Friday, December 2, 2011

...stepping out

I grew up in a culture that gave little voice to the life of Mary. But in the daily afternoon quiet of the Kinsale parish church in 2007, I knelt and looked up at Mary with new eyes. A sculptor's vision of this vessel of love stood over rows of candles. As I prayed for my grown children, I looked at this mother, her arms outreached. This woman whose devotion carried her through hell and back. Whose steadfastness assured me. Whose life challenged me. Mary, the universal mother. The idol in this story is, sad to say, my comfort level.

Mary: this woman who said “Yes” in the face of all that screamed “No!”
who gave birth in primitive conditions;
who fled for the life of her young child;
who would spend three days searching for her twelve year old boy; 
who would find him in the temple, teaching;
who washed his clothes, bathed him, disciplined him, loved him with all her heart;
who said to him at the wedding, “They have no wine” 
who told the servants to help her son, knowing, knowing;
who heard the cruel words, words that pierced her heart;
who sought no power in the face of those who sought nothing more;
who waited helplessly as her beloved son was scourged
who watched him bear mockery, crowned with thorns;
who watched him carry that awful cross and saw him fall, fall again; 
who stood in agony as her son was nailed to a cross; 
who kept vigil from below on the blood-soaked ground until His final breath; 
who caressed Him in death;
who trusted love,
a love made manifest in joy, pain, death;
for love was Mary’s charge:
in her arms grew the great saving love;
that says, “There’s room at the table.”
In his day, Jesus was not revered by the important people. He remained in their minds a bastard child, the lowest rung of the cultural ladder. And his mother, Mary bore this judgment, too. No accident that wounded people recognized his radical love. Then, as now, the numbers of those who suffered were great. Even as he loved the disenfranchised, Jesus threatened those who sought to have and to hold power. They damned his healing words, hated the precious tears he shed for those who hurt, feared his influence over the multitudes.
I bet Mary celebrated her little boy’s birthday. Gave him a gift from time to time. I will tie some bows this season. But this is not my destination. The journey is toward love. To recognize my deep need for receiver, as giver. 
Before I mock those who seek forty virgins in paradise, I have to answer another question. Do I seek pie in the sky when I die? What’s the difference? Am I called to love without counting the cost? To put faces on suffering orphans? To weep with the unnamed mother of a dying child? To love those society deems unworthy? Do I turn my head at the sight of dirty, bleak faces? Does this Advent carry me toward the magic of a Christmas morning that disappears quickly with torn wrapping paper? Or am I traveling deeper into the mystery? Moving beyond “what’s-in-it-for-me” to living the questions as I walk toward the unknowable? Beyond my comfort level?
Eternity is now. Timeless. Today slips silently into yesterday even as tomorrow dawns each second. Let these seconds count for something. It is possible. As a mother, I know it is possible to move beyond fear to love. To open the heart to the possibility of an unthinkable breaking. We are nothing if not universal mothers. And fathers. A lot of folks - of all ages, colors, creeds - could use some loving. 

Love is the charge. Even at the cost of tears. 
The Cross in the Manger 
by Anne Weems (from Kneeling in Bethlehem: Poetry for Advent and Christmas)
If there is no cross in the manger,
there is no Christmas.

If the Babe doesn’t become the Adult,
there is no Bethlehem star.

If there is no commitment in us,
there are no wise men searching.

If we offer no cup of cold water,
there is no gold, no frankincense, no myrrh.

If there is no praising God’s name,
there are no angels singing.

If there is no spirit of alleluia,
there are no shepherds watching.

If there is no standing up, no speaking out, no risk,
there is no Herod, no flight into Egypt.

If there is no room in our inn,
then “Merry Christmas” mocks the Christ Child,
and the Holy Family is just a holiday card,
and God will loathe our feasts and festivals.

For if there is no reconciliation,
we cannot call Christ “Prince of Peace”.

If there is no goodwill towards others,
it can all be packed away in boxes for another year.

If there is no forgiveness in us,
there is no cause for celebration.

If we cannot go even now unto Golgotha,
there is no Christmas in us.

If Christmas is not now,
If Christ is not born into the everyday present,
then what is all the noise about?

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