But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have not known a man?”– Luke 1:29-34
Grow quiet and still. Open your mind and heart to this image, to the Scripture, to the divine Presence. As you gaze, what do you see? What do you feel? Can you sense an invitation to you from the Spirit? What might it be?
We return to Tanner’s vision of the Annunciation, which we contemplated on Sunday: the bright column of light; the commonness of people and things made luminous; the life-giving force of a consecrated curiosity and receptive wonder in the presence of the Holy. One cannot help but wonder if, in part at least, Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Christ because she lived the life of wonder and awe. Was this largely the source of her courage? Her capacity for full-throated singing: “God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly… God has filled the hungry with good things and send sent the rich away empty”? Did it help to shape her son for living and dying as he did in the awe of God?
We often picture her as pensive or sorrowful, and why shouldn’t we, given all that she lost? But surely she also lived her life with a monumental joy. This is where wonder takes us, again and again. To embrace the mysteries deeply is to rise to a greater gladness than you could when you thought you knew everything and could manage. Receptiveness to the unknowable will serve you better. See what Tanner has done with the shape of Mary’s body as she sits in wonder on the edge of her bed. Follow the curve that runs from the back of her head all the way to her left leg, and see how the front of her has the same shape as she faces the light. The artist has drawn her in the shape of a right-side parenthesis, her whole self has taken the shape of an open receptiveness to the wondrous. And if you look even more closely at the far side of her mouth, you may notice what appears to be the hint of smile that is right on the verge of spreading.
Mary of Nazareth may well have agreed with the poet Mary Oliver, who wrote:
When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement.
It began with whispering to an angel, “How can this be? It ended in Easter. And maybe it continues in people like us, her great-grandchildren many times over, when we choose to awaken to the life of awe and wonder in the light of great Mystery of God.
Holy God, infinitely beyond us, perfectly near us, and everywhere around us, may we never live as if it were not so, but live our lives in the amazement that loves you and serves you and give ourselves gladly to the serving of your world. Amen.