Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary, whose immaculate conception was celebrated 9 months ago, was born on this September day. And as is the way of the Lord, this monumental day, this wondrous birth went quietly by in time, and still goes quietly by in our lives, we could easily miss it. In fact, we often do miss it. Yet, this feast day invites us to ponder the woman whose life modeled most fully how to allow the word of the Lord to be conceived in us and born through us, in our own words and deeds. Insignificance and lowliness are not barriers to these wonders, they are requirements.
Which is good, because I do not have much to offer. I am a Catholic who fails a lot in living my faith. I am a wife who fails a lot at being a wife. I am a mother, who fails a lot with her children (I have two crying, fighting and whining in my presence right now - thankfully they are only mildly annoying me, so I am ignoring them...). And, in a culture that is pragmatic, cliquey and materialistic, I am a stay-at-home mother of 8 who writes for an insignificant blog because I perceived a call to do it from Him, no money in it, no huge following, no "career" to validate me - nothing. I am nothing. And oh, how I have caused myself and others around me much pain in fighting that truth for most of my life.
When I was in high school, it got back to me that an acquaintance of mine had described me as a "cipher"....a nobody. In her world, I was a quiet and fairly shy girl, who was not friends with her friends and who did not leave a huge impression on her friends. Since I was not terribly concerned with her opinion of me at that time, I was able to brush off the insult fairly easily...or so I thought. Because every once in awhile the words would come back to me, whispering to me that I was a cipher, a nobody. And I would fight that identity with much ferocity! I would deny it, offer proofs against it, but mostly I would fear it. The label of cipher became heavier and heavier.
But, one day I finally heard the words of Our Blessed Mother. My spiritual ears were opened.
Luke 1:46-56:The Canticle of Mary."My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his prose to our father to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
Was I to accept that identity that was so thoughtlessly assigned to me? Instantly my spirit rebelled: "I am not a cipher! I am not a nobody, do not let that nasty girl be right!" The arrogant and prideful aspirations of my heart, which fed upon my fear of nothingness, did not yield easily. Yet a wave of grace washed over my heart as I thought of the words: "He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones; but lifted up the lowly." My pride was dispersed, I was thrown down, and lifted up. In a moment I was confronted with all that I wanted to be, thought I should be and was failing at, and yet I was given an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Because I was nothing. I was nothing so that I could be lifted up; there is no other way.
That thoughtless comment of so many years before was instantly transformed, and the weight of it lifted. The Lord needed to show me I am nothing so I can be filled with His love, His Spirit, His life. So that he can lift me up, out of my mediocrity and into His heart, and I do not have to grasp at earthly honors, or rewards or recognition. Without Jesus I am nothing, without Him I will cling to false egos and identities, and be let down by them, or even worse, I will be blindly self-satisfied! The heavy burden of that word "cipher" gave way to tearful gratitude and awe. In a world where wealth, popularity and honors are seen as indicators of goodness and worthiness Mary has shown me that it is only lowliness, nothingness that can acquire the interior vision and wisdom to give Him our fiat, with complete trust in His compassionate love that will lift us up.
So Happy Birthday Mary, Queen of Heaven, who so gently taught me about lowliness. I still have to submit my fears and insecurities to God, I still have to have Him disperse pride and arrogance with His mighty arm. But I do not fear the nothingness as I once did, and I have come to see a little how God's kingdom conquers and transforms this world of shallowness and ugliness . I now look upon that dismissive description of me so long ago through Mary's eyes, without the shame and fear that the world attaches to it In those words came the might of His arm and revealed the true and eternal beauty of His Mother.
Blessed Be God, and Blessed Be His Most Holy Mother!