Monday, September 10, 2012

Marianist Monday

How can completely ordinary events, things, circumstances get raised to a higher power? How do they become sacred? In fact, what is a sacrament, really? Isn't it when you "confer the highest significance upon the ordinary things of this world -- bread, wine, water, touch, breath, words," as Walker Percy argues. The more ordinary an object or being, the more faith is required to perceive its sacred potential and miraculous qualities.

Mary was "ordinarily sacred." Who was more ordinary than Mary, a simple, unassuming peasant lady from nowhere-Nazareth? But it is her very ordinariness that provides such a perfect foil for the extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit in her life. It was in her quiet, unremarkable, day-to-day life that Mary "found favor with God."

It speaks to our lack of faith in the possibility of ordinary sacredness and ordinary miracles that we feel compelled to depict Mary on her knees worshiping the newborn Jesus as though he were some tiny deity that had magically materialized in her face. What we need to envision is an ordinary Mary looking pale and wan, disheveled and exhausted, but with her face transformed by joy and love as she snuggles the tiny baby Jesus tightly against her. Mary didn't gaze in respectful reverence at her newborn child. She cuddled him, counted all his fingers and toes, chuckled at the hair he did or didn't have, and wondered over the softness of his skin.