On Wednesday this week, it will be exactly 9 months to go to Christmas – and I have been invited to share a few musings with you, reflecting upon the lovely Feast of the Annunciation which this Wednesday brings us. It is a feast of great encouragement, because centre-stage is Mary, and it serves to remind us that we find in Her the sort of disciple weare all called to be. We see in this teenage Mother our own potential as Christians – all that we can be and become if we only open our hearts in loving trust to God as She did, despite the human doubts and weaknesses that are part of who we are. Mary is full of questions – when Mary receives the visit from Gabriel at the Annunciation – ‘How can this be?’ is Her questioning response. And She continues to question when Her Son wanders off into the Temple – ‘Why have you done this?’
At Cana She offers us the perfect model of prayer – “They have no wine” – and during His public ministry Jesus does not single His Mother out for honour because of Her biological role, but responds to Her as someone who hears God’s word and gives it flesh and bones.
Like all the disciples of Jesus, the Mary we meet in the Gospels walks by faith and not by sight. She treasures what words She has received from and about Jesus, and ponders them in Her heart. You can hear the Mary of the Magnificat glorying in the power of God who lovingly overturns all the signs of toxic power within society. The Mary of the Magnificat is not some simpering waif of a virgin but more like a warrior queen, robustly challenging the forces of sin and human greed in the name of the God whose power transforms our world. It’s as if Mary says, “Make my song yours too, because as Gabriel told me – ‘With God no thing shall be impossible’.”
We were reminded in last Sunday’s Gospel of that devastating scene atop Calvary, where She stands grieving at the foot of Her Son’s cross. The beloved disciple, another model for all followers of Christ, is told by the dying Jesus to cherish Mary as his Mother, and She is told to care for him as Her own. When the church is born with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Mary is there again, at the heart of the community, no longer grieving, but worshipping Her Son.
Mary’s questions at the Annunciation are our questions too – how is it that God can work through such weak instruments as we too often feel ourselves to be – something we feel particularly acutely as we face our current crisis? Well, just look where else we encounter Mary. She is there, watching as the tasteless water of our lives is turned into the life-giving wine of Her Son’s grace. Like Mary, we are invited to treasure all that we know of Jesus and ponder it in our hearts. Her Magnificat blesses us, not because by some accident of birth we are members of the Church, but because we too are part of the humanity in which She and Her Son shared – and this is something to really celebrate!
Before I conclude, I’d like to leave you with a lovely and whimsical poem, written by an Anglican Priest called Penelope Dent – whom it is my guess may not a fashionable size zero (but I may be wrong)! She conjures up a Mary who is so very human – much more of a Mother, and less of a queen – a Mary who knows what it is to be thoroughly human, and who like a best friend, prays daily for us, out of love, to Her Son. It’s called My Fat Virgin Mary:
I’m tired of skinny Virgin Marys,
The one I want has a bosom and a heart.
Brooding, maternal and magnificent.
You listen, you love
And you understand.
O most funny,
Glorious, vulgar fat Lady.
I love you
And the God who made your commodious bosom,
Head rest, heart rest
For the uncomforted.
Hold us and love us,
You who dare to be big
And despise corsets.
You who love life
And bottles of stout, pork pies
and bags of greasy chips,
Wrapped in newspaper.
Queen of all fat women,
Defender of the unloved.
Accuser of the small-minded, sawdust people,
Who never get involved nor find the time to love your Son,
Wrapped in themselves.
O most funny Lady, most funny Lady,
Mother of mothers,
Praise be to you for showing us your acceptance,
Your grief and your rejoicing.
Praise be to you for daring to be big,
Proud of your girth
And all Glorious within.