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The spirit of attentive openness is at the heart of a third aspect of Mary’s response to God’s call through the Angel Gabriel. God’s call often challenges us to live in a different way or try and be a different person, especially in our relationships with our family, our friends, and those with whom we work. Receiving this call, we can react at first in fear at what this call might mean in practice. We can also respond with uncertainty, wondering about our worthiness or suitability for what God may have in mind for us.
But we can also see that — in faith — we are able to go into the heart of our fear and find God’s power. Receiving God’s grace, we may move beyond relying on our own strength, and not depend upon our estimate of our own abilities and worthiness for what God may have in mind. We can then choose to respond to God’s gracious invitation into the Spirit’s redeeming work, just as Mary did, by saying, “Yes!” As John Lennon so simply captured the spirit of it, in the words of his famous song, “Let it be.” Or, as Mary said to God through the angel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be unto me according to thy Word.”
This is the spirit of Mary’s response to the message of the angel as portrayed in the fourth Annunciation image I am sharing with you in these 12 Days of Christmas, in Trygve Skogrand’s photo-collage, pictured above. The artist has skillfully juxtaposed a traditional painted figure onto a contemporary scene. We see a simplicity and spirit of humility in Mary’s posture, as she kneels in her plain gown. In the plain ‘bed-sit’ room in which she prays, we notice her uplifted eyes. They are now focused on the divine source of the message she is receiving.
Attentiveness is key to meaningful perception, just as we found recently in the Gospel reading for the third Sunday in Advent. John the Baptizer sends his disciples to Jesus with what should be our most persistent question, “Are you the One?” Are you the One for whom we are looking, and whom we are awaiting? Notice Jesus’ response: “Go and tell John what you hear and see…” For they only hear and see if they are attentive. This is one reason why the Church commends to us the season of Advent, in addition to Christmas ~ to encourage our attentiveness, so that we can hear and see, and then accept God’s Word to us.
“Let it be as God would have it.” Let things be as God wills. Let God be God! Perhaps nothing is so hard in our lives as to say those words in faith and in humility. Our pride objects! Our desire to be at the center of reality intrudes. But to say, “Let it be…,” in faith and in humility, is to return to the Garden of Creation Grace. And it is also to begin to live forward into the fullness of the Kingdom, as God would have things be, and as God will have things be..
May our Lord, who was and is, and is to come, bless us and our loved ones during this holy time.
The image above is a detail of Trygve Skogrand’s photo-collage, Bedsit Annunciation (an image I have shared before). This post is adapted from a prior post based on my homily for the Third Sunday of Advent, December 15, 2019, which can be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which provides the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.