October; Rosary Month Closes

October is the month in which Catholics are encouraged to recommit to praying the Rosary. As it draws to a close, I thought I’d repost this, from a couple of years ago — a rosary prayed while contemplating the Vladimir Theotokos.

The Crying Out of Flesh and God

Creator and created, sharing the same flesh, the same blood, entwined, together. The whole story, right there in the Joyful Mysteries.

The Annunciation: Since Eden, God’s purpose–slow and baffling, yet inexorable–has been to restore all things in Him. There are so many things we do not know. Mary is hailed as “full of grace,” born without the stain of the “necessary sin of Adam” which has set Gabriel his task: will she consent–she full of grace, yet free–to be the Ark of a New Covenant, the Host for the Lord of Hosts, who needs her flesh and blood before he can shed his own as the spotless Lamb, the acceptable sacrifice?

We always assume that this was the first time this question had been asked, and perhaps it was; perhaps the human campaign needed to be where it was, before the New Ark could be created in grace. But what if other young women had been similarly graced, earlier, yet were unable–in their freedom–to manage the fiat, the complete detachment from the opinions and schemes of the world, which would allow participation in God’s difficult, mysterious scheme? Grace gives us the ability to believe, to trust and go forward, but we shrug off grace all the time in order to go our own way, satisfy our own minds, serve our attachments. It does not matter if other virgins had been privileged with a similar visit by Gabriel; Mary said “yes.” That is what matters. Not knowing the Mind of God, she could not know that her act of surrendering flesh and blood would find its mirror and completion in another such surrender of what is (again) her own flesh.

The Visitation: Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth, who rushes to greet her and cries out with mysterious knowledge: “whence does the mother of my Lord come to me?” Mary blooms into a prayer that echoes Hannah. In Elizabeth’s womb, the forerunner (“Scary John the Baptist”) leaps for joy! Flesh-and-blood recognizing flesh-and-blood but alive with something more, yet undefined. The human family is yet mystical, and God’s own, shouting out in discovery of oneness.

The Nativity of Our Lord: And then there is a crack in history as the God of Israel does something unthinkable; he becomes enfleshed and sets his tent with us. He does not come as an oddity, as a “better,” or as something unrecognizable, demanding the fear and obsequiousness of all in his path. He is born of flesh, born of blood; Mary’s own blood runs in his veins and he is wholly her own, yet wholly the world’s:

He condescended to enter into the pain and fear, the tumult and whirlwind of the world…when he “set his tent among us,” not merely “dwelling” among us as lofty king, but literally “with” us, with hunger, the capacity for injury and doubt…

God entered in, not with a cacophany of noise and a display of raw power, but as the humblest and most dependent of creatures: a baby, lying in a manger, a place for the feeding of animals. He, who became Food for the World, entered with silence, as though he had put his finger to the quivering mouth of a troubled, sobbing world and said…”ssshhhh…it is alright, I’ll keep you company…”

God submits to Creation, in order to save it. No wonder the heavens were rent with a joyful song. No wonder shepherds and kings were amazed.

The Presentation: Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the temple. Imagine how difficult it was to stay hydrated while traveling even a short distance, especially for a new mother who is nursing her babe. One needed to know where all of the wells were, and to have water nearby. The Creator is dependent upon the very thing upon which his spirit moved in the beginning. God-made-Flesh is brought to the priests; Jesus is circumcised like every Jewish male, his foreskin shed. Even he, Son of Mary, Son of God, must be vulnerable, sensitively exposed to God and the world, in this way. Flesh is cut, blood is stanched, the baby yelps and is quickly embraced and consoled by his mother. The God of All Consolations cries out in pain, completely vulnerable, allowing humanity to succor him. Anna and Simeon have been awaiting his appearance; they recognize the Incarnation, and Simeon speaks words that must simultaneously soothe and grieve Mary’s heart. Her heart, after all, is his heart, too. He is us.

