What Does She Say
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Madonna and Child, St Catherine and the Blessed Stefano Maconi Ambrogio Bergognone - 1490
By Deacon Keith Fournier
The message of Mary is the message of the Gospel, to repent and believe the Good news. The message of Mary is conversion to Her Son by saying "yes" to God's invitation. That is the path to true peace. Her response to the Angel "I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word" (Luke 1:38), proposes to every man and woman the new way of living called the Christian life.
The Christian life involves a continuing, ongoing walk with the Lord. He has invited each of us into an intimate, personal, exchange of love, a life of communion. This kind of intimacy with a living, loving God is the interior meaning of Mary's Fiat, her Magnificat, and the example of her life. She speaks this message in word and deed. She is the message. When we understand the message of conversion which Mary proclaims and make it our own, we allow the Love that Mary bore in her body to be incarnated in and through us as well.
Gregory of Nyssa wrote: "What came about in bodily form in Mary, the fullness of the godhead shining through Christ in the Blessed Virgin, takes place in a similar way in every soul that has been made pure. The Lord does not come in bodily form, for 'we no longer know Christ according to the flesh', but He dwells in us spiritually and the father takes up His abode with Him, the Gospel tells us. In this way the child Jesus is born in each of us".
Each of us must learn to say "Yes" to God. We are called to 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, and continues, as we say our own Fiat with our words and our deeds. It opens up into 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 Christian journey. It is not about power but powerlessness. It is not about increase but decrease.
Madonna and Saints - Benedetto Bembo - 1462
It is not about becoming greater but about becoming smaller. In short, Mary's message is about surrendered love.
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 that fullness by emptying ourselves of ourselves to make room to be filled with grace. Then, of course, we are filled and fulfilled in Him. However, this is a fruit and not a goal. He is the goal.
Mary's message is that we can stay afloat in the ocean of life, with all of its undertows, by living our lives in God. Mary invites us make a place within us where God can take up residence. He comes to dwell in all men and women who say "Yes" to Him. Mary calls us to participate in the ongoing incarnation of God's Love for the sake of world.
In living a surrendered life we not only are transformed ourselves, but we participate in the mediation of God's love to others. The ongoing creative and redemptive work of God's love continues through us as we learn how to become dwelling places, through which Love flows for all those around us.
We must listen to this Gospel message Mary proclaims. In every purported apparition of Mary, the core of the message is the same, repent, turn away from sin and turn toward Jesus Christ. Mary shows us how to listen for it with our whole hearts and then, how to respond the same way she did: "Behold the servant of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word..."
God takes the initiative. He may whisper to our hearts through His Holy Spirit, or he may speak through a chosen messenger, His angel. But it is God who always initiates and then awaits our response. Mary, in her selflessness, was open to the angel's visit. 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. This dynamic, this heavenly road, leads to a dialogue, a conversation, a communion, a way of life. Mary shows us the Christian way. The Virgin of Nazareth teaches us how to live our real lives in a real world, by saying Yes to the One who created the world and is recreating it through His Son.
When the Angel of the Lord appeared, bearing the message and calling her to a special mission, she said "YES." We must say "Yes" as well and believe that "nothing is impossible with God." Let's consider her response to the message: "I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word." It is in these words that we discover the vocation of every Christian.
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