The whole thing was to happen secretly. There was to be no announcement. The psalmists had hymned Christ’s coming on harps of gold. The prophets had foretold it with burning tongues. But now the loudest telling of His presence on earth was to be the heartbeat within the heartbeat of a child.
It was to be a secret and God was so jealous of His secret that he even guarded it at the cost of His little bride’s seeming dishonor. He allowed Joseph to misjudge her, at least for a time. This proved that God knew Our Lady’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 Wisdom—she was to give Him her daily life.
And outwardly it would not differ from the life she would have lived if she had not been chosen to be the Bride of the Spirit and the Mother of God at all! She was not even asked to live it alone with this God who was Her own Being and whose Being was to be hers.
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.
Yes, it certainly 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 one another.
Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God
Reflection – This is such a great book! I can see that my temptation will be to just keep excerpting it until the whole of it has been published on this blog (which probably wouldn’t please whoever holds the copyright to it too well). I will wrest away my fixation with it tomorrow and move on to something else.
If yesterday’s excerpt was a fine corrective of our activism and utilitarianism in favour of passivity, response, and prayerful contemplative surrender to God, today we see a great celebration of hiddenness and ordinariness as opposed to the ethos of publicity and glamour.
We are so sure, so very, very sure, we modern human beings, that we have to make a splash, have to break out the brass bands, the advertising campaign, have to fire up all the social media and launch a full-court press of publicity: press releases, gala premieres, all the fanfare and hoopla the budget will allow.
This is what you gotta do if you’re going to have an impact in the world. This kind of thinking can be just as prevalent in the Church as outside of it, and is just as common among people who are really good at the whole publicity game and those who are no so adept at it. The movers and the shakers are the ones whose names are on everyone’s lips, who have publicists and command the center of attention wherever they go.
So we think, but we are wrong. Utterly, completely, totally wrong. What makes a lasting impact in this world is not buzz and headlines, but opening the door of one’s heart to God. The person in the headlines may well have done just that: Mother Teresa and John Paul II come to mind here. But their effectiveness did not come from their worldly success, such as it was. It came from their fidelity to Mary’s hidden fiat.