In my advent journal this week there was a meditation about how Mary “longed for what God was asking of her.” The meditation referred to how Mary asked “be it done unto me according to Thy Word,” when the Angel Gabriel told her she would be the Mother of God. It continued to talk about how Mary’s yes would have been a continuation of other yes’s in her life; that she would have had a habit of saying yes to God’s will for her. The combination of the two thoughts made me curious, was Mary longing for this her whole life? What if the Angel Gabriel was the answer to a calling she had always felt?
According to some historians, Joan of Arc always knew she would be a great soldier, but no one believed her. It would not have made sense to believe her at the time, women did not fight. Yet when God called her to be a soldier, Joan said, “I am not afraid, I was born to do this.” The Angel Gabriel tells Mary not to be afraid when he appears to her, and today, the Immaculate Conception feast day, we celebrate our belief that she was born to do this, so it doesn’t seem too out of touch to suppose that maybe Mary knew just as Joan of Arc did, though perhaps she would not have said anything because if people wouldn’t believe Joan of Arc was destined to be a soldier, how could we expect them to believe Mary would be the Virgin Mother of God?
Often, Mary is described as this kind of perfect blank canvas, as if the only good thing about her was that she was nothing at all except open to God, but that is not what Catholics believe we are meant to be, so why do we expect that of Mary? I believe she was a real person with emotions, passions, and desires, and meditating on her longing for God’s will in her life, really helps me to imagine who she would have been. God uses our desires to guide us towards His will, so I wonder if we can learn about her through what He asked of her.
We know very little of Mary, basically that she was a consecrated virgin, betrothed to a widower, from a quiet family and town. Based on what God would eventually ask of her, I wonder, did she long for a child? Did she allow herself to be consecrated knowing that she wanted a child? Did she know that she would have a child even though she was consecrated? Did she know her child was going to be God Himself before the Angel told her?
I keep imagining that she did long for a child and she knew there would be something important about Him, although maybe not the fullness of it. I keep thinking what courage it would have taken to consecrate her virginity knowing that she had that desire. Many times in life, I have had experiences when it seemed like there was no hope for what I really wanted, but then God pulled it out of thin air in a way I never could have guessed, and I keep wondering if that is what happened to Mary. Over and over again I have heard the same story, people have a desire that seems absolutely crazy, but God fulfills in a grander more amazing way than anyone could ever have imagined. What a deep meaning that would lend to the Magnificat? Was Mary filled with gratitude for an answer to prayers she had prayed her whole life long?
What do you think? How do you imagine Mary before her story in Scripture begins? What do you think she was thinking and feeling when the Angel Gabriel came to her?