Friday, 24 March 2017

Mary of the Annunciation

For God alone my soul in silence waits; 
from him comes my salvation
Psalm 62 (Book of Common Prayer)

And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God

Luke 1:30

For centuries artists have loved to depict our Lady at prayer when Gabriel appears to her. Although there is nothing in the text to justify this choice it is an artistic intuition which reveals a profound truth. From girlhood to dormition Mary was a person of deep, reflective prayer. This was central to her becoming and being the Mother of God.

It is not that she was drawn close to the Father at the time of the Annunciation in order that she might be made the Mother, rather she became the Mother because she was already so close to the Father. It was (and is) an intimacy of pure and perfect love. The twofold vehicle through which Mary expressed and lived out this love was charitable action and rapt contemplation.

The psalmist, I think, gives us a clue to how this prayer life of the Blessed Virgin worked out in her daily practice. St Luke tells us 'Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart' (Luke 2:19) She would have held in her heart the gifts of God and offered them silently to the Divine Giver. It is not by busy thought or by many words that we can understand His purposes towards us but by the gentle infusion of His Grace. In silence Mary simply held out what was dark to her until such times as the Father through the action of the Spirit illumined them. In His light only did she wish to see. And so it was that she merited to become the mother of the Light of the World. 

In this, as in so many other things, our Lady is a model for us to follow. Reason is an excellent tool and we have been given our intelligence in order to use it. One of its uses is the realisation of its limitations. When it reaches the point beyond which it cannot go it must resist the temptation to speculate, to theorise, to make up self-serving stories. We must, in those specific circumstances, suspend thought and offer our shadows to the merciful Lord who can transform them into purest light. In faith and hope we can silently wait until, in love, God makes our salvation really and truly present within ourselves.

The picture is The Annunciation by Fra Angelico  

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