Day 5. A seeking heart

[above: Lorenzo Monaco (c. 1370–c.1425), The Annunciation—Wikimedia]

Then Mary said, Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word. Then the angel departed from her.  (Luke 1:38 NRSV)  

[Mary]: When the Angel’s message came to me, the Lord put a song into my heart. I suddenly saw that wealth and cleverness were nothing to God—no one is too unimportant to be His friend.

—Dorothy L. Sayers, The Man Born to Be King

Was Mary caught utterly unaware by the sudden angelic visitation? For generations all young Jewish women had held in their hearts the secret desire to be the mother of the One promised in Isaiah’s prophecy. But for most that was only a dream, a tradition, an ambition unlikely to be fulfilled. 

So why was Mary chosen for this relationship with the Most High God? In the moment reality surpassed the vision and was more than wishful thinking. Here’s my reflection on the moment of Mary’s astonishment: 

Mary, virgin, had no sittings, no chance to pose her piety, no novitiate for body
  or for heart. The moment was on
her, unaware:
  the Angel in her room, the impossible demand...

As Sayers emphasized, Mary was young and inexperienced, a female in a male-dominated society. She lived in Nazareth, not the holy city of Jerusalem. She was pregnant and unmarried, open to rumor and conjecture, and probably illiterate. And the Angel had left her! She was alone, wondering what on earth to tell her mother, what on earth was being asked of her.

It’s amazing that her heart was wide open to the impossible possibility that the Mighty One of Israel had chosen her! And the reality, overwhelming as it must have been, brought Mary a fresh purpose for her life: a village girl unprepared for a role that demanded of her—simply everything. No matter our own sense of inadequacy, of unpreparedness, such openness is at the heart of any act of faith.      

Still, the secret at her heart burns like a sun rising. How to hold it in—
that which cannot be contained.                           
She nestles into herself, half-convinced it was some kind of good dream,
she its visionary.
But then, part dazzled, part prescient—she hugs her body, a pod with a seed
that will split her.     


Will we be like Mary, when God asks more of us than we think is possible? We remember Paul’s challenge to each of us in our human, flawed condition: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” May we, too, become pregnant with God.

PRAYER: Loving God, in the immense scope of the universe, I am one small, very ordinary human being, but I long to show you my love. I offer you the best gift I have, my obedient heart. Amen.

By Luci Shaw

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #133+ in 2019]

Luci Shaw is writer in residence at Regent College and cofounder of Harold Shaw Publishers. Author of 11 volumes of poetry, she has also written Christian books on imagination, beauty, and daring. The Generosity is coming from Paraclete Press in 2020.
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