Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Mary, the Immaculate Conception, Points the Way

By Jennifer Hartline
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

You and I may have to struggle to see through this glass darkly for now, but we can learn from Mary how to keep one eye on eternity.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - December 8th has been on my mind for many weeks now. I don’t think this feast day has ever been on my radar screen so intensely before, but this year I am joyfully anticipating Mary’s special day. Perhaps the greatest blessing of my Christian life in recent years is the ever-deepening devotion to the Blessed Mother that I am experiencing. It is really an amazing gift.

While thinking one day about Mary, the Immaculate Conception, I heard from a dear friend of mine that she had just lost her mother. Joanne is a faith-filled woman and she knows that her mother is with the Lord, yet I know she is hurting terribly. I cannot imagine her pain. I don’t even want to think about the day I might have to bury my parents. I’m not ready to lose them and I never, ever will be. I’m certain Joanne feels the same.

Yet I know that days of grief, sadness, loss and loneliness are inevitable. They will come for all of us in one way or another. We won’t escape this life without pain; sometimes terrible, unspeakable pain. This is a subject of great consternation with me and one I go round and round with God over. I often have trouble finding mercy and grace in the midst of horrible suffering, and I can’t stand the empty platitudes and greeting card remedies because they just don’t cut it.

I ask, “Why?” I ask, “How could You allow this?” I ask, “Where are You?” I ask, “Where were You?” I don’t think I’ve ever gotten an answer that really satisfies. I’m simply drawn back again and again to the scenes of that terrible Friday we call “Good” to dwell on the agony of Jesus – and the anguish of His Mother. And I wonder – how did she do it? How did she remain perfectly, completely faithful, trusting and obedient?

She must’ve had a participation in the eternal vision. From the moment Gabriel said “Hail” til the moment Jesus ascended to heaven, Mary somehow saw what her own physical eyes alone could never have revealed to her. With no sin to cloud her view, her spirit saw God in everything, in all times and places and events.

Somehow amidst all the evil that day in Jerusalem, evil so thick and tangible she could probably taste it, she never wavered. Did her obedience serve to keep her faith suspended above the turmoil, separate from the anguish in her heart, protected from despair? I wonder… did the curtain become transparent for her? Was it as though the bloody scene she was witnessing was painted on a window, and she was able to look through it and see the purpose? Jesus went like a lamb to the slaughter and Mary quietly walked beside, the willing companion to His sufferings.

Were Simeon’s words from long ago suddenly coming back to her like a thunderbolt? “A sword shall pierce your own soul, too.” After a lifetime spent treasuring these things in her heart, pondering what they meant, was it all becoming clear to her? “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Here finally is what her obedience has reaped. This is what her faith has helped secure. As Jesus paid our ransom with His blood, she joined her tears of humble assent. The sweetest of all women, most pure and mild, showed the fortitude of the strongest steel because she’d so lovingly and freely offered her will entirely to the Father’s. Again, she found herself saying, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word.”

This is how it’s meant to be for each of us. Strength to withstand our trials comes from uttering a humble, “Thy will be done.” By opening our hands to accept even the bitterest tokens of grace, we are given the peace the world cannot give and the power to remain faithful.

See also:

From Catholic Culture, "Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception"

From the Anchoress, "Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception"


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