Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
August 15this the Feast of the Assumption, a feast which celebrates Mary’s elevated role in the Christian church as the bringer of the holy to birth. Mary has received many names and titles over the centuries: Star of the Sea, Greenest Branch, Seat of Wisdom, and Gate of Heaven to name a few. She is multifaceted, offering us many possibilities for guidance and support on our own journeys of birthing.
Mary as Mother of Mercy
2016 was celebrated as a Year of Divine Mercy in the Catholic Church. The Pope wanted the whole Church to be reawakened to Mercy, which in the context of Christian teachings, refers to concepts such as forgiveness, healing, hope and compassion for all fellow human beings. He called for a ‘revolution of tenderness’ in the Church through a renewed focus on these values. I love that image of a revolution of tenderness, and Mary seems to be a perfect ally on that journey. What might the world look like if we embraced tenderness as a primary quality? What if being tender were at the heart of our spiritual journeys?
Divine mercy is that completely gratuitous and abundant, unearned grace. When we pray the Hail Mary we describe her as “full of grace.” Mary is the embodiment of divine mercy, that lavish gift of kindness and care.
Mercy is defined as “compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.” Many of the biblical stories point us toward mercy, to show a generosity of heart and spirit especially toward those who are poor, marginalized, and living on the rough edges of society.
Mary as Mother of Mercy, extends her reach out to all those who are on the edges. She also calls us to extend this mercy within ourselves to all those places within that we have abandoned or exiled. She invites us to consider those tender and fragile places within which we have rejected for so long. At the heart of mercy is a radical hospitality where the stranger is welcomed in with abundant care and compassion.
We live in a world where terrible things happen every day, sometimes to people far away, and sometimes in our own homes and hearts. We are prompted to call out “How long O God?” in heartfelt lament. Mary is the one who hears these cries and meets us in our grief and anguish. Sibyl will be exploring Mary as the Mother of Sorrows in a couple of days. Mary as Mother of Mercy is her close sister. She is the one we long for, especially when we encounter our own frayed edges.
We see a world filled with violence toward one another, we ask for mercy.
We see children and the elderly dwelling in poverty, we ask for mercy.
We see the earth being slowly choked and poisoned, we ask for mercy.
We recognize the ways our own choices contribute to the above realities, we ask for mercy.
It is in the humbling journey toward lament and a reaching toward the mercy of Mary that we may meet ourselves in new ways. We learn to welcome in the vulnerable places. It is this revolution of tenderness that will move us to a new way of being in the world that relies less on force and power, and more on love and kindness.
View the powerful icon Our Lady Mother of Ferguson at this link>>
This reflection is excerpted from our self-study online retreat The Wisdom of Mary and the Sacred Feminine>>
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Dancing Monk Icon © Marcy Hall at Rabbit Room Arts