Mary's Fiat

"Fiat voluntas tua... Let it happen to me..."

"The `fiat' of the Mother of the Lord is the most humble thing that the maiden can say or accomplish . . . Since she binds herself entirely to God, she becomes entirely free in God . . . She is infinitely at the disposal of the Infinite. She is absolutely ready for everything, for a great deal more, therefore, than she can know, imagine or begin to suspect. Coming from God, this yes is the highest grace; but, coming from us, it is also the highest achievement made possible by grace: unconditional, definitive self-surrender. It is at once faith, hope and love. It is also the original vow, out of which arises every form of definitive Christian commitment to God and in God. It is the synthesis of love and obedience" -from A First Glance at Adrienne von Speyr by Hans urs von Balthasar

Adrienne von Speyr's inspirational insights into Mary permeate all of her writings. The late German mystic and dear friend and guide to Hans Urs Von Balthasar, is probably equal in her eloquence on the Mother of God to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, yet somehow Adrienne's words about Mary never gild the lily. Mary's simplicity remains. Adrienne sees Mary's `fiat' as the model or goal of all prayer. In learning to pray we are always reaching for that total freedom before God that radiates full of wonder, fear and light - from the annunciation account in the Gospel of Luke. And even though there have been volumes and volumes written about Mary, the stark and simple Gospel accounts are our first introduction to the girl who became the Mother of God.

The Lukan portraits at the beginning of his Gospel and a handful of accounts in the other Gospels are the only sources we have of this woman during her time on earth. And yet these few sources are the veritable tiny mustard seed which has given birth to a tree so immense, and still growing. Try to imagine all the books you have seen on Mary, or try even to name the great cathedrals beginning with Notre Dame. Think of the endless writings of the saints, and the encyclicals, and the devotions. Now think of the apparitions and the purported apparitions. And now the images! No other image in western art has expressed more tenderness, compassion, warmth, invitation. Mary is always embracing, hugging, sheltering, kissing, lifting, reaching, praying - either for us or her son.

At times she has the delicate tenderness of the Khwan Yin, the Oriental goddess of mercy; and at other times she is a formidable tower of loving strength. She is a wide-eyed child, spellbound by the apparition of an angel, or a little slip of a girl with a baby almost too big for her arms. She is a frightened teenager being led away from violence and mayhem in the middle of the night by her young husband; and she is the girl on the brink of the salvation of humankind being promised a maturity of pain for herself and her child. She is the frantic mother of a lost child; the perceptive woman who quietly nudges her son out of the nest and into his ministry of signs and wonders at the festal table of a wedding. And then she is the Mater Dolorosa whose promised pain has reached its zenith as she watches her son's murder, and witnessing the Light fade from the world; and then cradles, once again, her naked child in poverty, in humility, in a faith which is beyond words.

She is the mother who knows and understands all mothers. It was from the Cross itself that Jesus gave her to us as mother. And who hasn't blundered into a darkened church and come upon some mother in front of an image of Mary silently begging, or gazing or weeping-one mother to another and felt that this dialogue was sacred and to be left private. Or who hasn't turned to Mary (perhaps with the "Memorare") in the privacy of one's heart and pleaded for some intention, for someone's life or health, some impossible dream, some lessening of pain?

Ages and ages of Christian pilgrims have travelled to the shrines of Mary where she is variously depicted as a young Aztec Indian girl at Guadalupe, as a black madonna at Montserrat, or the ageless mother of Michelangelo's Pieta.

Yet somehow, somewhere the devotion to or the love of Mary began to go awry. Possibly the Medieval church had made God so frightening to the people that they felt that Mary and the saints were their only comforts and supports. It was during this time that Mary began to attain the attributes or the role of the Holy Spirit- as consoler, as mercy, as the source or mediatrix of grace. Yves Congar in the first volume of his trilogy I Believe in the Holy Spirit states, "Catholics attribute to Mary what really belongs to the Holy Spirit and, in extreme cases, they give her a place that should be occupied by the Paraclete...Mary has a pre-eminent place in the Christian mystery as the model of the church and of universal intercession. This is the work of the Spirit in her. That is why Christians try to model their lives according to the image of Mary, who welcomed Christ and gave him to the world, and they pray to her so that this may be accomplished in them . . . Protestants are right to reject an attribution to Mary of what belongs only to God, but they are wrong if they remain closed to the witness borne by Catholic and Orthodox Christians to the benefit in their lives in Christ of a discreet Marian influence."

St. Ildefonso of Toledo who died in the year 667 summed up all of these insights in a prayer which we can make our own. "I pray to you, holy Virgin: that I may receive Jesus myself from that Spirit who enabled you to conceive Jesus. May my soul receive Jesus through that Spirit who enabled your flesh to conceive that same Jesus ...May I love Jesus in that Spirit in whom you adore him yourself as your Lord and in whom you contemplate him as your Son."

Mary said: Here is the slave of the Lord. May it happen to me as you have said. -Luke 1:38

Mary -- Mother of God
A Life of Immense, Personal Faith
At the Annunciation-Saying yes to God
At Bethlehem-Bringing forth the Son of God
At Jerusalem-Anxious at His disappearance
At Cana-Expecting His yes
At Jerusalem-Her Son's trial and suffering
At Calvary-Emptiness at His death
At the Garden-Glory in His Resurrection
At Pentecost-Faith confirmed by the Spirit

Jesuit Bulletin. Spring 1984. p.8-10. Electronically Reproduced with Permssion of the Publisher.

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