Let us offer a summary of some central themes from our journey over these last weeks. Obviously, we cannot express everything, because the richness of the mysteries that we have been contemplating surpasses our comprehension (and therefore even more any comprehensive summary!). But we will recall some of the most important points, in order to tie our reflections together and, especially, to prepare us (tomorrow) to formulate a personal prayer of entrustment to Mary, which truly expresses the dispositions of our heart.
In week 1 we looked at the “foundational experience” of love that lies at the origin of the life of each one of us: the experience of being loved by another, of receiving myself as a gift from another in such a way that I remain always cradled within the enveloping arms of their love. We saw how the relationship between mother and child is a kind of “sanctuary” that God has preserved in the midst of creation in order to express this love and to bestow this experience, which then paves the way for all future experiences of life. When all is seen as coming from love and returning to love, as enfolded always in love, then we can live in childlike playfulness and joy, in a trusting self-surrender that feels no need to protect or isolate oneself from others or from the world around us. Such loving and trust-filled openness, we said, is a very reflection of the openness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in their endless life of intimacy.
However, we were also led to speak about the “rupture” that has been caused by sin, precisely in the seamless fabric of love and intimacy. Through our own personal sin, as well as the wounds afflicted on us by others or by the circumstances of life, we can be pulled away from the Love that has created us and always sustains us. Though God is ever close, ever enfolding us, our hearts can become closed in upon themselves in fear, in shame, in disordered grasping. This is why Christ became man—entered into our own “foundational experience” of love in the arms of Mary, his mother—and espoused our humanity to himself. Indeed, he descended even into our experience of anguish and isolation, yet not to be overcome by the darkness, but to overcome the darkness with the Light. He is perfect Love descending into our narrow places of lovelessness, in order to break all open from within by the expansiveness of his own self-giving. Yes, he crosses over the rift that has been opened between us and God—the lack of intimate loving relationship for which we were made—and, within the sinews of his own Sacred Heart, weaves us back together again, in a seamless fabric of intimacy.
To say all of this is to recognize the irreplaceable role of the Virgin Mary, who stands at the very threshold by which God, in Christ, enters into our world. Indeed, we saw in week 2 that God, in his profound reverence for his creature, humbly seeks her permission in order to bestow himself upon her, and through her upon all of humanity. Mary is the Mother of Jesus, who receives him in obedience from God, brings him to birth, and nurtures and cares for him. However, her motherhood itself springs from a deeper attitude: from the attitude of a child and a spouse. In other words, her expansive fruitfulness, the radiant beauty of her transparency to God’s light, is the expression of her innermost disposition of contemplative receptivity to God’s Love and his gift. Because Mary knows herself to be loved, and cradled unceasingly in the arms of Love, she can confidently open her heart and her life (and her womb!) to welcome the gift of God, and to abandon herself trustingly to him in return. Her whole being, because of the pure grace of God which envelops her, is a total “Yes” to the Trinity. Through this “Yes,” which simply echoes the loving “Yes” of God, she allows herself to be united to God in the most profound intimacy.
This “Yes” of Mary—which is an act of pure poverty, obedience, and chastity, the simple openness of loving trust—is what allows God, in and through her, to untie the knot of disobedience tied by Eve. And yet we said that this very untying of one knot—the knot that binds us to fear and sin, to pride, possessiveness, and lust—is possible only because another knot is tied, that of loving intimacy with God. In letting her whole being be “knitted together” into intimacy with her Son Jesus, and through him with the Father, Mary, in the name of all humanity, allows the threads of loving relationship to be re-tied. She is therefore truly the one who “in the single hearth of her love unites all the lines of contradiction.” She is the Untier of Knots, but only because, in her complete childlike liberty, she helps liberate us too from sin and helps our hearts to be knitted together in love with the Heart of Jesus Christ.
Because of the unconditional openness of her consent to God’s Love, Mary’s heart is dilated to share in the very tenderness—in the very depth and breadth—of the Love of the Trinity. It is thus that, invited to be the Mother of Jesus, she also become the Mother of all humanity, as she stands in faith and love at the foot of the Cross. As we saw in week 4, Mary’s “Yes” endures and matures throughout her life: as she surrenders ever more deeply to God’s Mystery, which she discerns in every circumstance to be the Mystery of Love alone. She becomes thus truly the “ecclesial soul,” who bears within her own heart the faith of all those who will come after her, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit. She is, in a real and profound way, the “Church-in-person,” since she lives the central mystery of the Church as she takes her origin from the bosom of the Trinity, from the outpouring Love from the Heart of Christ.
To enter truly into the heartbeat of the Church, therefore, is to discover her “Marian mystery,” to experience the enveloping love of the most tender Mother, who loves each one of us intimately and uniquely. We are opened, through experiencing the tender gaze of this Mother, to receive and experience the very loving gaze of God. In his gaze of love alone can we truly know who we are, our deepest identity as God’s beloved. Yes, to enter into prayer is to open myself to this loving gaze of God—to let the gentle light cast from his eyes pour forth into all of the place of darkness and shame within me, but only so that he may touch the beauty deep inside me and set it free into the joy and confidence of love. Then, I come to experience, in those eyes, the ineffable Beauty of the One who looks upon me. His Beauty encounters my beauty, and the two are drawn together in a movement of mutual self-giving that blossoms in a profound and unbreakable intimacy.
Finally, from within this space of intimate loving encounter, my eyes are illumined to look upon every person within the radiance of God’s own gaze, to see and to love them with the tenderness, compassion, and cherishing reverence with which God has first looked upon me. And Mary is here…Mary is here unceasingly, helping us to receive and to reciprocate this gaze of love, with God and with every person. It is she, in a special way, who helps us never to become lost in the “anonymous” crowd, but always draws out into the open the intimate depths of unique beauty in every person. It is thus that the true face—and the heart!—of the Church can become radiantly visible: intimate union with the Trinity, and, through the bond of the Trinity’s Love, with every one of our brothers and sisters.
– As I look back over these past weeks, what do I feel God has been most especially doing within me? How has he touched me, how has he loved me, how has he been inviting me deeper into his Love?