Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Annunciation, March 25, 2014

            The Gospel of yesterday, in Pope Francis’ exegesis, segues  into today’s feast: 

Pope Francis:

“No prophet is accepted in his hometown”. It was a place where he never worked miracles because “they had no faith”. Jesus recalls two biblical episodes: the miracle of the healing of the leper Naaman, and the meeting of the prophet Elijah with the widow of Serapta who shared her last morsel of food and was saved from famine. “Lepers and widows – Pope Francis explained – in those days were the outcasts of society”. And yet, these two outcasts, welcomed the prophets and were saved, while the people of Nazareth did not accept Jesus because “they felt so strong in their faith”, so sure of their faithful observance of the Commandments, they felt they had no need for other salvation”.

“It is the tragedy of observing the Commandments without faith: ‘I save myself because I go to the Synagogue every Saturday, I try to obey the Commandments, I do not want to hear that the leper or the widow is better than me!’ They are outcasts! And Jesus tells us: ‘if you do not put yourself on the margins, if you don’t feel what it is to be an outcast, you will not obtain salvation’. This is humility, the path of humility: to feel so marginalized that we need the Salvation of the Lord. He alone saves us, not our observance of the law. And they did not like this; they were angry and wanted to kill him”.

The Pope observed that this was the same anger initially felt by Naaman, because he felt that Elisha’s invitation to wash himself seven times in the Jordan was ridiculous and humiliating. “The Lord asked him for a gesture of humility, He asked him to obey like a child, to be ridiculous”. Namman turned and went off in a rage, but afterwards his servants convinced him to do what the prophet asked of him. That act of humility healed him. “This is the message for today – the Pope said - in this third week of Lent: if we want to be healed, we must choose the road of humility”.
"In her Canticle Mary does not say she is happy because God was looking to her virginity, to her kindness or to her sweetness – all of them virtues that she possessed – no: because the Lord was looking to her humility, the humility of His servant, her smallness. This is what the Lord looks for. And we must take heed of this wisdom and put ourselves on the margins so that the Lord may find us. He will not find us at the center of our certainties. That is not where the Lord looks. He will find us on the margins, in our sins, in our mistakes, in our need for spiritual healing, for salvation; that is where the Lord will find us”.

“This – Pope Francis highlighted – is the path of humility”:
“Christian humility is not within the virtue of saying: ‘I am not important’ and hiding our pride. No, Christian humility is telling the truth: ‘I am a sinner’. Tell the truth: this is our truth. But there is another truth: God saves us. He saves us when we are on the margins; He does not save us in our certainties. Let us ask for the grace of having the wisdom to put ourselves on the margins, for the grace of humility so that we may receive the Lord’s Salvation”.

Caryll Houselander

            The feast of the Annunciation is the feast of the faith and humility of Our Lady.

 Caryll Houselander , in her “Reed of God,” began: 

“That virginal quality which,for want of a better
 word, I call emptiness is the beginning of this contemplation.

            It is not a formless emptiness, a void without meaning: on the contorary it has a shape, a form given to it by the purpose for which it is intended.

            It is emptiness like the hollow in the reed, the narrow riftless emptiness, which can have only one destiny: to receive the piper’s breath and to utter the song that is in his heart.

            It is emptiness like the hollow in the cup, shaped to receive water or wine.

            It is emptiness like that of the bird’s nest, built in a round warm ring to receive the little bird.

            The pre-Advent emptiness of Our Lady’s purposeful virginity was indeed like those three things.

            She was a reed through which the Eternal Love was to be piped as a shepherd’s song.

            She was the flowerlike chalice into which the purest water of humanity was to be poured, mingled with wine, changed to the crimson blood of love, and lifted up in sacrifice.

            She was the warm nest rounded to the shape of humanity to receive the Divine Little Bird.

            Emptiness is a very common complaint in our days, not the purposeful emptiness of the virginal heart and mind but a void meaningless, unhappy condition.

            Strange enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions, unsatisfied cravings for passing pleasures, doubts, anxieties and fears; and tehse sometimes further overlaid with exhausting pleasures which are an attempt, and always a futile attempt, to forget how pointless such people’s lives are. Those who complain in these circumstances of the emptiness of their lives are usually afraid to allow space or silence or pause in their lives. They dread space or silence or pause in their lives. 

They dread space, for they want material things crowded together, so that there will always be something to lean on for support. They dread silence, because they do not want to hear their own pulses beating out the seconds of their life, and to know that each beat is another knock on the door of death. Death seems to them to be only the final void, the darkest, loneliest emptiness…

            Our own effort will consist in sifting and sorting out everything that is not essential and that fills up space and silence in us and in discovering what sort of shape this emptiness in us, is. From this we shall learn what sort of purpose God has for us. In what way are we to fulfill the work of giving Christ life in us? Are we reed pipes? Is He waiting to live lyrically through us?”

God Seeks This Emptiness To Fill With Himself: And it is Ordinary!

            “Our Lady was at the most fourteen when the angel came to her, perhaps she was younger.

            The whole world trembled on the word of a child, on a child’s consent.

            To what was she asked to consent?

            First of all, to the descent of the Holy Spirit, to surrender her littleness to the Infintie Love, and as a result to become the Mother of Christ. (…)

            She was not asked to do anything herself, but to let something be done to her.

            She was not asked to lead a special kind of life, to retire to the temple and live as a nun, to cultivate suitable virtues or claim special privileges.

            She was simply to remain in the world, to go forward with her marriage to Joseph, to live the life of an artisan’s wife, just what she had planned to do when she had not idea that anything out of the ordinary would ever happen to her.

            It almost seemed as if God’s  becoming man and being born of  a woman were ordinary.
            The whole thing was to happen secretly There was to be no announcement…

            It was to be a secret and God was so jealous of His secret that He even guarded it at the cost of His… bride’s seeming dishonor.

            He allowed Joseph to misjudge her, at least for a time. 
            This proved that God knew OurLady’s trust in  Him was absolutely without limit. Everything that He did to her in the future emphasized the same thing. His trust in her trust in Him.

The one thing that He did ask of her was the gift of her humanity. She was to give Him her body and soul unconditionally, and – what in this new light would have seemed absurdly trivial to anyone but the Child Bride of Wisdeom – she was to give Him her daily life.
            And outwardly it would not differ from the life she would have led if she had not been chosen to be the Bride of the Spirit and the Mother of God at all…
            No. He asked for her ordinary life shared with Joseph. She was not to neglect her simple human tenderness, her love for an earthly man, because God was her unborn child.

            On the contrary, the hands and feet, the heart, the waking, sleeping, and eating that were forming Christ were to form Him in  service to Joseph [Such a huge point!!: the very secular ordinary work is precisely the way we become Christ ourselves by making the gift of ourselves- See Laborem Exercens #6].

            Yes, it is cert  ainly seemed that God wanted to give the world the impression that it is ordinary for Him to be born of a human creature.

            Well, that is a fact. God did mean it to be the ordinary thing, for it is His will that Christ shall be born in every human being’s life and not, as a rule, through extraordinary things, but through the ordinary daily life and  the human love that people give to one another.

            Our Lady said yes.

            She said yes for us all.”[1]

[1] Caryll Houselander, “The Reed of God,” Christian Classics Notre Dame, In. (2006) 33-35.. 

No comments: