Wednesday, December 24, 2008

May It Be Done

Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
--Luke 2:38, NAB

I've been planning to write a blog post on Our Lady since Advent began, but after this weekend's Mass, I feel like this is the perfect time.

Allow me to steal a bit from my pastor's homily. I've heard the above verse dozens of times, sang it in the Magnificat in choir, and even made it my own prayer when faced with difficult decisions. Never, though, has it ever been put to me the way Monsignor did.

The most important part of this verse, he said, is the last sentence: Then the angel departed from her. Here Mary was, probably no more than fifteen or sixteen, betrothed to a man much older than her, but not yet married. What would you do if an angel showed up in your room and said you were going to be the mother of God? Probably not what Mary did, that's for sure.

Thankfully for all of us, Our Lady wasn't blindly accepting. That gives me a lot of peace--she asked Gabriel questions in confusion and doubt. Once her questions were answered, though, her heart was settled, and she gave the assent that would be our salvation. Without that Fiat, I shudder to think of where we would be.

The thing a lot of people--self included--tend to gloss over is that the angel left her. "Okay, you're pregnant with the Son of God now. See ya." Poof.

Suddenly, that miraculous moment was over, and Our Lady was plunged into the terrifying reality of what she had just done. She now had to ride out the rollercoaster of circumstances that comes with doing the will of God, including all the risks that came with it. Joseph could have left her. (I don't imagine most people would buy a miraculous conception as an excuse for being pregnant.) She could have been exiled--and indeed, the couple did leave. The old life she knew was gone. All she had was faith and the growing Divine within her.

It's not a life I don't think I could handle. Then again, God chose her, purifying her from the moment of her conception for that very purpose. This little fifteen-year-old was the Ark of the New Covenant! Her son, the Savior of the world, learned a carpenter's trade. Not exactly luxurious. Heck, she bounced around on the back of a donkey for three days at nine months pregnant. Her baby would be born in a dark, musty stable with even more donkeys for company. Some life.

I'm being lighthearted to try and paint for you the picture Monsignor did for us. On the outside, the Holy Family was about was ordinary and plain as it got.
The simplicity of their lives and the enormity of their mission was, and still is, incredible.

Look at what God did with a girl younger than just about all of us, and all because she humbly gave herself over to complete trust in Him.

Where can we give our own fiat? If we all learned to say yes like Our Lady, imagine what we could accomplish...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Vocation Rant

Now that my third semester of college is over, I can finally sit back and soak up what little is left of Advent season. Before I turn my attention to that theme, though, the topic of vocations has been coming up a lot recently in the circles I frequent. So, here we go!

I've always been one of those people to shrug and say "Sure, kids would be nice someday, I guess." I'd never given it much thought, but then again, I wasn't really at the age.

It's been nearly three years since I put God in charge of my life, and a little over 1.5 since my coming home to the Church. I have grown in leaps and bounds since then. It is really amazing how He has changed me for the better. On a totally mundane level, I've also grown up a lot, and have started to think about that mysterious life after graduation. Despite what I might feel, college isn't a perpetual state. ;)

I want to get married. Even when I was younger, I wanted to save myself for one person, if only for practical, yet romanticized reasons. When I was sixteen, I started to ask God where He wanted me to be and where I could best serve Him.

A few months later, I met my other half, and that was over two years ago. Since then, I have developed a lot of perspective on what a vocation is. Despite being serious with my OH, I've looked into the religious life with an open mind. They are beautiful witnesses to the Faith, and somewhere deep down inside of me is a yearning to be that close to God. I love the Dominican charism. I could see myself committing to prayer, study, and teaching--really see it. After a lot of prayer, though, I think that desire is a longing we all have to some degree. It's something that won't be satisfied until we get to see Him face-to-face without sin to weigh us down. As St. Augustine said, "My heart is restless until it rests in You." much as I love and want to yield to that yearning, I feel that there is something more for me. What I feel is merely emotional, and doesn't come with that instinctual peace that says it's the will of God. I understand that the religious life is the highest vocation, but I have a gut feeling that I would be wasting my gifts if I were to be anywhere else but right here in the world.

Marriage is a lot more than just the default vocation for those of us who can't handle celibacy--at least from this college girl's point of view. My friend Jeff said it best, and it's stuck with me for a long time: it's the desire to help the person you care about most get to heaven. More than that, when you marry someone, you share your life and very vocation with him or her. You serve God beside your spouse, and that idea to me has always been incredibly powerful.

One of my favorite passages from Scripture is from Ecclesiastes 4:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (9-12, NIV)
Spouses cover one another's weaknesses, and of course, "love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). I cringe to use the infamous "a word" in this post, but it's worth noting that having someone keeping you accountable to God is an incredible weapon. I've heard stories of spouses consulting one another before hitting the confessional, as they sometimes know their spouse's shortcomings better than the person does. I totally believe this.

Then there are children--the other reason for marrying. I'll be honest with you here--I am petrified of having kids. The thought of actually delivering a baby, raising it to be safe, healthy and strong with good morals is a terrifying idea to me. There is so much that might not work out. Does that mean I'm not fit to be a mother and, therefore, a wife? I don't think so. Under my fear is the continuing encouragement from God, and my own knowledge of my strengths. I'm not a mother yet, and likely won't be for a few years, but I can learn. Mary did.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Before Bed

More Eucharistic awesomeness. Happy Advent! I'll be back with reflections soon!

Like love, the Eucharist does not need to be understood or explained, it needs only to be touched. In the Eucharist, as in love, the main thing is that we are held.

Perhaps the most useful image of how the Eucharist functions is the image of a mother holding a frightened, tired and tense child. In the Eucharist God functions as a mother. God picks us up; frightened, tired, helpless, complaining, discouraged and protesting children, and holds us to her heart until the tension subsides and peace and strength flow into us

... There is in an embrace something beyond what can be explained biologically or psychologically. Power is transmitted through love that goes beyond rational understanding.

That is why after Jesus had spent all his words he left us the Eucharist.

--Forgotten Among the Lilies by Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I.