In the light of what we said in the last reflection, we can revisit our quote from Saint Irenaeus with much deeper understanding. We recall that it’s central point was that Mary is the “New Eve” whose obedience unties the knot tied by the first Eve’s disobedience. We saw how this obedience is also inseparable from the reality of Mary’s virginity (or chastity) and her poverty—that is, her unified childlike openness before God and his Love. But perhaps the most important thing that we realized in our reflections is that Mary not only “unties” the knot of sin which binds us in a disordered way to this world, and to our own fears, wounds, and compulsions, but that she “ties” the knot of loving and trust-filled intimacy with God once again.
This is what she desires to do for each one of us, and she does so by helping us to open up the wounds of our inner hearts—and all the struggles, hopes, joys, and sorrows of our life—to the loving touch of our heavenly Father once again. It is then God who—through the openness that Mary has helped to foster, and the “Yes” that she sustains within her own “Yes”—knits us to himself in breathtaking intimacy. This movement of “re-opening” our hearts to God’s touch is the core of our process of healing and transformation.
It is the way in which we refuse to hide like Adam and Eve after their sin, taking refuge among the “trees of the garden” and covering over our nakedness in shame. Rather, it is our willingness to open our nakedness to God’s loving gaze, not to be condemned, rejected, or abused, but simply to allow ourselves to be loved. For this is all that God desires to do…to be allowed to love us and to reveal to us the truth of his own loving gaze. As we said, this is the simple heart of all prayer: looking into the loving gaze of the One who always looks upon us. In this mutual encounter of looks we will find that, while God’s Heart aches at seeing our brokenness, our sin, our woundedness—which keeps us from experiencing his Love and intimacy with him—his Heart even more rejoices at the unique and unspeakable beauty that he sees in us.
When we allow this gaze to continually, gently shine its light into our own experience of life, gradually we will come “home” to the authentic truth of our being before God. We will return to that space where we are, in truth, pure relationship with God as his beloved child. Bathed in the light of his tender gaze, we will be able to entrust ourselves entirely into his hands, placing our life unreservedly in his care. Indeed, we will thirst to belong to him, to abandon ourselves to him, and to give our whole being in love for our Beloved. This is because we will find ourselves less and less constricted by our fears, our shame, and the disordered movements of our sin. It is also because, as this “knot” of brokenness is gradually dissolved by God’s touch, another “knot” is made ever firmer: the bond of love that knits our heart to God in profound intimacy.
This knot of intimacy will become ever stronger as our gaze encounters God’s gaze, as his gaze indeed awakens and sustains our own loving gaze in return. Just as is the case of natural human love, our hearts will communicate through our eyes, and this communication will become a mutual sharing of what is most interior to each one of us. Through his loving gaze, God welcomes all that we are into himself, cradling it within the recesses of his own Divine Heart. He holds our often aching and bleeding heart within his tender Mercy; he holds us even in our sin, and wants only the “Yes” which will allow him to consume our sins like a speck of dust in a blazing fire. And then fear gives way to desire, and shame gives way to the desire to be seen and known.
Indeed, our experience of being seen, known, and loved opens the way for us to see, know, and love in return, glimpsing in faith the ineffable Beauty of the Trinity. It opens a space in us where God can communicate himself, where he can share with us what is most interior and intimate to him—these ineffable riches of his divine life and love which he thirsts to pour out into us. This glimpse of God’s Beauty cannot but stir in our hearts a profound thirst—a thirst for ever deeper union with him and the ever deeper gift of ourselves to him, and also the desire that all may know this Beautiful One and experience his ravishing joy.
This loving and contemplative gaze lies at the heart of Mary’s existence, both in time and, now, in eternity. She is immersed in the loving gaze of the Trinity, and the light of his gaze irradiates her so purely and totally that it passes directly, without any obstruction, into us. Indeed, in a way she “magnifies” this Light, as she said in her Magnificat. She reveals, in her own unique existence, in her closeness to us as a daughter of Eve and yet as the new and sinless Eve, the beauty of God’s never-failing Love. To place ourselves in her heart, to let her cradle us in her maternal love, is therefore to let ourselves be sheltered in the furnace of the Trinity’s presence that burns with white-hot intensity in her bosom.
The first Eve became “the mother of all the living,” but only after she had already experienced in herself the fracture of sin, the state of separation from God. All of the children of humanity experience the effects of that choice of disobedience, since we have a nature that, while still beautiful, is fractured and broken. What we receive when we are conceived in our mother’s womb is both beautiful and broken. This is because part we receive from Adam and Eve (mediated through our parents), a nature already marred by sin. The other part—and the more intimate, more profound, and more authentic reality—we receive directly from the hand of God. This is clear in two phrases from the Psalms, which seem almost to contradict each other, but in truth express these two aspects: our inheritance of a fallen human nature, on the one hand, and yet, on the other, the very “fingerprint” of God that lies, untouched and pure, in the “virgin-point” of our inmost being where we are his unique image and likeness.
The two phrases from the Psalms are as follows. The first comes from the famous penitential Psalm 51, which expresses David’s lament and contrition after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba:
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me. (v. 5)
He acknowledges, in other words, the inheritance of “iniquity” and “sin” that marks his existence from the very moment of his conception. However, he also immediately speaks of the deeper reality of the “inward being” and the “secret heart” in which God invites him to truth and wisdom, to a bond of love that surpasses his brokenness and indeed opens the pathway to healing:
Behold, you desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. (v. 5-6)
The second Psalm we want to look at, which approaches this reality from the other side—from the side of what comes from the touch and the “fingerprint” of God, is Psalm 139:
For you formed my inward parts,
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am wondrously made.
Wonderful are your works! (v. 13-14a)
How beautiful are these verses, in which the Psalmist praises God for the unique and intricate work of his own being! We can make these words our own, since each one of us has been “knitted together in our mother’s womb” with such care, such tenderness, and such love that it is as if were are the only person God has ever made. To try to make contact with this space of God’s creative action, with this foundation of our existence in our mother’s womb, is indeed to enter into the perspective of God’s own loving gaze, as we see in the succeeding verses:
You know me right well;
my frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately wrought in the depths of the womb.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! (v. 14b-17a)
What is our conclusion, when faced with all of this? Most basically, let us simply say this: Mary invites us to take refuge in her maternal “womb,” so that, in this intimate space, we may experience anew God’s loving gaze, his healing and re-creating love, as he first created us in the womb of our natural mother. This is the way in which, so deeply, Mary is and yearns to be our spiritual mother, in whose womb we are knitted together into a living and life-giving intimacy with God.
– When I open my nakedness to God’s loving gaze, I find myself not only cherished by this gaze, but touched, healed, and transformed. Am I, however, afraid of encountering this gaze? Do I flee from the light of his eyes? Why?
– When I look into myself, can I see the two realities that I carry within me—the inheritance of sin and yet also the beauty of God’s “fingerprint” in my unique identity? From which place do I habitually live? How can I live more deeply from the inner truth of God’s love?