“Behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:48-49)
Once, a long time ago, I saw God weaving the strands of our lives into the tapestry of life. I saw the way he entangled our lives with one another and how beautiful it was. I saw the way dark threads were needed to give shape to the patterns woven with golden threads. I saw it clearly without actually seeing it at all.
That’s the nature of epiphanies. We experience them with such intensity they begin to shape our lives, but they sound like fantasies when we attempt to share them with other people. I know now that Mary was speaking out of a mystical experience such as this when she praised the Lord with those words. I have to admit that for years I did not appreciate this.
I’m Catholic. Mary is revered in our church. She may not be part of the Holy Trinity, but she’s right up there with God, having been crowned Queen of Heaven. Millions (I would guess) are devoted to her, a devotion that arose in the Middle Ages when the Black Plague was seen as God’s hand of justice, and it was believed a mother would be more merciful and could intercede with her son.
When I began to read the Bible, I brought to my interpretation that experience, and I thought, “Heavens! She was arrogant!” Catholics did come to call her blessed — Blessed Mother, Blessed Virgin Mary — but why would she claim this for herself? Wouldn’t it have shown a more becoming humility to refrain from bragging like this? Eventually, I came to appreciate that she wasn’t claiming a title for herself, but was instead expressing with greatest humility wonder at the way God was working in her life.
This morning, I, too, feel blessed. I decided shortly before Advent that I would read through the Bible this year. For close to a decade, my daily devotions have involved reflecting on one or more of the Catholic church’s daily readings, which include an Old Testament reading, Psalm and Gospel reading. I also went through Jeff Cavin’s “The Great Adventure” (which I cannot in good conscious recommend) which gave me an overview of the Bible’s main plotline. But, I’ve never read the whole thing, and for several years I have felt a desire to do so.
I began with Genesis on the first Sunday in Advent and have reached Deuteronomy. I can’t say I was looking forward to it. Reading Leviticus and Numbers was like sloughing through mud, and a brief summary of Deuteronomy led me to believe that it was more of the same. Instead, I’ve found a beautiful love letter from God to his people. Moses reminded the people that “your God carried you, as a man carries his child, all along your journey” (Deut. 1:31). He told them that when they were disobedient, “Yet there too you will seek the Lord, your God; and you shall indeed find him when you search after him with your whole heart and your whole soul” (Deut. 4:29).
This morning, I read, “He will love and bless and multiply you; he will bless the fruit of your womb and the produce of your soil, your grain and wine and oil, the issue of your herds and the young of your flocks” (Deut. 7:13) and I experienced my life as blessed. Too often, I’ve fallen into accepting the myth promoted in our country that wealth and financial security are the only measures of a life. But this morning, again, I was reminded that I am among those whom God calls to walk in faith, and it would be an act of pride and hubris to attempt to use American standards of wealth and security to weigh my life.
Instead, I need to look at the blessings he has poured into my life — my beloved daughters, the fruit of my womb, and all of the other fruit my life has produced: art and poetry, success in the lives of those I’ve mentored, organizations strengthened (at least temporarily) by the work of my hands. I wish I could say I’ve never hurt anyone — and it would be true to say I’ve never intentionally hurt anyone — but I know, especially when I was young and dizzy from the bombardment of life experiences for which I was woefully unprepared, I did injure others. I hope they, and God, have forgiven me. I also hope I can say with honesty that I have more often acted with generosity than selfishness. This morning that feels true.
I look through the slats of the louvers which cover my bedroom windows and see cold rain fall from gray sky — an answer to prayer in a region where drought conditions have threatened the water supply. Some, I know are undoubtedly complaining about the inconvenience of these damp days. I, though, am grateful for this life-giving rain. “This is my life,” I think, cold illusion masking all that gives life. Looking through the slats of the louvers, I am warmed by the inner knowledge of God’s love, a love I can see if I look through the eyes of faith. This morning, I know even more than ever why Mary could cry out with joy and humble gratitude, “All ages will call me blessed.” I, too, feel blessed.