I went out on a limb for my homily this week by preaching about Mary, a lot. Now I’m going even further out on the limb and talking about the Rosary. If you’re from a Protestant background you might be uneasy about this method of prayer, but at its heart, it’s a way to meditate on the life of Christ through the eyes of his mother, Mary. Whether you want to pray the Rosary or not, this type of reflection can be quite fruitful. As I prepared my sermon for Sunday, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the joyful mysteries of the Rosary, tracing out two truths, which become true in different ways over the course of those events in Jesus’s life: Gabriel’s announcement to Mary: “The Lord is with you,” and the reality that she is the God-bearer (Theotokos).
Gabriel’s greeting comes to Mary: “The Lord is with you.” As she expresses her willingness to be the Mother of God, it becomes true in a new way: now the Lord is not only with her, but within her, in her uterus. She becomes the God-bearer, carrying him with her wherever she goes, hidden within her for nine months.
As Mary continues bearing Christ hiddenly, the Lord is with her, taking flesh within her, bones and muscles being knit together. And yet, though he is hidden, she brings joy with her as she visits Elizabeth. At her voice, the baby John the Baptist leaps for joy in his mother’s womb, for he recognizes that within her she carries his Lord. We too should want to bring Christ’s presence with us wherever we go, so that joy is spread. Even if he is hidden within us, we want his effects to be felt!
The Lord is with her, no longer hidden, but visible; held in her arms, nursing at her breasts. She carries him. She gave him life. Now she will teach him to have her own disposition towards God: fiat! Let it be done to me according to your word! He will learn this from his mother, so that, in time, he will merit for her this very disposition. She looks with joy at this stranger, this wonder, with whom she has a most intimate bond, though she meets him now for the first time. She has waited eagerly to see his face. We should learn to long for that too. Though we have not seen him, yet we love him and hope in him. It will be the consummation of our entire existence to look upon this face. Blessed is she who already has, and who knows all too well what it means to wait for him!
Mary bears Christ back to God: of thine own we give to thee. And because she bears him, Simeon and Anna are able to as well. Our bearing Christ tends to spread. The Lord is with you even as you offer him back to God. This offering will cut deeper than she knows. The sword of sorrow will indeed pierce her own heart as she stands at the foot of the cross…
As Mary finds Jesus in the temple, the Lord is with her, but she begins to feel the sword of sorrow’s cut. At the presentation she gave him a way. She taught him to be at the Lord’s disposal. Perhaps now she thinks she has taught him a little too well. He is at his Father’s business: fiat!
What she has lost is restored. Her son is hers. But he is also his own. No longer is he under her control. No longer is he merged with her or dependent on her. Yet still she bears him. Still the Lord is with her.
And here the truth becomes clearer still: he has always been in control. She is Mary full of grace. All she has to offer is the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus.
She is the moon to his Sun.
So may I be.
So may we all be.
So may the church be.