"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

08 March 2009

"A Strange Glory"

Chapter 3 of
Death on a Friday Afternoon is a meditation on the third word from the Cross, first to Mary and then to John: "Woman, behold your son. [. . .] Behold, your mother!" Here Neuhaus explores the position of Mary as simultaneously mother of Jesus and first disciple of Jesus. He emphasizes two of her statements in particular.

"Let it be to me according to your word." Mary accepts, in full trust, the commission of God to bear His Son and have her own heart broken. She risks all human security -- how could she know if Joseph would choose to protect her? -- for absolute obedience to the Absolute. She is our model for how to respond to the Father, no matter what He asks of us.

"Do whatever He tells you." These, Neuhaus notes, are the last words
of Mary recorded in the Scriptures, and he stresses their importance: "Everything about Mary is from Christ and to Christ," he writes; "Mary is the icon of the disciple-Church."

Mary's obedience and trust show us our own way. "To say that Mary's way is not our way is to say that Christ's way is not our way," Neuhaus says, "for Mary was in every respect the disciple of her Son." And "What she said she also did, and in her loss of her Son and her loss of herself she knew 'Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.'"

Mary gave herself in "total availabilty to the will of God. She had no business of her own. She was always on call." But it is this availability, this trust that leads one through the inevitable hardship and brokenness of obedience -- for we are all called to die to self and abandon all that we see for only a hope -- to the light of the Cross. "At the heart of darkness the hope of the world is dying on a cross, and the longest stride of soul is to see in this a strange glory": the glory of hope and redemption, of love and life.

"In wonder is wisdom born." I desire to lose myself this Lent in wonder at the strange glory of the Cross, the redemption that would come, not from armed battle and kingly grasp of power, but from the utter sacrifice that to the world was a fool's mad suicide. May we have the courage, the trust, the will, to "do whatever He tells us," to know that the Fool is truly King of kings and Lord of lords and worthy of all glory and honor and praise.

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