The Finding of Our Lord in the Temple: We jump ahead twelve years; the adolescent Jesus has stayed behind in Jerusalem. Three days he is there, mirroring the three days in the tomb. I love that Mary and Joseph, who love Jesus and live with him, and who know him well, must still seek him out, like the rest of us. Flesh seeks after flesh and cries out, “where?” and then, “why do you? How could you?” Flesh seeks after God, and God is found, but not fully understood. Not only is God found, but God submits, because this God, over and over again, tries to teach us by his own example. As God yeilded to Israel’s obstinacy and gave them a King, so he yields to Mary and Joseph. Later he will submit, again, flesh and blood surrendered, once for all; heart pierced, for the life of the world.

The lesson, over and over, is that fulfillment and completion lies in surrender, in the fiat, in the “yes,” in the detachment to all else; the submission of flesh and blood, mind and heart, for the wholeness of the soul. Flesh cries out, “O Love, where, why?” God cries out, “here! O Love, know!”

The lifetime’s work.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    “We always assume that this was the first time this question had been asked, and perhaps it was; perhaps the human campaign needed to be where it was, before the New Ark could be created in grace. But what if other young women had been similarly graced, earlier, yet were unable–in their freedom–to manage the fiat, the complete detachment from the opinions and schemes of the world, which would allow participation in God’s difficult, mysterious scheme?”

    What a fascinating question. I never thought of that possibility. Well you just enlarged my perspective.

  • Greta

    A day without the rosary is a day diminished of light. I say the rosary each day with Pope JP II on CD. Our youth group at chuch has been saying daily rosary now for over two years and I have had each of them come up to me individually to thank me for getting this started in their lives. I always respond that they should say one rosary for my dad who started me on the path and where all credit should go. Just found out that a seventh child has been given my name from the youth group now parents. That is the best gift anyone could ever give to me and with each, I have been blessed to be asked to be god parent. I insisted that I be only god great grandparent so they could select a much younger person for this important role. Our Blessed Mother has blessed me with strong love of the youth and placed her love in me to offer to them.

    Hope your Kitty is home and on the mend. She was the focus of my rosary again this evening. During the prayers, I got the sense she will have a struggle for a while, but will do very well in the end and from this illness will gain great insight which she will use later in life.

  • Becca

    I find the question of whether God had asked a bunch of other virgins before The Blessed Virgin Mary to be his mother repugnant. I don’t think God created a bunch of back-up mothers for himself. It’s very protestant in its understanding in my opinion. The Blessed Virgin Mary was not a vessel or a receptacle for God, she was (and is) his MOTHER. Mothers are not replaceable and that goes double, triple, to the infinite for God’s Mother. I wonder if you would ask the same question about Jesus’ humanity. Did God the Son have a bunch of possible versions of himself in his mind that came from the flesh of these different virgins? It’s just disgusting and offensive.

  • Becca

    Not to mention the fact that asking whether God went around asking virgins to be his mother is theologically ridiculous. Did God have all of these virgins immaculately conceived too??? Did he give them the SINGULAR grace of immaculate conception so he could ask them to be his mother and then when they said no, he just immaculately conceived another girl? It’s a singular grace because he only gave it to The Blessed Virgin Mary and nobody else. We can go further since Jesus was born to fulfill prophecies in a particular place and time and of a particular bloodline, so that limits these so called mother candidates to girls from the line of David, living at that time, and in that place.
    But back to it being disgusting and repugnant and offensive. Not only does it betray a horrible lack of theological understanding, it betrays a distressing lack of understanding of both the Blessed Virgin Mary and of God. We eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood every time we receive communion, and to think that it could be changed to another person’s body and blood…think what you’re saying! Jesus is Jesus in his humanity because Mary is his mother, that’s how he got his body and blood, and that’s what we’re consuming and what is sustaining our lives.
    I don’t want to go on and on here, but I mean, the more I think about it, the more upsetting it is. I don’t mean to be uncharitable to anyone or be hostile or hysterical, but this is a very important question. Especially since that first commenter said his ‘perspective’ was ‘enlarged’. This is misleading to people and it’s just plain wrong.
    It’s a terrible commentary of the dignity of the human person. Don’t we all have a vocation that only we can do? Does God just replace you if you say no to him? Is that how God’s love works? That is not the God I know. Why didn’t God just replace Adam and Even and start over? God doesn’t replace anyone. Especially not his own Mother! Mary is my mother, and she’s not replaceable!