This is the honest grace of her body:
that she is afraid, and in this moment does not
hide her fear...
Until in the cave of her body
she might feel without willing it a tenderness
begin to form. Like the small, ghostly
clover of the meadow; the deer hidden
in the hills. A tenderness like mourning.
The source of love, she thinks, is mourning.
…the child that will soon form
inside her body, this loss by which we come
to bend before the given, its arms that open
unexplained, and take us in.
~Laurie Sheck from “The Annunciation”
Like Mary, we have no way of knowing… We can ask for courage, however, and trust that God has not led us into this new land only to abandon us there.
~Kathleen Norris from God With Us
As if until that moment
had happened since Creation
As if outside the world were empty
so that she and he were all
there was — he mover, she moved upon
As if her submission were the most
dynamic of all works: as if
no one had ever said Yes like that
As if one day the sun had no place
in all the universe to pour its gold
but her small room
~Luci Shaw “Virgin”
Like most people, I want my life to be the way I want it:
my plans, my timing, my hopes and dreams first and foremost.
And then stuff happens and suddenly nothing looks the way it was supposed to be. I feel emptied of the future I had envisioned.
Yet only then, as an empty vessel, can I be filled.
In the annunciation of the angel, Mary’s response to this overwhelming circumstance is a model for us all when we are hit by a wave of circumstances we didn’t expect and had not prepared for.
She is prepared; she has studied and knows God’s Word and His promise to His people, even in the midst of trouble. She is able to articulate it beautifully in the song she sings as her response. She gives up her so-carefully-planned-out life to give life to God within her.
Her resilience sings through the ages and to each one of us in our troubles:
may it be to me as you say.
May it be.
Your plans, Your purpose, Your promise.
Let it be.
Even if it may pierce my soul as with a sword.
You are there with your exquisite tenderness to stem the bleeding so I sing through my fear, through my weariness, and through my tears.
The angel Gabriel from heaven came
His wings as drifted snow his eyes as flame
“All hail” said he “thou lowly maiden
Mary, Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!
“For known a blessed mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee,
Thy Son shall be Emanuel, by seers foretold
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!
Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head
“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said,
“My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name.”
Most highly favored lady. Gloria!
Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ was born
In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say:
“Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!
This year’s Barnstorming Advent theme “… the Beginning shall remind us of the End” is taken from the final lines in T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees”