Friday, March 23, 2012

We Are Not Sponges

The Church is the body, the flesh, of Christ, in the spiritual tension of love wherein the spousal mystery of Adam and Eve is consummated, hence, in the dynamism of a mystery that does not abolish dialogic reciprocity….[this] mystery of the church… remains within the proper measure only when it includes the mystery of Mary; the mystery of the listening handmaid who – liberated in grace – speaks her fiat and, in so doing, becomes bride and thus body.

Mary, the Church at the Source, 26

Reflection – We are approaching one of the great feasts of the liturgical year—the Annunciation. Because March 25 falls on a Sunday, and in our Roman liturgical cycle the Sundays of Lent take precedence over Solemnities of Our Lady, it is moved to the following day. But it remains a great feast, the feast of the Incarnation, of God the Son taking to Himself a human body, soul, and nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

So I think I’ll do a little series on Mary over these next four days. In the midst of Lent and its rigors, it’s good to ponder the face of our Mother and what she has to teach us about life in Christ. I’ve written a couple of books on the subject, and so always have lots to say.

The above passage is dense, but worth sitting with and pondering a while. It’s this whole business of Adam and Eve and marriage being a sacrament—that is, a sign pointing to another, deeper reality. And that reality is Christ and the Church. The coming together of man and woman to be one flesh, and in that one flesh to experience love and creativity—new life flowing from the union of their bodies—is a sign of the fundamental movement of God towards his Creation. God loves the world, and is in communion with his Beloved Creation. From this love and union springs forth newness of life, a true explosion of life and love that goes on into eternity.

In other words, we are not just passive sponges receiving God’s gifts. We are truly participants with Him in the dynamism of creation and redemption. He is God, the One who creates and redeems, who initiates and is Lord. But we are not nothing in this. Next to nothing, perhaps, but not nothing.

We are agents, actors. We are the bride, the one who lives in ‘dialogic reciprocity’ with God, who accepts his initiative, his action, his ‘proposal’, if you will, and gives herself to it, and so brings her own beauty and gift to meet God’s beauty and gift.

This is the whole substance and meaning of creation, of humanity, of you, of me. The point, the purpose, the glory and joy of it. And Mary is the one who keeps this mystery before us in a vibrant, beautiful way.

She does this because she lived this mystery to a degree that we do not. Our ‘dialogic reciprocity’ is marred by sin and rebellion. Hers was not. Our ideas about agency and freedom are perpetually corrupted by ideas of autonomy, that our freedom consists in standing against God somehow. Her freedom is expressed in standing with God, in giving herself to the divine project unreservedly.

While our fallen and corrupted notion of freedom leads to death and futility (since to turn away from God is to turn towards non-being), her freedom becomes a doorway by which she enters the divine sphere of reality. The maid of Nazareth is assumed into heaven and becomes Queen of heaven and earth.

So Mary shows us how to be human, how to be the Church (which is the same thing), and shows us that this is a Good Thing. And I will continue to meditate on this Good Thing for the next few days, so that we can truly celebrate on March 26 the gift God and Mary have given us—our Incarnate Lord Jesus Christ, the savior of the world.

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