Advent 4, Year B
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Canticle 15; The Song of Mary
Mary. The Gospel of Mark never mentions her pregnancy. The Gospel of John doesn’t either. Matthew does – but Matthew gives her no voice. For Matthew, Mary is a passive recipient of all that unfolds within and around her. All that we know of Mary comes to us from the Gospel of Luke. Luke describes a woman born into modest means, barely more than a child, betrothed to an older man. She was living the life her parents lived before her, a devout Jew under Roman rule in difficult times. She was ordinary, and knew herself to be so. Greetings! says Gabriel. Who, me? says Mary. Excuse me, what?
Greetings. During times of strife men of a certain age in this country were not surprised to encounter this particular salutation. “Greetings! You are hereby ordered for induction into the armed forces of the United States….” This particular greeting was not, in general, received as good news.
Greetings, favored one! In Mary’s salutation from the fearsome archangel good news abounds. (The) Rev. (Dr. J. Barrington) Bates expounds:
There is good news here for everyone. Those who lean toward the more Catholic can revel in the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Those who prefer the Protestant end can take comfort in Gabriel’s word of grace. Feminists note that the willing assent of a women was necessary for the whole plan of salvation. Those who are more fond of patriarchy insist that the angel – who appeared as a male, after all – set the whole thing in notion. Humanists delight that a human vessel could contain God. Believers claim authority for the divinity of Christ. Skeptics repeat the words, “How can this be?” Optimists find hope in the phrase “Nothing will be impossible with God.” And all of us are invited to accept our call to vocation, proclaiming, “Here am I, the servant of God.”
We are accustomed to the Christmas pageant view of Mary, veiled head bowed, meekly accepting a fate thrust upon her – or alternatively to the ostentatiously ornate images of the Queen of Heaven – golden and glittering and other than. No matter your beliefs on the true nature of Mary, ordinary girl with an extraordinary son or ever-virgin, ever sinless queen of heaven -either of these image misses the good news intrinsic in the person of Mary. Mary is us. Ordinary. Blessed.
Meister Eckert (1260-1328) gets to the point when he says, “We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”
Mary’s yes to God is not the yes of an conscripted soldier – but the yes of an ordinary person filled with overwhelming, all-consuming love. We hear the Gospel story today and see the woman/child on her knees with head bowed, but listen to her words that follow – the words of the song of Mary, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” A vessel she may be, but Mary is no passive receptacle, no cardboard cutout for nativity viewing pleasure. Mary’s yes is the deliberate, willing, fervent yes described by James Joyce in Ulysses “and yes I said yes I will yes.” Mary is us – an ordinary person living her ordinary life, blessed by God, and given a weighty, transformative decision to make.
David, the shepherd King, having built his own house, laments that he has neglected the Lord, who still lives in a tent. The Lord reminds him, “I have been with you wherever you went”. On Wednesday we will gather in this house of God to worship and welcome the child Christ, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Barbara Brown Taylor asks the question “Do we build God a house so that we can choose when to go see God? Do we build God a house in lieu of having God stay at ours?” Or do we gather today in this house of God to prepare to carry the Word within you, to bring forth the light of Christ in your life, to say with Mary, “Yes, Lord” yes I say yes I will yes.
Greetings, favored ones. The Lord is with you.