The month of May is traditionally devoted to Our Lady, Mary the Mother of God and it is well to follow her story as a meditation.
Many of us will remember our school days when we had a May Procession and sang the hymn …….flowers of the fairest. From scripture we are not aware that Mary had any siblings so we will take for granted that she was an only child. We picture her as a young girl growing up in a simple homestead with Anne and Joachim helping with the daily routine in the house and like other teenagers going to the well to draw water.
The well was an interesting place for young Jewish girls to share their stories. All these girls knew their scriptures and their conversations might well have turned to the coming of the Messiah and who His mother might be. All the young women at the well would belong to modest families and would never have presumed that one day they might be called to fulfil this mission. Everyone dreamed of a rich Messiah whom they relied on to break the yolk of domination by a foreign power and one who would set Israel free. They could only hope to be nothing more than a servant in the house of the new-born Messiah.
It is dreaming that keeps us hopeful!
One bright sunny day Mary found herself alone in the courtyard of her parent's home where she withdrew to pray. Suddenly she was surrounded by a bright light which took on the appearance of an angel ,who eventually spoke to her saying ‘Hail Full Of Grace, The Lord Is With You’ .One can think about the things of God, but when they touch us we can experience fear and doubt. The angel was aware of this and said, ‘Do Not Be Afraid Mary’. This gave Mary a sense of courage as she remembered the words of scripture ‘Fear Not Abram I Am Your Shield’ ( Gen 15 v1)
The angel continued with the news that she was to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary's question seemed anxious as to how this should come about and in faith she accepted the Angel's assurance that it would be the work of the Holy Spirit. In faith Mary responded, ‘Be It Done Unto Me According To Your Word’ and the angel left her.
That was indeed complicated as she was engaged to Joseph, the carpenter, and how would she tell her parents and what would Joseph say?. Every girl has a best friend, so Mary set off to talk to Elizabeth, her cousin, who was also to become a mother and we know what happened when Mary arrived at Elizabeth's home, the baby in her womb, John the Baptist, leapt for joy. We can only imagine the conversations Mary had with Elizabeth during their time together. Elizabeth being an older woman would tell Mary she had to go back home and face the music, because running away solves nothing; none of us can run away from ourselves.
During her time with Elizabeth Mary found the courage and energy to face the long dusty road to Nazareth. It was a difficult re-entry to the home of Anne and Joachim with Mary dodging questions and waiting for the opportune moment to talk to her mother. Between them they devised a plan, as only women can do, on how to tell Joseph and Joachim.
The culture was against Mary and as her pregnancy showed, tongues began to wag and Mary was the victim of many insults and lies and her family was shunned everywhere. Joseph who loved her could not believe that she was an innocent young mother and reacted badly at first. Being a good and just man with genuine love for Mary and some prompting from Joachim he decided to take Mary away from hostile gossiping neighbours. Anne, the ever the faithful and loving mother who forgives all, packed up fresh bread and water and Mary and Joseph set out in the dead of night with the help of a donkey. It was a rough lonely journey over unfriendly terrain with cold nights out in the open.
Let us think for a moment of the feelings and thoughts that invaded Mary's soul as to how this whole saga would pan out. A young mother pregnant with an unusual child and the possibility of trouble and danger on the way. Reflecting on Mary's plight we can easily understand the hardship encountered by pregnant refugee women as they escape war and persecution. They certainly are the ones who are best able to identify with Mary and understand her plight.
Let us for now remain with Mary and Joseph on their long pilgrimage to a place where they hoped they could live in anonymity, but God always has other plans which unfold in His time. Our Spiritual Journey may not have much in common with Mary's reality, but we all live through doubts and fears when the present moment offers poor comfort and our ability to ‘hang on in there’ demands a strong faith. It is never easy to live with an attitude of gratitude and surrender. It is very difficult to accept that we are powerless to control and fix things so that life would be kinder to us and to those we love.
It is very freeing to be vulnerable and let go of pretence and allow the tears to flow. God does provide us daily with those opportunities and especially in our encounter with others, who do not always fit into the politically correct boxes and who are crying out to be accepted, loved and understood.
In the Apparitions of Mary that we are familiar with we see her with the little ones of Yahweh often giving then tall orders to talk to Bishops, to build churches and teach people to pray. We are included in this, and the Month of May is a wonderful time to encourage ourselves to renew our devotion to Mary and reflect on her life as we have experienced in this meditation.
Go forward, therefore without fear, devotees of the Blessed Virgin Mary and together with the Church, joyfully and trustfully chant the antiphon..
Loving Mother Of The Redeemer,
Gate Of Heaven,
Star Of The Sea,
Assist Your People Who Have Fallen
And Strive To Rise Again