The Bright Maidens posed this theme for this week (Tuesday): “Mary, our Guide”.
Thank you, Bright Maidens, for getting us to think again about our wonderful Mother, Mary, who does much to lead us to her Son.
I have learned much from Mary through her disposition towards the things of God, especially through her example as a woman of deep prayer. How else could her heart be ready to accept the Angel Gabriel’s announcement that she would bear the Son of God? How else could she accept that ‘her heart too would be pierced’ as prophesied by Simeon at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple? How else could she bear to stand at the foot of the Cross and watch in agony the suffering and death of her Son?
All of these moments – and we presume a lifetime of others not recorded in the Sacred Scriptures – present a picture of Mary as a woman who developed a deep life of prayer from an early age. One of the most prominent examples in the Bible of Mary’s prayer life is her Canticle of Praise, the Magnificat. It is this, I wish to contemplate in this post, as I ask Mary, “Mother, teach me to pray.”
The Gospel of Luke, chapter one describes the scene (verses 39-45). Mary travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and ‘when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, prompting Elizabeth to proclaim, “How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me? … Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
To this, Mary responds with these words of praise to God, “Magnificat anima mea Dominum” – my soul magnifies the Lord! (Luke 1:46)
If we ponder her response, we can learn a lot from the young Nazarean. She has just come from a rather arduous journey. She carries a secret that she knows will, in part, be known to all in the coming months. Yet, she is met with such a force in the words of Elizabeth. I ask myself, ‘how would I respond?’ How do I respond when I am caught off guard by something someone says or does? Do I turn to ‘magnify the Lord’? One can only respond in such a way if grounded in prayer.
An example comes to mind of a dear friend of mine, who unfortunately has gone through a rather difficult time with her family. She is quite gifted, but also is often misunderstood and maligned by those who presumably love her. One day, we were talking when she received a phone call. Over the phone, a prominent family member spoke in a very rough tone to her. When the conversation finished, I could see that not all was well. But the reason I remember the incident at all, is because of my friend’s response. I asked her, “Are you okay?” To which she unhesitatingly replied, “Lord, you keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (from Isaiah 26:3).
“Magnificat anima mea Dominum!”
My friend, had long ago adopted Mary as a teacher. Mary, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit – “Sponsa Sancti Spiritus” – intercedes to the Spirit that our heart may become like hers – a heart that ponders the working of God in the daily unfolding of our lives. Mary understands us well. Not all was understood by Mary in her lifetime, but she gathered her experiences in her heart, taking them to prayer. Contemplating the mystery of God in her human experience. In her ‘taking all these things to her heart,’ she brought them to God in prayer.
There are so many occurrences in our daily existence that we don’t understand. Things happen that cannot be explained with human understanding. Logic is foiled. It is a temptation to take these moments and enclose them around our human ‘wisdom’, to try and make sense of them, or explain them in human terms. It takes great faith to turn them over to God, especially when the event in question is not one of our liking: a broken relationship; a terminally ill child; an undetermined illness; natural disasters; the loss of a loved one. All of these spark our emotions, and our need to make sense of our lives comes to the forefront, demanding an answer.
That is why Mary is such a good teacher in the school of prayer. So many unanswered questions in her life, taking each one and ‘pondering it in her heart.’
Mary, you always point us to your beloved Son, telling us, “Listen to Him.”
By your humility, you teach us to be humble.
By your obedience to the Spirit, you teach us to listen (obedire).
Mary, teach me to pray.
Teach me in my life’s journey
to have on my lips a song of praise – my Magnificat –
giving praise to the God of All.
Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen!
The list is up at Bright Maidens Facebook page of this week’s contributers to the topic: “Mary our Guide”
Anthony S. Layne, blogging at Outside the Asylum writes of Our Lady of Good Counsel
This post is linked at New Advent (5/18/11)
For more about Bright Maidens:
Their Facebook Page, Bright Maidens: A Young Catholic Commentary
A list of “Catholic Sorority” participants of Bright Maidens