When we turn our gaze to our Virgin Mother, we immediately recognize that she beautifully incarnates the threefold disposition of poverty, obedience, and chastity about which we spoke in the previous reflection. Adam and Eve, before their sin, experienced this openness as a gift and a promise; but in them it never reached its full flowering in a perfect and enduring union with God. Rather, when they sinned, their hearts—open before in childlike trust to the Father and to each other—collapsed in on themselves in fear, in pride, possessiveness, and lust, enslaving them to fragmentation and superficiality. God fashioned Mary, however, as a New Eve, in a state of virginal and sinless openness which, throughout her life, would bring to full flower what had failed to be realized in our first parents. Yes, in her life—joined inseparably to the life of her Son, the New Adam—the wounds of sin would be healed. The state of pure love would be restored and, indeed, brought to a consummation that it had never reached before. Let us begin to see how this is so.

We already saw the radiance of this interior attitude of love in Mary during week two, when we spoke of the scene of the Annunciation. We saw how she, because of her certainty in being infinitely loved and cradled ceaselessly in the arms of Love, was able to open herself totally and without hesitation to welcome the gift and the invitation of God, and to abandon herself to him entirely in return. Her heart, in other words, was totally poor, obedient, and chaste in the simple “open-handedness” of a beloved child.

She was, and is, one of the “little ones” of Almighty God, whose very littleness magnifies his greatness—because this littleness does not close in on itself, it does not calculate, it does not place limits, but rather opens itself to the immensity of Love. It abandons its littleness into the Ocean of Love and Mercy, like a drop of water mingled together with the ever surging waves of the divine heartbeat, washing up unceasingly on the shores of creation and of every human heart. Indeed this trusting littleness is like that drop of water placed in the wine of the chalice at Mass, which then both together become the precious Blood of Jesus Christ. As the priest prays when he mingles the water and the wine: “May we share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Mary gave this humanity which Jesus took to himself, and only through her was he able to receive as his own the humanity of all of us…which he then transformed into the Eucharist, the space of intimate encounter and union between God and humanity.

Her littleness, in other words, was not a closed resistance to God and his ineffable Love, but rather a complete openness to it. Her whole being was open in a poverty that was but an expression of love. It was indeed a reflection of the “divine poverty” lived by the three divine Persons in the bosom of the Trinity—where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally open before one another without the least grasping or possessiveness. They are united, rather, in a ceaseless movement of mutual self-giving and reverent acceptance, which is so intimate and so total that they live together a single life of love, abiding within one another in an unspeakable mutual indwelling. In poverty Mary let herself be held, in faith, in the depths of this divine embrace. And in the concrete circumstances of her life, she let herself be cared for unceasingly by this God who alone can provide for his children the necessities of their life, whether physical or spiritual. Her whole life exhibited, in other words, the truth of that pronouncement of her Son: “Do not be anxious, for your Father knows…”

Her obedience, too, was but an expression of love—and of her complete trust in God and his goodness—in which she welcomed all that came from him at every moment, and lived according to his gift. Indeed, she allowed herself to be taken by the hand and led where she herself could not go on her own, and where, indeed, she did not know or foresee the way. But as long as the Beloved was there calling her, that was enough—for his word, his invitation, his Love was all that was necessary. Indeed, her obedience was an active and generous responsiveness to the Love that she had first received, and continued to receive unceasingly at every instant. It was an expression of her yearning to offer her life as a “home” for the love and the presence of God; her yearning to correspond, in love, with his own loving intentions; and, finally, her yearning to enter into ever deeper intimacy with the Beloved in whose embrace alone was her true and lasting rest.

This, clearly, has brought us to the meaning of her chastity and virginity, which is but a flower and fruit of the reality of her poverty and obedience. It is the manifestation of her total belonging to God, in which she becomes both spouse and mother. Her whole being, body and spirit, is placed in his divine hands, in the ardent thirst for an ever deeper intimacy with him and also in the thirst to allow him to pour forth, in her and through her, the depths of his healing and transforming Love. Her chastity allows her life to be completely transparent to the radiance of the Light of Divine Love, and indeed allows her to see, to know, and to love within the beauty of this Light—to be God’s beloved, and to love unceasingly from within this Love.

In a sense we can say that poverty, obedience, and chastity are the space in which Mary’s littleness allows itself to be espoused to God’s Immensity. And this is true for each one of us. When we allow God to touch and open our hearts through his Love, we can find our littleness joined to his greatness, sheltered in the Ocean of Mercy and infinite Tenderness. Yes, in this way God opens our heart to freely consent to being cradled in the all-enveloping arms of his Love. In this way he opens us to allow his Love to irradiate the whole of our being and existence, and to manifest himself freely within it. Precisely in this encounter and union between littleness and Immensity, tininess and Infinity, the human heart finds peace and joy—for we were created precisely for this purpose: to rest in the arms of a Love so great, so pure, so perfect, that nothing can overcome it, and yet a Love so tender, so intimate, so close, that is sees us, knows us, and embraces us at every moment and throughout everything.

Reflection Questions:

Do I see how Mary’s openness in love was but an expression of the Love that she had first received? How she was able to confidently receive and give because of her trust in the undying goodness of God?

When I reflect on what is said above about poverty, obedience, and chastity, what particularly stands out to me? What do I find my heart desiring? What may I perhaps struggle with?