There is a moment in the story of the Annunciation that sets the life path of Mary, this extraordinary handmaid of the Lord. We can glimpse this moment through the words of the Gospel. We imagine her in the silence of the night and suddenly the Angel is there in her midst. It is frightening. Yet, Mary makes her reply: ‘Be it done unto me according to thy word.’
When Mary so powerfully dedicated herself to God in this way, she gave an unsurpassed example of the Christian vocation for the rest of time. Her inspiration
Has resounded down the centuries. Her example of simplicity and faith within a cloud of unknowing is the basis if our faith, too.
We can mistakenly imagine Mary as a great mystic who completely understood the words and actions of Jesus. But, the fact is that she didn’t. She was not, as they say, in the know. Her leaps of faith were many and by no means dissimilar to ours. She couldn’t understand Jesus when he went back to the temple as a boy. She went off and pondered his words in her heart. She stood at the foot of the Cross in a vale of tears and trauma. Yet, from that first moment when her conception was made known to her, Mary placed her life into her Creator’s hands. And, with it, she placed her complete acceptance that she lived inside a world of mystery.
Mary is ever-present in the monastery here at MSJ. Every Cistercian monastery in the world is dedicated to Our Lady, including this one. Her image is everywhere both in the Abbey Church and the monastery. As Cistercians, we are never far from her.
We, like Mary, live inside a world of mystery. Not just as monks but as Christians. Our life’s work is to make that simple action of Mary, placing our life into God’s hands, relinquishing control of our own lives, accepting whatever stigmas that may cause and accepting a life of mystery that is hidden from our eyes. We look to her to protect and inspire us, to hold and encourage us and to bring us to Jesus our Saviour.
At the very heart of Mary is humility. She emptied herself that God may fully take control, redacted herself that Christ may shine through the heart of her life and into ours. This is what we strive for, and it is what we all should strive for.
So, on this special Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin, we pray for the grace to know and to emulate Mary, the exemplar of the Christin vocation, and to mirror in our own lives something of her unwavering devotion to Christ.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
Glory to you, O Lord.
Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah.
She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.She gave a loud cry and said,
‘Of all women you are the most blessed,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?
For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.
Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
And Mary said:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones
and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things,
the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
according to the promise he made to our ancestors-
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.
The Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.