With each passing Christmas, I find myself befriending Mary with a deeper sense of respect. There she stands, barely coming out of childhood while saying yes to her spiritual calling of Mother and I think about how similar excitement and fear can feel.
I gaze at the paintings of Mary and want to ask her how she handled the surprise and timing of motherhood at such a young age; but then I hesitate. Is it fear of projecting my culture onto hers? Or is it an enthused reverence as Sacred within me whispers, I am giving you a nugget of insight into some of your own seemingly ill-timed experiences.
Mary stands quietly in the almond shape of not one mandorla, but several. For centuries now, artists have placed her there in the tensions between mother/child, sun/moon, and heaven/earth. And as I gaze beyond the paint, moving into contemplation, I remember on occasion, singing silent night… while feeling inside as if my own privately imagined nightmares were breaking loose. Sometimes I wonder if Mary felt like that, too.
I have listened to Christmas carols and sung wholeheartedly so that maybe, for an hour or two, I could forget the nagging things in my life. I have worshipped and sung, hoping that all of the great disturbing things in the world would resolve themselves, but what Mary continues to quietly convey, is that true faith, love, joy, hope and worship rise up in spite of. Often, I find these things hidden deep at Mary’s calm core, and mine.
Mary is everywhere in New Mexico. There is hardly a day that I do not encounter an invitation to join her, living in the mandorlas, holding the opposites and paradoxically, the possibilities, as well. She reminds me to say yes, when Spirit asks. She also reminds me that although holding the opposites may cost me in unexpected ways, doing so opens the way to freedom.
In the concrete day-to-day, I accomplish the things before me and then stop to smile as I hear a beckoning call to live in the whole of Spirit’s world. Mary, with her crown of stars, is one of many who call me into a mysteriously wonder-filled world of scary dragons and their rivers that are meant to drown me right alongside the saving angels and the faithful, grounding earth. The Christmas message is about hope, life and love; and perhaps it is also about the ongoing invitation to the whole of life.
So, when I encounter demons from without, or within, and think that surely these dragons want to devour my flesh and all that I have birthed in the name of Hope and Love; I call on Spirit and her wings to take me deep inside, to that sacred desert for another silent and holy night.