The Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord is today, a day commemorating the Incarnation of the Word. The celebration is for both Christ and Mary–without Mary’s yes, we might still be awaiting the Saviour. I was on retreat with my Ignatian Lay Volunteer group today and was blessed as always by our time together. We had two opportunities for prayer and reflection. The first focused on Suffering — imagining Mary at the foot of the cross upon which her Son hung dying–and the second their reunion after His resurrection.
The facilitator spoke of how suffering puts us in a position of powerlessness. Many people will want to fix the brokenness instead of standing at the foot of the cross. As creatures we may fix portions but because we are not the Creator, we cannot always complete the task of creating something whole again. What we can do is accompany the suffering person with love, compassion and hope. She then handed out a poem entitled Gethsemane by Mary Oliver. We had some reflection questions about being at the foot of the cross with Mary.
During my time reflection time I wrote this:
Two women stood at the foot of the cross
Looking up at the One dying
Wondering how this was to pass
Would there be no Divine Intervention?
A holy presence to hold hearts
A holy present to stand in the pain
Without attempting to fix it
But to just be there without answers.
I had been thinking about how Mary did not really understand what her yes meant but she embraced it anyway. Blessed is she who believes but the hard promise of the Lord was something that was not what was expected all those years later. The hard promise seems to end in heartbreak when we do not know the end of the story.
In the second part of the day, we looked at the Resurrection and the suggestion came that we spend time with the Ignatian contemplation of the appearance of Jesus to his mother after the resurrection. There is no Scriptural account of this story but one would think the Son would appear first to his Beloved Mother. In my imagination, I see Mary, grieving the loss of her Son, standing in a room where perhaps he would stay when he was in town visiting her, breathing into a blanket, trying to capture his smell, as so many bereaved people do. He appears at the door of the room and quietly says Mama. I do not know what the female equivalent is for Abba but I sense he would have called her by such a term of affection. They embrace fully and joyfully, holding all the emotions between them, and the questions melt away. There is no need to know. Only gratitude that this encounter exists. She takes his nail-scarred hands and kisses them. She cups his face in her hands and hugs him again, laughing this time.
I then wrote this:
Angels do not always come with answers
Maybe more questions arise from
Holy Encounters than we want
Angels reassure us not be afraid
Perhaps because the request is so fearsome and awesome
at the same time that fright is the right response.
Here am I, Lord
Unsure of what it all means
But still I say yes
even though my knees knock and my heart races
Let it be done to me
According to your will, your word.
Happy Feast Day! May your yes echo in Eternity.
Try to imagine Jesus appearing to his Mother the first time after the Resurrection. What does that look like?
Have you ever said yes to something after prayerful discernment that did not turn out as you expected?
Not every angel bears an answer. Many create more questions than we know what to do with. Help us to trust that if you sent them, they will guide us along the right paths, even when it looks like all is catastrophe. Still our knocking knees and calm our racing hearts. Let us hope in you. Amen.