A Christmas Day reflection — The Breath of Heaven...
Today is indeed about the coming of the Christ, but it is also about Her. Blessed Mary, Ever Virgin. Long-suffering. Patient. Meek. Mild. It's always been very hard for me to relate to her. Or that's what I used to think. I used to think I had nothing in common with her. But recently, I've begun to think that perhaps I was wrong.
As I become more grounded in myself, I have less need to shout to get attention, less need to resist to remain true to myself, less need to think in order to ponder. We have a few things in common after all. And the increasing shared experiences startle, humble and amaze me. In getting to know her better, I am discovering that in all of us, lies a heart of purity and compassion. Mary was extraordinary, at least in part, because she knew this to be true from a very early age. For the rest of us, if we are fortunate, we don't learn until much later in life.
The meaning of "virgin" that best applies to her is this: "whole unto herself." That definition is so much more applicable than "chaste" or "without sex." It means a woman with a voice. With authority. With space. And with Wisdom to know when to use each one. Because you know what you are talking about, confident that what you are about is what needs to be.
The dark of being alone with the experience of holiness
It is one of the greatest ironies of history that the one human female most commonly regarded as utterly pure began her public story with suspicions of adultery swirling around her. She was with child and was unmarried. It must have been humiliating. There had to be talk. It was a small village. And the talk must have been painful for her. But if she had tried to explain herself, to set the record straight, no one would have understood or believed her. So part of the dark before Christmas for her must surely have been the isolation of having experienced holiness and rapture, and having that experience mistaken for its opposite.
Her espoused husband, Joseph, was a little embarrassed. He was a good guy, "unwilling to expose her to shame," but . . . but . . .as the song says, "It wasn't me!" So, he was going to divorce her. Quietly. Scripture doesn't say what, if anything, passed between Mary and Joseph. All it says is that Joseph, "had no relations with her until she bore a son." And that Joseph named this son that was not his own. Jesus.
I know what it is like for people to accuse you of ugliness without basis. One of my greatest struggles during the past year has been how to be at peace, and full of compassion towards others when they express negative emotions about me by falsely accusing me of . . . anything. During the past year, it seems that, over and over, I have had to confront this kind of betrayal by people I had trusted, liked, thought of as friends. The dropped phrase. The incomplete story, with the hanging inference. The tone of voice that implies … something that isn't so. And often, the very circumstances that have given rise to the assumptions have been those of wrenching but cleansing light and holy growth.
At last, I sat still enough to hear the lesson that life was trying to teach me with this set of circumstances. Whenever I confronted these issues, I felt a sense of being strangled. Choked. Of having no voice. Because I was resisting the falsehood without being able to explain it. When I tried, I failed. It was impossible to communicate my experience in an way that was understandable to others. It wasn't until I stopped struggling, stopped resisting, and stopped trying to explain that I learned that my voice is just as powerful when I choose not to speak in my own defense, but in the service of love, as it is when I am shouting out the terms of my rights in a given situation. I know what it is like to sob out the powerlessness and hopelessness of making that choice. Because it is the right choice. The choice of love. Because the experience cannot be reduced to words. And they wouldn't believe you anyway.
In "the Dark before Christmas"...
I know what it is like to be alone in the dark before Christmas, with a baby floating under your heart, kicking you in the ribs. The Christmas before my youngest child was born was my own Bethlehem. My other two children were in terrible danger. I could not help them. I was powerless and no one believed me. I learned on Christmas Day that my husband planned to leave the country with them within three days. They were so small. Only 3 and 5. I had no money, no home of my own, and I was stranded in the Midwestern United States. I didn't know what to do or feel except a bottomless fear, grief and despair. What sustained me was this wonderful Presence in the child I carried under my heart.
I remember dark as I had never known it before. The future was absolutely, utterly, unknown. And I was powerless before it, so I had no choice but to be in the moment. And that helplessness gave me power. Power to stop the resistance. To sink into the dark of the time before Christmas.
And now, my life has come full circle. I am in that same place, in the dark before Christmas. With her. But this time, as I sink into the unknown, into powerlessness and helplessness, I know the deep power in letting go of resistance and relaxing in the fact that I do not understand and that I have no control. Once again, it is the dark before Christmas, and I experience her experience, going from place to place, looking for a quiet place to rest, to give birth this time to my own heart of compassion. Learning to open the experience of my life to Light. I have found something else that I have in common with her. Letting go of my resistance to the dark before Christmas and finding the pure Light within.
What are your thoughts on this commentary?