Why has Mary, Jesus’ mom, fascinated so many people for so long? Why do some of our notions about her border on mythological and magical? Similarly, when it comes to Mary Magdalene, why do Dan Brown (and others) speculate she was married to Jesus? There’s something about “Mary”, and it seems to me they provide incredible models for how to live and be in the world. Mary shows us surrender is the path to shalom. When we let go of our small selves, we allow the Spirit of Christ to be born within us!
Something easily missed, and quite scandalous, in the Christmas story is Mary became pregnant with a baby that was NOT her husband’s. While Christians today generally believe God miraculously became a human as Jesus via the Spirit in Mary’s belly, near as we can tell, virtually NOBODY believed that during Jesus’ life. He would have been seen as an illegitimate child, which would have been HIGHLY shameful to Mary and her husband Joseph. YET, when an angel visited her before she became pregnant and shared God’s plans with her, knowing full well the communal gossip, cultural finger pointing, and all around judgment giving birth to the Christ would bring, Mary said: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
I don’t know about you, but it’s SUPER easy for me to live in need of other’s approval, in fear of their judgments, anxious I’ll be accepted and affirmed, worried I’ll be seen as enough, and so on … YET, when I let go of these aspects of my small self, and surrender to the Divine desires of healing the hurting, cheering the struggling on, nourishing the hungry, lifting the fallen, bringing people together, walking with the broken, believing the best of others, and celebrating life together … All I can say is WOW! Christ comes again in me.
While I believe Mary giving literal and physical birth to the Christ was a onetime actual event, I also have a hunch The Second Coming of Christ isn’t so much just a onetime event in the future, as it is a daily spiritual occurrence within those who surrender their small, ego-driven selves to allow divine shalom to flow through them.
Shalom is one of my favorite words. While this jammed-packed Hebrew word is usually translated “peace”, it means SO much more! Shalom is harmony, wholeness, goodness, thriving, flourishing, peace (in every sense of the word), and unity. It’s everything as God intended it (and the crowd went wild!). This is perhaps the best word I can come up with when it comes to describing the experience and energy of surrendering like Mary. The spiritual practice of surrendering is a powerful mystery, as the more I let my smallness die for Christ and become a conduit of Divine shalom, the more alive I become! While to let go in this manner is scary, it’s nothing less than a move from my tiny ego-guided self into a Divine bigness, richness, and depth that blows my mind.
In keeping with this, a central theme of Christianity is givingness. The rhythm and energy of the Way of Christ is giving one’s self away for the benefit of others and creation, and the mystery is that in the giving we find the full Trueness of our selves. Not only is this the attitude Mary embodied, it’s the essence of Jesus’ life. The Greek word in the Bible for it is kenosis, which means “self-emptying”. In one of the earliest written words about the Christ, quoted by St. Paul in Philippians 2.6-11, it describes how while Christ was God, he gave himself away like a servant for the benefit of others, SO much so that he was killed. YET, as this very givingness is at the heart of the Divine, he was then exalted above all!
While we don’t see it much in the Bible, from Church tradition and history we learn this was the way of being in the world Mary Magdalene embodied. Early on she was declared “The Apostle of the Apostles”. In a manner of speaking, while Mother Mary brought Jesus into the world, Mary Magdalene was one who showed the Christ to the world. She was a conduit of shalom who told/showed others what embodying Christ’s Way of self-sacrificial, others-oriented Love looked like!
There’s something about “Mary” speaking to me about how to draw closer to God and others than ever before. It’s letting go AND joining in. It’s dying TO live. It’s giving AS receiving. It’s realizing decreasing IS increasing. Mother Mary shows us how surrender is letting go of our small selves, identities, successes, failures, desires, and points of view to become willing recipients for the birth of Christ’s spirit (something bigger than words can express) within us. Likewise, Mary Magdalene models how the same path also makes us joyous participants in God’s nourishing and healing of the world.
Surrender and participate. Let go and join in. This is the message of Good News I’m receiving from Mary, and I hope it blesses you! I find the more I engage in mindfulness practices (like yoga, meditation, contemplation, and mindful movement), the more surrendered and receptive to God’s goodness, and better conduit for spreading heaven’s shalom I become! What are your thoughts and experiences?
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