Musings December 2018 Edition 31
By the Reverend Monsignor Harry Entwistle,
In celebrating the birth of Our Lord Jesus at Christmas, we are celebrating the fact that
because God became human, there must be something about humanity that enables God to be encountered through it. The gift of life itself is God given, and our gift to choose whether we
love him is also respected by God. Among other things, these two come together in the person of Our Lady, because through her, each of us including God, has a mother.
Without Mary, our salvation would have taken another path. We give her praise and honour at Christmas, not simply because of her female reproductive system but because of who she is, her love and her consent. God did not approach her with a command, but sent his archangel Gabriel to ask her consent to be the mother of the one who was to be our King.
I am sure she would have obeyed a command but obedience and consent are not always synonymous. By saying, ‘Yes’ to God, she behaved as a true feminist. God respected her free-will, treating her as a human person with her own capability for thought, understanding and love. She freely chose to give her consent and did so lovingly, knowing that such a choice had serious religious and social implications not only for her, but also for Joseph her betrothed, and for the child she would carry. Through her choice she was true to herself and to God and made herself known to him and he made himself known to her (Jenn Riley, Mary was a Feminist, 2018).
Jan van Eych’s (c1390-1441) portrayal of the Annunciation captures this intimate reciprocal relationship between Mary and God. He portrays the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove entering Mary, with a bowl of white lilies symbolising her virginity next to her. The tiles on the floor show tableaux from the Old Testament, said to point to the coming of the Redeemer. On the painting itself, Gabriel’s words are inscribed in Latin, “Hail, Full of Grace”. Mary’s response, “Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord”, are painted upside down to indicate they are heard from God’s perspective. In this way, the intimate relationship between God and Mary is clearly visible.
During Advent and at Christmas the themes of life and choice, as opposed to death and command, are threads that are worthy of our reflection. Our faith, tells us that life is a God given gift which usually, but not always, results from the choice of a woman to enter into a procreative union with a man. If pregnancy is seen as God’s gift, then despite social implications, inconvenience or pressure from others, like Mary, the response must be, “Be it unto me according to your word”. When women see themselves as little more than reproductive factories, then it is easier to comply with the secular command to ‘think only of yourself’.Our faith also tells us that the gift of life is our assurance of God’s love for us, and we are free to choose to live it to its completion in relationship with him or treat the gift as a right and comply to the growing commands that when it becomes inconvenient or ‘unbearable’ to others or ourselves, we assume the right to end it.
Christmas tells us that life is a gift. Life is not always easy as it was not easy for Our Lady, but it is always precious.
The culture of death is ever with us as humans, who like Adam and Eve, continue to reject God’s gift to eat from the tree of life, and choose to be our own god and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Jesus said,
“I am come that you might have life, and have it to the full”, John 10:10
May God bless you all as you celebrate his gift of life and the cost of accepting it. Happy
Christmas and a Blessed New Year.
Our Lady of the Southern Cross, pray for us.
Monsignor Entwistle is the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Educated at St Chad's Theological College, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. After reception into the Roman Catholic Church, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Perth on 15 June 2012.