It’s been a year since I did my consecration to Jesus through Mary using the 33 Days to Morning Glory book. I was sceptical, I had to write my own prayer because the language of those provided didn’t sit well with me, and I wasn’t sure whether to do it until the very end: what swung the pendulum was that I felt trapped in an insurmountable situation and saw it as the final act of total surrender of my control over it. I wish I could say it was the start of giving up control over my life, but if you heard that I gave up perfectionism for Lent you already know that it wasn’t that simple. And no, I still really don’t like the Rosary as a form of prayer.
I’m not sure what I expected “growing closer to Mary” to look like. People seem to find the consecration life-changing in dramatic ways, and I’m not sure I would call it such for me even though I can see how in some ways it has changed my life. I’m not more pious, or less prone to despair, or any external marks of what makes a good Catholic, but I think I have grown closer to both Jesus and Mary in the past year. Part of me wishes I could say that I am, only to be swiftly rebuked by the other part of me who is acquainted with my pride, which is also rebuking me now because this makes me sound humble and humble-bragging is as much of a problem as other forms of arrogance. Argh, it’s a vicious cycle!
I see my relationship with Mary as being very similar to my relationship with my own mother, or at least I see how I have a lot of baggage from that relationship which makes it harder for me to understand those who seem really chummy with their mother (and, in a way, makes me jealous of them because I see the beauty in that). I love my mother even if I don’t always like my mother, but we don’t talk much and I feel like we have a long way to go in building a friendship as adults, but now I am myself also married I am beginning to understand things that have puzzled me in the past, and come to terms with them.
The choice of the feast of the Annunciation was not random: ever since I came to faith, I have had a deep devotion to the Incarnation. My favourite Marian prayer remains the Angelus and if I really have to pick my favourite mysteries of the Rosary it’d be the Luminous Mysteries. I love Advent almost as much as I love the Easter Triduum. You see the thread here… Over this year I have dwelt deeper in the peace with which Mary received the news that she was to bear a son by the Holy Spirit and it struck me how easier it appears when you are deeply rooted in the Scriptures, as she was.
I don’t know whether Israelite girls would dream (generation after generation) of being the chosen maiden, or they were scared of the prospect (judging by my own pride, I bet everyone was acting like the two step-sisters in Cinderella). I see Mary as being stunned by the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel like someone who was expecting it to happen, but to someone else. You know the lottery has a jackpot and someone somewhere will win it, but you’re going to be surprised when that someone is you, right? It shows hope and humility which are two sides of being “full of grace”. Neither of them is truly possible without it coming from God.
I’m writing this with my blinds open to reveal a sunny but largely empty street during the lockdown for Coronavirus. Birds are stopping by on the roof next door, as their life carries on as normal even in our surreal circumstances. To me, this is hope. I can’t just make myself more hopeful, but I can remember that no matter what goes on here on Earth we have a promise of all things made new. One of my biggest struggles has always been to believe that the doors of Heaven can be open for me, but I’m learning to recognise that none of us is worthy and so there is no reason for me to fear being left out since it’s not something we can earn for ourselves of our own merits. This, I guess, is why hope and humility go hand in hand.
During today’s Lectio Divina in the Hallow‘s #Pray40 challenge, I was struck by the word “overshadow” in the Gospel. There are two meanings to this word in the dictionary: the first is “to tower above and cast a shadow over” which can also be seen as a pejorative (casting gloom), while the second is “to appear more prominent or important than”. I wonder which of the two meanings it actually is. Perhaps it’s both: I can see in my mind Mary being enveloped in a cloud, only visible as a black shadow herself behind the cover, fully present yet hidden away, transformed into something that is both herself and something else; I can also see how the Holy Spirit would appear more prominent or important than her. Not only does the cloud appear to our eyes before we can even see what it’s hiding, but the whole situation wouldn’t be happening without it. It is the most important aspect of the scene: without the Holy Spirit, we would only have Mary, a young Israelite woman. With the Holy Spirit, we have the Theotokos.
The paradox in this is that despite the nature of God, many things can cloud our judgments and hide Him from our sight. The anxiety and stress of a global pandemic is one example, with many questioning where God is in all this, but there are so many things. It doesn’t even have to be something negative: sometimes distractions and living in the moment with others are enough to make us forget. I think it comes to intentionality and the choices we make as a result: it doesn’t matter how often we fail, we can choose to keep showing up. I’m beginning to see prayer as putting on perfume: when you put on perfume, you are enveloped in the nice smell, but it wears off eventually and you need to put it on again. Now I prefer smaller and more frequent prayers to attempting to sit still in quiet time for a long period of time, not just because my attention span is about 5 seconds, but also because that way the perfume stays always strong.
It may seem like a small thing, but for someone who compares herself to others all the time and has an idea of what she should be that she could never meet, the realisation that there is no one size fits all was a lesson hard to learn, but it’s the most significant one from the past year.