The shepherds went with haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this,
they made known what had been told them about this child;
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:16-19, NRSV
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
It is interesting that when God becomes man, and the Savior of the world is born to reconcile and redeem humankind, it is a group of shepherds that first tells the world about the Christ. Meanwhile, Mary, the Mother of God, says nothing. Rather, she “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” Mary was silent as she considered the fruit of creation, the great mystery of God that is too great for words to express.
God’s promise of salvation had been revealed in Jesus and was at that very moment growing to fulfillment—as it later did through the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, and as it does now through His body the Church that is anointed by the Holy Spirit. Silently, it grows, though we know not how. This is the mystery Mary treasured and pondered in her heart the night the Eternal Word sprouted from her womb. The same treasure is ours, if we listen as Mary did to the voice of the Lord, which is written in our hearts.
Most of Mary’s life was hidden and unremarkable. She lived day to day, fulfilling her duties, but with faith in the promise that had been announced to her and Joseph. Although she had said yes to this promise and had placed her hope in it, she did not fully understand. She was left to silently ponder each thing that occurred during her daily life as it slowly unfolded.
The Greek word for ponder means “to piece together.” This is what Mary did, storing up all these events in her heart, constantly reflecting on them, wondering about them, trusting in them. It is in our trust that we praise God, not in complete understanding.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke of this pondering in his homily three years ago on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God:
“By learning from Mary,” he said, “we can understand with our hearts what our eyes and minds do not manage to perceive or contain on their own. Indeed, this is such a great gift that only through faith are we granted to accept it, while not entirely understanding it. And it is precisely on this journey of faith that Mary comes to meet us as our support and guide. … In her heart Mary continued to treasure, to ‘piece together’ ” the events of her life with Jesus. “… It is only by pondering in the heart, in other words, by piecing together and finding unity in all we experience that, following Mary, we can penetrate the mystery of a God who was made man out of love and who calls us to follow him on that path of love; a love to be expressed daily by generous service” to our brothers and sisters.Ultimately, this path of love leads to the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. This is where Mary was able finally to put it all together, and where we are called as the Body of Christ. It is not easy. It is sometimes painful. Exhausting. Sorrow-ridden. But beyond the horizon of our vision, the awesome Love of God flowers and conquers all—the same Love whom God sent in His Son, born of a woman. With Him, in Him, and through Him, we are God’s children.
So, on this first day of 2011 and World Day of Peace, let us be still and ponder and treasure God’s loving presence. Let us pray that we listen for and remain receptive to the seed of God’s word sown in our own hearts so that it may grow, spread, and bear fruit for the Kingdom of God—though we know not how.
And when our strength fails us, let us always turn to Mary our Mother, who embraces in her arms the Body of Christ—whether as an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes or an adult stripped of all dignity, bruised and beaten on Calvary.
With Mary’s faithfulness, we are assured of grasping the last piece of the puzzle—that what is broken emerges whole and transformed from an empty tomb—in the ponderable silence of the dawn.
[Significant portions of this reflection are excerpted from an article I wrote for The Priest magazine in May 2010 titled, "Mary, Our Lady of Silence."]