "Yes" to a relationship with Him. This is what Mary's Fiat is all about. In saying Yes to God, as Mary did, we are able to discover the path to conversion, to holiness, to authentic spirituality. We become servants of the Lord.
Our call to embrace the Fiat and to make it our own is not a formula for easy spiritual growth, nor is it the first in a series of steps that lead to solving the problems of life. The Fiat is not the answer to a riddle or the meaning behind some mystery. The spiritual life is a path, a Way, and it involves a continuing, ongoing walk with the Lord.
The Annunciation - Fra Filippo Lippi - 1450
God has invited each of us into an intimate, personal, exchange of love. This kind of intimacy with a living, loving God is the interior meaning of Mary's Fiat, her Magnificat, and her way of life. When we embrace Mary's Prayer and make it our own, we allow the Love that Mary bore in her body to be incarnated in and through us, too.
Each of us can say "Yes" to God. Each of us can respond with our entire being, with a Fiat of surrendered love. When we do so, our positive response marks the beginning of a participation in the very life of the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We become sons and daughters of the Most High and enter into the life of the living God. In Him we find our deepest identity, our real selves, through our participation in the One who made us, who redeems us, and who transforms us by His continual grace. Our holiness comes through touching the Holy God, through being filled with His life and love.
Conversion begins when we say our own Fiat with our words and our deeds. It introduces to us a new and dynamic way of living with God, and in God. As we lose ourselves in Him, we find ourselves again, made new and completed. This holy exchange-our life for His-is the essence of the spiritual journey. It is not about power but powerlessness. It is not about increase but decrease. It is not about becoming greater but about becoming smaller. In short, true spirituality is about surrender.
Centuries of Christian people have learned that as we lose ourselves in Him, He reveals Himself as a God who can, does and will act in our very real, human daily experiences. He makes it possible for us to have a genuine relationship, a dialogue, with Him. He certainly wants us to live life to the fullest. However, precisely because we were made for Him, we find our fulfillment in emptying ourselves, in selflessness. Then, of course, we are filled and fulfilled in Him. However, this is a fruit and not a goal. He is the goal.
Mary, in her selflessness, was open to the angel's visit and the message the Lord spoke through him.Â She recognized who was speaking. She listened, received and responded. In so doing, she demonstrated the framework of all authentic spirituality. God initiates a relationship and we respond in surrender to Him. By saying "Yes", through our own Fiat, we are set apart...consecrated... made holy. We become servants of the Lord.
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