How they try to diminutize, or phase-out Mary is beyond my comprehension! There is nothing sentimental about her. We just had in the Mass this morning that Joseph was ready to put her away. She was a strong woman; she never said a word! She kept the secret of the King, the secret of God the Father and the Holy Spirit. How many of us could? We want to justify ourselves. Her Son did likewise. He didn’t justify himself before Pilate. Mary didn’t justify herself before Joseph. Anyone who talks about devotion to Mary and let’s get rid of her, doesn’t understand the Incarnation!
The first thing to ask yourself is: why did God choose her, and why do we want to reject the face of the woman whom God has chosen? He is her flesh. The only flesh he has is hers. The Incarnation put faith in her womb, and this is the moment also to think of the poverty of Christ. We discuss poverty amongst ourselves so much. Think of this immense poverty of the child in the womb of a woman. This is what you call stripping yourself, if you are God! What do you think of that? If I were painting it, it would be some kind of abyss out of which poured life, like a sort of volcano: from the abyss to heaven in a sort of mad dance of light!
Do we understand Bethlehem? Do we live in it, as live we should, for a lifetime is barely enough to learn its lessons. For those who live in Bethlehem the virtues of humility, poverty and simplicity will reveal their faces.
We of Madonna House were born in Bethlehem, not only because the Church was the eventual result of that birth of Christ there, but because from the day when our vocation was born, you might say, I journeyed to Bethlehem and Nazareth, for where else could I find a better school of love? Where else could I come close to poverty? Who better than Mary and Joseph could show me the way of love? All of us must concentrate and make pilgrimages to Bethlehem, for we too shall be tired on the long road of life. We shall be weary of the battle of it, and in Bethlehem we shall find Mary and Joseph who will tell us all about weariness and what they did with it, and how it vanished in the cave.
Yes, Bethlehem will yield to us the secret of love that God has outlined to us as our vocation. Let us journey there especially on this holy night.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Unpublished Talk, 1968
Reflection – Sorry I missed blogging yesterday – I was at an academic conference where I delivered a paper (which all sounds very grand, but wasn’t really), and the day was longer and fuller than I anticipated. So here we are back with more from Catherine on Mary. I realize this excerpt has a Christmas-y theme which may seem a bit misplaced in mid-October. On the other hand, it is the month of the Rosary, and we are bid to meditate on the mystery of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem twice weekly as we pray it.
We see here just how unsentimental and almost brutally real Catherine’s Mariology was. Mary was the woman who witnessed—not just witnessed, but experienced in her own body, as an event happening to her, which I fully realize only my women readers who have been pregnant can really understand—the event of the Incarnation. And this Incarnation was indeed the self-stripping of God, the kenosis Paul talks about in Philippians 2, he who is richness itself becoming poor, a helpless infant.
Only Mary actually knows this, was actually there, and it is her flesh that clothes this God become flesh. There is mystery enough here to contemplate for a life time, especially when we begin to consider how our own flesh and blood intersects with the Word of God, just what God expects of us in terms of how we receive this Word, this Christ, and just what kind of relationship we are to be in with it.
But first, Mary – when we look to soon to our own presence in this mystery, our sins and compromises and refusals muddy the waters. Mary just said yes, and just simply did it, and so it is in her that we see clearly the ways of God with man, the designs of God fully expressed in a human person.
There are some great turns of phrase here – ‘weariness and what they did with it, and how it vanished in the cave.’ Who is not weary? Life is hard, and the way is rough for all of us. Mary and Joseph hold the secret of weariness and how it is dissolved in the contemplation of God and His gift in Christ, this ‘abyss out of which poured life, like a sort of volcano: from the abyss to heaven in a sort of mad dance of light’ by which she means the Baby Jesus lying in the womb, and then the arms, of his Mother.
It’s a far cry from the pastel toned Christmas cards where everything looks like it was dipped in honey and the snow looks like powdered sugar. Our religion is not a ‘honey and sugar’ affair – it is safe for diabetics! And yet, in the heart of that volcano, that abyss of love, that blazing fire, it is very sweet indeed. And all of this is why I wrote a book about Catherine’s Mariology – because no one else writes about her quite like that, and I think she really contributes something original to the whole thing.