|Giotto: Nativity: Birth of Christ, Scrovegni Chapel|
All things were made by him;and without him was made nothing that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in the darkness,and the darkness did not comprehend it." John 1, 3-5This is a very short section, but it contains the most powerful concept of all, which is that Mary, in giving Jesus her humanity, gave Him death.
In giving life to Him she was giving Him death.
All other children born must inevitably die; death belongs to fallen nature; the mother's gift to the child is life.
But Christ is Life; death did not belong to Him.
In fact, unless Mary would give Him death, He could not die.
Unless she would give Him the capacity for suffering, He could not suffer.I find this overwhelming. I really don't have anything to say about it. I suppose it's one of those things that Mary pondered in her heart.
Then Miss Houselander talks about the birth of Christ as a separation from Mary and says this:
The description of His birth in the Gospel does not say that she held Him in her arms but that she "wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger."
As if her first act was to lay Him on the Cross.
She knew that this little son of hers was God's Son and that God had not given Him to her for herself alone but for the whole world.
This is one of the greatest of all the things that we must learn from our contemplation of Our Lady.All my life, pictures of the infant Jesus wrapped up in swaddling clothes and laying in the manger have bothered me because I couldn't stand the thought of those delicious little arms and legs being all bound up and hidden away. I have in the past five years had experience with my grandchildren being swaddled--only for sleeping--and I can see that it works and the babies seem to like it--although I seem to be incapable of the art of swaddling--still, it seems so stiff, and babies are so un-stiff.
And this image of laying the infant on the cross, while theologically correct and all, again is overwhelming. I know of course that Mary had to hold Jesus to feed Him and I'm sure that she did play with his little fingers and toes, and I hope that she was able to do this without always thinking of what was to come.
The real message that Caryll Houselander is trying to convey, though, is that Mary was aware that her son was given to her in order to be given to the world, and that she could not try to hold him too close, or protect him from all the horrors that were to come. She also writes about how this is true for all mothers. Our children are, "...part of a whole and that the whole is the family of God, to whom every child born owes all the love and service of a brother or sister."
I also wanted to mention the above quote from John which introduces this chapter. In Catholic churches today, the translation we read says, ". . . and the darkness has not overcome it," while many translations use some verson of, ". . . the darkness did not comprehend it." The latter has a much deeper meaning, I think, especially when we think about the definition which uses comprehend in the sense of containing or enclosing. The Light was too great to be held bound by the darkness.
And finally, there is this:
We need to say to ourselves a thousand times a day: "Christ wants to do this"; "Christ wants to suffer this."
And we shall thus come to realize that when we resent our circumstances or try to spare ourselves what we should undergo, we are being like Peter when he tried to dissuade Our Lord from the Passion.
There is one tremendous answer to the question which is reiterated to the point of utter weariness: "Why should I?"
It is another question: "Ought not Christ to suffer these things and so enter into His glory?"All of the posts in this series can be found by clicking HERE.
Unfortunately they are in reverse order, so you have to scroll down to get to the beginning.