Sunday, October 04, 2009
Vocation, Travail, and the Joyful Mysteries
For months and months now, I've been praying the Joyful Mysteries while pondering the gift and joy of Vocation, hoping to "get" it.
As I ponder this, I find I can't actually get through all the Mysteries, for they are not yet at any point of fruition in my life. As I pray, I try to see my own life, my own Call (whatever it is, whatever it means) in that of the life of Jesus and Mary.
Maybe one day I'll formally write a meditation on each Mystery, but for now, I'm only seeking to eke out the treasures, to understand my own relationship with Jesus through them, knowing they are relevant, but not always understanding how, or why. Each time I pray these particular Mysteries, I am trying to find the Joy, find the connection, and if I am stuck, well...I either complete the rosary as prescribed or stick with where I'm stuck, pondering what I can't understand.
The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation
The Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, saying, "Hail, Full of Grace! The Lord is with Thee! Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!" (Luke 1:28, 2:42)
Mary was at first frightened, yet had an implicit understanding of what the Angel said, for she responded in complete Trust: "Let it be done unto me according to Thy word." (Luke, 38) In the Angelus prayer, we find the Gospel of John 1:14: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us."
All by Mary's fiat. She said yes. She said YES unconditionally. Not just then, but in every moment. When she gave her fiat, as they say, all of heaven and earth held their breath, awaiting her response. She made our salvation possible; she who had been chosen, purified, and prepared (through Grace) by God to receive the Word, gave her acquiescence to the Holy Spirit, who descended upon her as a pure vessel, like Mt. Sinai, Like the Ark of the Covenant, like the Holy of Holies; she was overshadowed by Kahvod, by the Untranslatable Kahvohd, conceiving of the Messiah out of her own flesh. A Virgin, pure, free from sin, Immaculate, for she had been created for this moment...and every moment forward.
She didn't just say "yes" in that moment, but to everything, and took action IMMEDIATELY.
Hail Mary, Full of Grace the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women, and Blessed is the fruit of Thy Womb...Jesus.
The Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation
Mary, having conceived of the Holy Spirit, got up and went to Elizabeth, her cousin. The Bible doesn't say much as to her reasons, but we can surmise that she was responding to the prompt of her Spouse, the Holy Spirit, and her human need to both comfort and be comforted. What we know from scripture is that she trusted in the promise of God, thus, before she arrived she knew Elizabeth in her age was with child.
To those who say Mary was "just a woman": Was that particular man-made Protestant doctrine created by MEN who have abandoned their wives and daughters? How could God call men and women to marriage and yet impregnate the Virgin Mary, abandoning her to the world? Isn't that idea a man-made, man-pleasing doctrine, suggesting sexual pleasure without responsibility? How convenient to men!
Isn't it more like the gentle, protective, creative Holy Spirit to be a gentleman, to live up to His promises and treat the Blessed Mother of Jesus as the spouse that she is and remains for eternity? Did He abandon her, or did He provide for her in every moment? Certainly He called her to suffer, but what Mother hasn't suffered?
But I digress, for this Visitation of Mary is relevant in every age, but in this Mystery, we must get to the core of the Mystery itself, which preceded the Paschal Mystery:
Mary arrived at the house of Zecheriah and upon her entrance, at the sound of her voice, the infant in St. Elizabeth's womb LEAPT at the presence of Mary when Elizabeth exclaimed to her, "Who am I that the Mother of My Lord would come to me?" (Luke 1:43)
Elizabeth recognized Mary for her sublime dignity, graced to her by God, recognizing her Vocation as Mother of us all, Mother of Jesus. St. John the Baptist, there at six month's gestation, LEAPT at Mary's and Jesus's presence (Luke 1:44); there, where Jesus would have been but a "lump of cells" in modern terms.
Was Mary just the Holy Spirit's little heifer? Was Jesus just a "mass of tissue"? Was the unborn St. John the Baptist just an overactive mass in his mother's barren womb?
