Saturday, November 22, 2014

Encountering Mary: Her Heart and Mine

When I first encountered this image it bothered me...

But why? Notice the sword piercing her heart.

I was living in the Old City of Jerusalem at the time and had many opportunities to visit The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Having been raised a Protestant/Evangelical Christian I had no category in my mind to know how to accept massive churches, statues, paintings etc...apart from this one:

What made this one acceptable and the others off-limits I'll probably never know.

At any rate, the reality was, images of God, in almost any form, were thought by idols.  When I saw the pilgrims bowing down to statues, lighting candles in front of them I thought I was witnessing pagan rituals and  straight-up idolatry.  I desperately wanted to inform these poor ignorant Catholics/Orthodox Christians that they were upsetting God.  The image of Mary, above, is placed adjacent to this image of Jesus on the Cross...

The thought occurred to me that this is NOT what the crucifixion looked like.  It wasn't pretty, glittery and fancy.  Why would they represent it this way?  Being idolaters, Catholics wouldn't know any a sense their idolatry had made them completely ignorant.  This is why they thought they had to rely on fancy buildings, Bishops, Confession to a Priest...eeeek...the list went on and on.  But why did I need a representation of the Crucifixion to meet my own requirements?  Why was any "image" (other than an image in my own mind) of the Crucifixion a problem?  I didn't know, at the time, that my views fell into the category of Iconoclasm. But that's a discussion for another day...though this view is still held by many Christian denominations even up to now.

What I want to pass on is that the image of Mary, above, left a very lasting impression on me the entire time I was in Jerusalem and even up to now.  The fact that Mary suffered, little by little, allowed me to know and understand more fully the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.  I had very misty, foggy and very "quaint" images in my mind regarding the life of Christ.  I was not very acquainted, at the time, with the very human nature of Jesus Christ (yes Jesus is also fully divine) me he was to be kept a very foggy, distant, image that wasn't close, cold, hungry, tired or killed in a bloody way. I wanted Mary in the background and a spotless Jesus.  This is why I believe I rejected these all-too-man-made images...they weren't "perfect" and therefore couldn't fit with my view of God.
What I have since discovered, as a Catholic Convert, many years later, that my time "facing" these images helped me come to an ever deepening understanding of the power and importance of the Incarnation (Nativity) of Jesus Christ and how very important was Mary's, "Yes" to His will.  When the Angel Gabriel came to Mary (a real event in real history) her response has changed everything...

And Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38
Most importantly, in all of this, was my realization that God came to us, NOT in a noble way but in a very close, personal way.  Mary, for me, has helped make things more personal, more real, more close...she has shown me how God can act in a heart simply willing to say, "Yes."  What we call her "Fiat." Our own "fiat" is essential not as a once-in-a-lifetime event but as a daily disposition toward Our Father, Jesus Christ and the bidding of the Holy Spirit.  As we prepare for the coming of the Christ-child, once again, this Christmas. Let us continually ask ourselves, how is it I can further imitate the call of Christ in my life?  How can I imitate the true faith of Mary and say a greater YES to my Lord and my God?  As Christ was born of Mary, so let Mary help us to allow Christ to be born in our hearts.  Her heart was pierced, yes, but she who knew great suffering, even now, experiences the greatest and most eternal reality of JOY.  Let it be done to me, as to Mary, according to your Lord and my God. Give me the heart of Mary.

 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,“Behold, this child is set for the fall[d] and rising of many in Israel,and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed. Luke 2:33-35

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