Sunday, January 1, 2017

birth of wonder

As I grow steadily
more austere
I come less readily
to Christmas each year.
I can't keep taking
without a thought
Forced merrymaking
and presents bought
in crowds and bustling.
--Madeleine L'Engle

 Fulton Sheen writes in The World's First Love that Mary is the one person in all of humanity of whom God "has one picture." There is perfect conformity between what He wants Mary to be and what she is. "The melody of her life is played just as it was written." There is no improvisation, no revision of the song, it is played as it was first conceived in the mind of the composer.

I am constantly fascinated by Mary's exalted state, particularly because Mary would not have known it herself. She had no way of knowing that she was, to borrow Sheen's words "an equal sign." Or would she?

The Gospel again today shows Mary "pondering" these mysteries of her life, and treasuring them in her heart. Her life is filled with undeniably unusual events. It seems that each of these events speaks to her, indicating---something? Indicating what? What does she make of all the events of Christ's birth, and of Christ's life? And Christ's death?

Mary’s silence meets the silence of the Word. The Word who cannot speak. During advent, there is a silence in the world. It is present in the quiet of the dead trees, who are shed of leaves that no longer rustle in the wind. It is present in the quiet of the world falling asleep. It is silent in the snow. We know that death is an event that often is met with silence. In fact most of the great miracles of life take place in silence, in the silence of the heart.

Most of human life takes place in the silence of our own hearts. What occurs there is a sacred, secret silence known only to God and us.

Mary's pondering inspires my own. What is God trying to tell me in the midst of the busy-ness of my life? What do the events of my life have to say to the deep silence within my own heart?

L’Engle writes of a need for quiet in the midst of “forced merrymaking.” Mary seems to be saying that there's a need for quiet--interiorly and exteriorly--in order to understand the action of God in our lives. In order to understand ourselves, as well, we must silently attend to the wells of silence within us from which our life springs.

Perhaps, as she attended to that quiet garden in her heart, as she listened to the silence of her soul, Mary saw an inkling of God's image of herself. She heard the melody, playing in the silence, and let that become the tune of her own life.

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