Sunday, May 4, 2014

Who Am I 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.

This picture is actually one of a series of smaller panels at the base of this altarpiece

The Visitation

Breath of Heaven
carry us on the impulse
of Christ's love,
as easily as thistledown
is carried on the wind;
that in the Advent season of our souls,
while He is formed in us,
in secret and in silence--
the Creator
in the hands of his creatures,
as the Host 
in the hands of the priest--
we may carry Him forth
to wherever He wishes to be,
as Mary carried Him over the hills
on His errand of love,
to the house of Elizabeth.
                                                                                      Caryll Houselander

When I first looked at this picture, my first reaction was to wonder who those two women on the right and left are. It appears to me that woman on the right, who is directing our attention to Mary and Elizabeth is a servant. Maisie Ward describes the one on the left as a travel companion who is, perhaps, mulling over the conversation she has been having with Mary. This is likely, but there is another version of this scene in which the woman on the left is carrying something and she appears more like a servant to me.

In any case, when I meditate on this mystery, I usually think of myself as a travelling companion to Mary. I'm trying to remember how this started because there was some definite occasion for it. Oh, now I remember. I used to talk with a young woman online, and one Lent, I gave up talking to everyone else but her. I'm not sure why, but I somehow thought travelling through Lent with this her as a companion was something like travelling with Mary, who, of course, was very young. So, sometimes I have tried to imagine what it would be like to walk all that distance with Mary, and the blessing that it would be to make a difficult journey with someone who was completely unselfish. I imagine that she would always be helping and encouraging the rest of us who would be having a hard time of it. And sometimes, I imagine what it would be like to be a young child travelling with her, because I frequently picture myself this way while meditating on the Mysteries.

Maisie Ward says:
Our Lord in this Mystery has not only taken a human nature from Mary but has left Himself helpless, powerless in the darkness of her womb to be taken where she wills. It is the beginning of a divine economy of grace whereby God saves mankind by giving Himself into the power of men. The Curé d'Ars, marvelling over the Blessed Sacrament, said: "I bear Him to the right and He stays to the right; I bear Him to the left, and He stays to the left."
And so it is with us. We receive Him in Communion and take Him out into the world, frequently forgetting His presence before we leave the church. It's amazing to me how much He trusts us with. He puts His work in our hands; he puts his reputation in our hands; he puts his beloved in our hands.

The scripture from which this Mystery comes is Luke 1:39-56. This passage contains the Magnificat which the Church prays every evening in Evening Prayer. Because of this, Ms. Ward included this poem from Gerard Manley Hopkins in this chapter.

The May Magnificat 

May is Mary's month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
  Her feasts follow reason,
  Dated due to season—

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
  Why fasten that upon her,
  With a feasting in her honour?

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
  Is it opportunest
  And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother: 
Her reply puts this other 
  Question: What is Spring?— 
  Growth in every thing— 

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather, 
Grass and greenworld all together;
  Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
  Throstle above her nested

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
  And bird and blossom swell
  In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
  With that world of good,
  Nature's motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
  How she did in her stored
  Magnify the Lord.

Well but there was more than this:
Spring's universal bliss
  Much, had much to say
  To offering Mary May.

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
  And thicket and thorp are merry
  With silver-surfèd cherry

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
  And magic cuckoocall
  Caps, clears, and clinches all—

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ's birth
  To remember and exultation
  In God who was her salvation.


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