Friday, December 19, 2008

The irrational season

I love Mary.

I think she's the bravest human being ever. I try to place myself in her sandals--those of a 14-or-so-year-old good girl, future mapped comfortably for her, brave enough to risk everything...her husband, her parents' goodwill, her whole social circle, her daily bread, her very life, because an angel passed on a message from God...which probably was not a form even as comforting and recognizable as Dan Akroyd and John Belushi "on a mission from God."

Weird. Seriously. This strange creature just zooms in on a little Segway-cloud and asks her for everything she has: her past, her present, her future. And--get this--she says YES.

The biggest, most reverberant "yes" the world had ever known. Madeleine L'Engle described it thus:
This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason,
there'd have been no room for the child.

I love that. The irrational season. This Advent, the phrase "irrational season" feels real-er to me than it ever has before. For Americans, things are shaky. The buttresses are cracking (pardon the expression...the 5th grader in me really couldn't resist). Rational beings from every sector seem to exist in a state of barely-controlled panic as wars continue, epidemics rage, and the economy grinds to a near-halt. This is an extremely up-close-and-personal reality for several people I care about, and I'm aware of my own family's precarious position as state budgets tighten and jobs are lost, because we both work for the state. I like my house. I like knowing where my next meal is coming from.

And yet...

Reason is not the only influence here. Reason speaks in the voice of safety, of manageability, of stability. God's voice is very different. God calls us out into deep water and promises to teach us to swim. That's a radical thing. In Jeannette Lindholm's words,

Unexpected and mysterious is that gentle word of grace.
Ever-loving and -sustaining is the peace of God's embrace.
If we falter in our courage and we doubt what we have known,
God is faithful to console us as a mother tends her own.

Still more radical to me than God's call and promise is Mary's "yes." God is big. Mary was little. God, I'm assuming, had a longer view of the situation than Mary did. And she signed up for the whole thing, unhesitatingly.

We churchy types are taught to revere Mary, the Virgin Mother of God. As if her sexuality (or lack thereof) were the thing that makes her extraordinary. I think that, rather than seeing her as a prim guardian of purity, it makes sense to see her as a most open soul, generous and humble and brave. What a mighty heart she had, able to open wide enough to contain the mystery of God's presence and brilliance and grace, though her own life was thrown into such complete chaos by any practical measure.

What an amazing response to ponder deep in our own hearts in this irrational season.

We are called to ponder myst'ry and await the coming Christ,
to embody God's compassion for each fragile human life.
God is with us in our longing to bring healing to the earth,
while we watch with joy and wonder for the promised Savior's birth.

7 comments:

Songbird said...

Love that L'Engle poem, we had it on the bulletin last week. You make such a good point about what, exactly, made her so extraordinary!

Jan said...

Good thoughts. I'm glad I've slowed down enough to read some blogs, like this one. Thanks.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

"I think that, rather than seeing her as a prim guardian of purity, it makes sense to see her as a most open soul, generous and humble and brave. What a mighty heart she had, able to open wide enough to contain the mystery of God's presence and brilliance and grace, though her own life was thrown into such complete chaos by any practical measure."

Yes, I feel that too.

And I've loved that L'Engle poem for a very long time.

FranIAm said...

Oh my - my heart is stunned. These words - of yours and of the poets, are beautiful.

Michael said...

I never had much use for Mary having grown up Protestant, but I can really identify with your thoughts on her courage and humility and the often unavoidable call of God.

Processing Counselor said...

Me too. Well said. I like like the segway cloud

Diane Vogel Ferri said...

What a beautiful post. Awe-inspiring. Love Mary, love Madeleine... Do you know the words to Amy Grant's Breath of Heaven? It captures Mary so well. I love the part when she sings - Help me be strong - help me be - help me...

Tomorrow I'm posting something about Robert Shaw.