If the humanity and divinity of Jesus, and the full prophetic humanity of St. John the Baptist were present in that moment, how can ANYONE claiming to be Christian and CATHOLIC claim that contraception and abortion are merely political issues?
If Jesus, a tiny tiny, scientifically unrecognizable embryo, at the point he met the fetus St. John the Baptist, were fully human beings at the time of that meeting....how can anyone who claims to be Christian continue to claim that contraception and abortion are not murder?
"Who am I that the Mother of My Lord would come to me?"
The Third Joyful Mystery: The Birth of Christ
Mary returned to Nazareth, three months later, full with child, where Joseph considered divorcing her quietly. He did not "know" her and had believed her to be pure; yet she returned clearly having conceived.
He did not want her to be stoned, and at his own word, such would be done for he was the betrayed betrothed. An Angel appeared to Joseph, revealing that indeed, his betrothed had remained pure, was chosen by God, and...so was he. Joseph the protector, Joseph the husband, Joseph the father.
The stares of the people, the scandal assumed, that Joseph had had relations with Mary before they were married! His very silence indicated both had been impure!
Both accepted the scorn without comment, letting others assume the worst, knowing God had chosen them for greater. Their humility lives on today...the scorn of their contemporaries has died in oblivion, without name, their gossip, unrecalled, their ashes...lost to the desert of Nazareth where they were buried.
Joseph and Mary, the couple scorned, have been elevated according to the glory God chose to bestow upon them; Mary conceived without sin, Theotokos, Joseph, adopted Father of God, whose adult life was lived in the shadow of the Mother of Jesus.
They traveled to Bethlehem, the place of Joseph's birth, for the census. What hardships they endured, physically and spiritually! How did the couple come to know each other in chastity and trust, knowing God had joined them, and their child would save all of humanity from their sins?
This is where I lose the thread of meditation. I know Mary is in travail, and after the conception of Christ, after the Visitation, after her journey, she gives birth.
The great Saints have said that her travail was not painful, for pain was/is penalty for sin, which she did not endure. Yet it is clear that Mary suffered far more than any woman on earth. I look to Revelation 12, where Mary (the Woman) flees to the desert and the Dragon makes war on her offspring. I know that is us; we are her offspring, for she is the Mother of all, even of Eve, whom she replaced.
I am stuck in "travail".
Even though I am single and know that I am called to marriage, I know that I am still called to motherhood in some sense. The Word has been conceived in me, and I gave my own fiat, believing it is true, accepting, foundationally, that there IS a Call from God.
I have said "Yes" to that Call, albeit imperfectly.
It has occurred to me, over the last year or so, and now, in my present darkness, that what I experience is akin to labor, although it is spiritual. A woman in travail, (labor) as her hour comes, experiences the ebb and flow of terrible, terrible contractions. She has nurtured the child in her womb for close to nine months, has sacrificed, has loved and awaits the coming of this wonderful child. She knows that what emerges is a result of love, a gift from God, and is life eternal.
As she comes closer and closer to giving birth, her pains become stronger, more intense, and longer in duration. She screams, she weeps, she writhes in pain, and no one can comfort her for there is no comfort to be found, until that tiny babe finally rests in her waiting arms, revealing her fulfillment.
It may be a moment, it may be minutes or hours, or even a few days.
Spiritually, it can be years.
I can't now write of the remaining two Mysteries; that of the Presentation of Jesus and of Finding Him in the Temple. I am still struggling to give birth to whatever I have conceived of the Lord.
For now, I must wait, accepting the intensity of the pain, trusting in God, knowing that this is not for nothing.
If I am a part of the Church, a Bride in the general sense that applies to all Christians, then it stands to reason that I must experience this travail, I must fight this war, and I must, even in this desert, know that God will open the earth to swallow what threatens.
Though my veil be torn and my countenance blemished, I can flee to my Savior, for by Him have I conceived this Faith and only through Him can I give it life and live it to the fullness.
And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered, and she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.