We have seen that the contemplative life of love and intimacy lies at the very heart of human existence, as the space from which all flows and to which it returns. It is that space of unity, within the undivided light of God, where the unique existence of each one of us is not merely a “fragment” of the Mystery of God, nor merely a “ray” of divine Light, but is rather open to God’s utter Fullness and is surrendered to his Totality. In this way we can allow ourselves to be cradled within the Immensity of God’s all-embracing Love, this Love that encompasses the entire universe in the simplicity and oneness of its embrace.
This life of intimacy lies at the very center of the Church as the wellspring of her life and the summit of her existence…since she is, in a way, nothing but the “redeemed creation” already united to God, anticipating the consummation that awaits us in the new creation. In Mary we see this Mystery shining most vividly and clearly, since she is the one who has first welcomed this undivided Light in its fullness, and abandoned herself totally into the enfolding Love of God. She reveals to us, in her own unique existence, the vocation and destiny of each one of us. Mary reveals that the very essence of the Church is intimacy with the Trinity—the sharing of humanity in the inner life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the communion among men and women that blossoms within the Trinity’s embrace. The “center-point” around which the entire life of the Church orbits, therefore, and from which it derives its meaning, is precisely the “Marian mystery” of contemplative intimacy with God—this mystery of childlike and bridal receptivity to God’s gift of himself, and the complete reciprocal gift of oneself to him in return.
Mary is thus, as it were, the “Church-in-person”—before the Church has yet come to her full visible expression in the world through body of the apostles and the community of all those who believe in Christ. Because of this, the Marian mystery interiorly informs all the other elements of the Church: the hierarchical ministry of Peter and the apostles, the mission of laity and religious in the world, and the whole of the Church’s task of evangelization. Everything flows from and returns to this Marian center, which, for its part, is simply centered in Christ and in the Father in whose bosom he always rests.
In theological language, there is a term for the way that Mary represents the entire Church: it is called “corporate personality.” This does not mean that an individual is “anonymously” absorbed into a corporate body or a community and loses his or her individuality. Rather, it means the exact opposite. It refers to the mysterious way in which an individual person, through their loving openness of heart, can “sum up” in himself or herself the life of a whole community, carrying them in their own life and prayer.
They “represent” in their individual existence the existence a great number of people, and thus are able to unify them within their own heart, drawing them together through the movement of their surrender to God. Abraham, for example, bore within himself the fullness of the chosen people to come, who would spring from him and the promise he received from God: “‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them… So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:5-6). In this he is a model of faith for all generations; indeed, he is the father of all the faithful, since he placed his faith radically in God and welcomed in this way the blessing that God desired to pour out in and through him.
Moses, too, lived this mystery, as he interceded for the Israelites, bearing their sins, burdens, and hopes within his own heart before God in prayer and intercession. We can see the same thing in the Prophets, who bore the infidelities and aspirations of their people, and in some way helped to tie the knot of communion with God that sin has torn asunder.
But in Christ alone does this mystery reach its fulfillment. In him this “bearing” of others reaches its full expression in the mystery of “vicarious atonement.” In other words, since he is both God and man, he is able, literally and truly, to take every individual person throughout history up into his own Sacred Heart, into his own humanity, and in this way to draw us back into the welcoming embrace of the Father. He makes us one with God—and with one another—within the sinews of his own reconciling Heart.
Mary also lives this mystery in an intense way. Through her union with Christ, who bears all humanity as one within his unifying Body, she too comes, in her own way, to “represent” all of humanity. In her own filial and virginal “Yes” to God, she takes up the struggles and hopes of every human heart and ties them together with the cord of her own perfect consent. This “Yes” to Love, pronounced perfectly by Mary, is important for each and every individual person throughout history. Because she has pronounced her “Yes” in the name of all and for the sake of all, she has created the “space” in which the “Yes” of each one of us can find a home, in which it can be awakened and sustained.
This is how Mary lives the central mystery of the Church, since she pronounces, in her personal “Yes,” the “Yes” which will encompass and hold all believers throughout history. When we allow ourselves to be inserted into Mary’s “Yes,” we find ourselves able to stand, with her and in her, close to Jesus Christ. Indeed, we allow ourselves to be taken, through her, into the very welcoming Heart of Jesus, who enfolds us in his embrace as in the most perfect Home…a Home which is ultimately the enveloping embrace of the entire Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
– Do I find in myself the desire for the Totality of God’s Love, the yearning to reach beyond what is “partial” and “incomplete” to the fullness of the Trinity’s embrace?
– Do I see the Church as the space of intimate communion with the Trinity (and of unity among humanity), or do I see her as a mere institution or social structure?
– In speaking of Mary’s “Yes” as the space in which my own “Yes” can be awakened and sustained, we come right to the heart of the meaning of Marian consecration. Is this something that I desire to do: to place my own life, my own desire to say “Yes,” within the enfolding “Yes” of Mary?