We have come to the final days of reflection and preparation, and when we cast our glance back on the previous four weeks, we see that we have covered a great deal of ground. Or, better, we have gazed deeply and in a prolonged contemplation on the mystery of God’s infinite and eternal Love as it cradles our world in itself, as it seeks to communicate itself to us and to find a home within our hearts, and to draw us to make our Home, in turn, in the bosom of the Trinity. We have seen how the Virgin Mary, being the first person to receive the gift of God in Christ—allowing the very incarnate flesh of the divine Son to be formed within her womb—is a kind of “meeting-place” between God and ourselves.
She is, as Saint Irenaeus said, the “cause of our salvation.” In other words, because of her “Yes” to God’s invitation, the eternal Son of the Father was able to come into our world and to redeem us through his complete loving gift of himself. God made his saving activity in this world, as it were, dependent upon the “Yes” of his creature, on the permission she would freely give to him. He must seek permission because he is all Love, because he is infinite Tenderness, which cannot force, cannot impose, but must first elicit a free response on the part of the beloved before he pours himself out into her. However, on the other hand, he also knows that, being a creature, she cannot even begin to say “Yes” unless he bestows upon her the ability…unless his grace goes before, awakens, and sustains her loving and trust-filled response.
Mary is the woman who, before all others, was cradled and sustained by God’s grace in this way; she was and is “full of grace,” bearing the fullness of God’s very Being which holds and fills her. And this is because her consent to his Love is not hindered or obscured by the least shadow of sin—though, in turn, her freedom from sin, which allows her to speak such a consent, is itself God’s gracious gift! Therefore all is, in the end, grace: Mary’s “Yes” and her very ability to say “Yes,” and yet such grace does not hinder, but makes possible, her freedom as a creature. And she is truly free to consent to him, free in love and by love—a love that heals the wound of Adam and Eve, who precisely in the name of “freedom” enslaved themselves to disobedience. Their supposed “autonomy” did not liberate them to follow their own way, but rather un-tethered them from the grace in which alone they could live and love truly and freely. Through untying this knot of sinful disobedience, by un-tethering our hearts from the slavery to sin that binds us, Mary opens us to be re-tethered to the loving will of God and his sustaining grace, in which alone we will find the full flowering of freedom in love.
Mary was and is, therefore, nothing but “Yes,” with no hint of a “no” within her. Or rather, her total “Yes” to God is spontaneously a “no” to anything that would turn her away from God. But this no is not a violent renunciation or a rejection caused by fear, but a simple expression of the fact that her heart already belongs wholly to Another, and need not seek for anything outside of him. So full of the Trinity is she that nothing else has any room in her unless is belongs to him and bears his presence within it. Nonetheless, this very complete belonging to God, which makes no space within her for sin, allows her to see, to know, and to love all the works of God’s hands in the true and authentic beauty. It allows her to gaze upon each one of us within the radiance of God’s own loving gaze, loving us as he loves us.
Indeed, her very purity allows her, free from all sin, to welcome in compassion the burdens that we bear because of sin, and to hold them—to hold us—lovingly before the face of the Father. As Georges Bernanos so beautifully wrote in his novel, The Diary of a Country Priest:
The eyes of Our Lady are the only real child-eyes that have ever been raised to our shame and sorrow. … they are not indulgent—for there is no indulgence without something of bitter experience—they are eyes of gentle pity, wondering sadness, and with something more in them, never yet known or expressed, something that makes her younger than sin, younger than the race from which she sprang, and though a mother, by grace, Mother of all graces, our little youngest sister.
In being the littlest child of God, she is truly the “Mother of all the living,” truly the New Eve who sees sin for what it is and chooses instead the Tree of Life. Yes, she stands at the foot of this Tree, compassionately united with her Son and with each one of us…sharing in the work of healing and reconciliation that occurs here, within the Heart of Jesus. In other words, she enters into the space of perfect Love—the meeting-place of the Sacred Heart of Jesus—and receives his gift and gives herself totally to him in return. United to God through this intimate self-giving, she is united also to each one of her brothers and sisters: as “the scattered children of God are gathered together into unity” in the Heart of the One who, “lifted up from the earth, draws all to himself” and reconciles us with the Trinity and with one another in the depths of his own tender Love (cf. Jn 11:52; 12:32).
Mary is like a transparent and pure pane of glass, through which divine Light freely passes into our world, not obstructed by the least impurity of grasping or possessiveness. She is the prism that receives the full and undivided outpouring of the Trinity’s radiance and lets it refract forth into the world through her. She is so illumined by this Light that she appears, herself to be “all light,” radiant in the gift that God has bestowed upon her. And yet such a privilege is not exclusive, since God has touched her in this way, not only because he loves her—which he does!—but because he also loves us, and wants us to contemplate in her the awesome things he desires to do in us as well. Yes, he wants us to share in the very dispositions of her heart, her loving and trust-filled openness, so that he can draw us, too, into the most intimate depths of his embrace.
– Mary’s freedom consists precisely in her total, loving, and trust-filled “Yes” to God and his Love. And, through her, God desires to touch us, liberating us from the shackles of our fear and sin, so that we too can pronounce the same childlike “Yes.” This is the meaning of Marian entrustment: to insert my “Yes” into her “Yes,” so that she can perfect and sustain it. Am I ready and willing to do this?
– Do I understand how Mary’s purity, her being “younger than sin,” allows her to have a true and understanding compassion for every human heart? Do I realize that the same can be true for me—the more I belong to God, the more I can belong to my brothers and sisters in love?