On the Feast of the Visitation last year, I was on pilgrimage standing in St. Mary Major in Rome to celebrate the Jubilee Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. The Church was overflowing into the courtyard, filled beyond capacity with people from every corner of the earth. It was symbolic in ways that am still reflecting on over six months later.
The cardinal preached about how Mary was the first female evangelist. He described many of her attributes: her humility, docility to the Holy Spirit, etc. He invited us to model her way of life in every way.
I admit, I usually find it quite hard to relate to Mary. It feels as though she is everything that I am not and will never be. Modeling Mary's behavior often feels so far out of reach for me, so during Mass I kept praying, "Mary, teach me how to be like you, I want to be your student and I really don't see how this is possible, by the way". I admitted it.
By force of the crowd, after communion I ended up in a corner next to the statue pictured here. While looking up at the her from a side angle, I noticed a posture of Mary that I had never noticed before. As always, her head is slightly tilted down, which we know symbolizes Mary identifying herself as a "lowly servant". However, what really captivated me was how her hand is raised up, I had not ever noticed this statue or posture of Mary ever before. As I became fascinated by this unique posture of Mary, I repeated my prayer, "Mary, teach me how to be like you, I want to be your student."
In that moment, I felt as if Mary answered my prayer. Almost like a preschooler who wants to model their teacher's behavior, I began to desire to examine my new teacher.
Following communion, we prayed the Magnificat. As we prayed, I kept looking at this marvelous representation of her as her head is lowered, eyes closed, a tight yet sweet grip on Jesus while lifting Him up and her other arm extended high. I imagined her praying in her own words :
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.
Although I have heard and said this prayer a million ( or maybe less..haha) times, I felt my heart change. As a preschool level student, here is my simple reflection on how I might be invited to be more like her, but modeling her posture.
1) Head Down: She is humble.
Note to self : Be reminded of who I am and who I am not. I am God's daughter AND a "lowly servant".
2) Hold on tight to Jesus and Lift Him Up: She was Christ-Centered.
Note to self: Focus on "Proclaiming the greatness of the Lord" rather than the greatness or the weakness of myself or others.
3) Hand up: She was filled with gratitude.
Note to self: Having an attitude of Gratitude honors God. "Praise the Almighty God, who has done great things for me and Holy is His Name"
I began thinking of how my approach to life might look a little differently if I assumed her posture and allowed "My soul to proclaim the greatness of the Lord."
I am learning, when things get tough to "assume the position" - head down, hold on tight to Jesus and Praise God. When I make a decision to deal with life more like Mary, I am more thankful, more faithful, more fruitful, more loving, more forgiving and an overall better version of myself.
Mary, teach us how to be like you, we want to be your students