Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Reed of God ~ Fiat

Fra Filippo Lippi, Annunciation
The surrender that is asked of us includes complete and absolute trust; it must be like Our Lady's surrender, without condition and without reservation.
In this section Caryll Houselander refers repeatedly to Mary as a child, and says she could not have been more than 14. I have no idea whether or not that is an accurate statement, or whether or not she would have been thought a child in that time and place, but sinless as she was, she certainly had the mind and heart of a child. She was, indeed, as she was when she had, "...just come from God's hand." The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that only someone very young could have responded to Gabriel as she did. It had to be someone who had never been betrayed or seen real corruption who could be brave enough to offer that total surrender.
"Be it done unto me according to thy word" seems a very bold prayer indeed in view of the words we know God has uttered. It would be easier to sacrifice some big thing to God, to impose some hard rule upon ourselves, than to say, "Do what you like with me."
 At the heart of this surrender is trust, trust in the only One whom we have any reason to trust. And yet, in practice Our Lord is far down on the list of those or those things in which we place our trust. In our everyday lives we trust in a hundred different things: our car, elevators (ugh), our intellect, our friends, too many to enumerate, all of which may fail us without notice. And then, of course, Miss Houselander mentions money. Who of us does that think that just a bit more money could make us more secure?
Money means the safest, swiftest travelling, the speediest spoken or written word (Could she even have imagined how swifly our words travel now?), the warmest clothing, the best medical aid.
Small wonder is it that gradually, without know it, we have come to trust more in money than in God.
From his earliest childhood the modern man is brought up to value money above all else and even to value himself by his capacity for getting it.
It is hardly surprising, when we think of all that money has come to mean to men, that if the breadwinner suddenly changes his mind and sets some other thing higher, he is thought to be a traitor in his own home.
And yet, every day now we see images of people, who were formerly secure in comfortable lives and with enough money, trudging in long, exhausted lines of refugees, leaving behind all the things they trusted in and on their way to who knows where?

What does it take for us to make that great leap of faith into the heart of Him who is the only safe refuge? It's understandable, of course, when we look at the lives of those who have made that leap. From the outside it looks pretty terrifying.
"Be it done unto me according to thy word" surrenders yourself and all that is dear to you to God, and the trust which it implies does not mean trusting God to look after you and yours, to keep you and them in health and prosperity and honor.
It means much more, it means trusting that whatever God does with you and with yours is the act of an infinitely loving Father. 
It seems impossible to choose this kind of vulnerability, and yet, it is only on the other side of that leap that we can be really peaceful, that we can see that every loss is a gift and every pain is the coin of the realm, that we can look into the future without fear.

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.


P.S. I know you're out there. I would love to hear from you.


  1. "...yet, it is only on the other side of that leap that we can be really peaceful, that we can see that every loss is a gift and every pain is the coin of the realm, that we can look into the future without fear" -- so helpful - trying to live into it. Thanks.

  2. Speaking of the Holy Spirit coming to young Mary, there's this: "This is something that can happen to everyone now, but it could not have happened to anyone but for the fiat of the peasant girl in Nazareth whom the whole world calls Our Lady."

    Never thought of that.

    It also leapt out at me because it reminded me of a video clip on YouTube of Walker Percy speaking at Notre Dame when he received the Laetare Medal. He tells about how as small child when he was learning the names of football teams, "Notre Dame" stood out as different from all the others. He goes on to say that as an adult he came to see it as lovely and touching that a big university and a football team should call itself simply "Our Lady". You can watch the clip here.

    I'd never thought of that either.

  3. Marianne, I walk around with ideas about what I'm going to write about in my head and that quote was one of the things I forgot to put in. I meant to write about it in relationship to something else, and I don't remember what the something else is. ;-)

    I've seen that clip before. It was the first time I got any feel for who Percy was outside of his work. There aren't many authors who do not disappoint me when I "get to know" them. He is one that didn't.


  4. I remember when Mary Grace was born with spina bifida and we were devastated, we met another family going through the same thing. When they prayed they thanked God for this experience to know Him in a new way. I thought they were crazy. I was anything but thankful. However, when I read Colossians, St. Paul repeatedly tells them to dedicate themselves to thankfulness as they are being martyred and rejected by their communities and I started thinking maybe it is beneficial (by no means easy) to give thanks in all things. Now I'm being challenged again after the death of my granddaughter. I 'feel' anything but thankful but I choose to believe that God in his infinite wisdom has a better plan than the one I have. C.H. was writing this at a time of horrible war and suffering so it must have been hard for her to have a thankful heart, too.

  5. I was thinking about Mary Grace in relationship to Kate this morning, and praying for y'all.


  6. I knew that I would fall behind in the reading. I'm still on this section.

    Last night I was reading the bit about trust and fear, about how the latter is an impediment to the former, and about how Our Lady's "fiat" expressed not only her trust, but also a certain fearlessness. C.H. pointed out how tempting it can be for us to put our trust in money -- not without some reason, since it can protect and shelter us from trouble to some extent. When Our Lady entrusted herself to God, she received the Holy Spirit as her spouse, and she also received her dead son in her arms. I think C.H. put it that way. It is a hard thing to see this as the best and most fruitful way.

    I have nothing really to say. Only that I'm very much appreciating the book.

  7. I wouldn't worry about being behind. I'm sure everyone is very busy. I have read part of this book most Advent for years and I've never finished it. In fact, this is the farthest I've ever gotten--I'm on Et Verbum Caro Factum Est--and I've only been able to do that because I'm listening to it in the car and because I have this commitment.