Posted by: Thomas Richard | August 13, 2012

A Contemplative Spirit

“She kept all these things in her heart.” the Virgin Mary demonstrates a humble openness to matters of God – matters she did not understand at first. Mary does not insist on everything from God being immediately simple, plain and clear. Mary teaches us something about patience in the midst of holy mysteries.

Lk 2:48 And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”
Lk 2:49 And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Lk 2:50 And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them.
Lk 2:51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

Mary, the Mother of our Lord, demonstrates a related quality that comes easily to some, but may require intention and commitment of others: a contemplative spirit. Some have this gift and live it easily – as did another Mary, the sister of Martha. Martha heard Jesus point to her sister Mary as an example for her, that she also might develop this virtue, a virtue the Lord called the one thing needful.

Lk 10:38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house.
Lk 10:39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
Lk 10:40 But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
Lk 10:41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;
Lk 10:42 one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Two Marys, one example of the human essential. Commenting on Mary the Mother of our Lord, Card. Ratzinger said the following in the book, Mary – The Church at the Source (Ignatius Press 2005, p. 71):

… with the scene centering on the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple. The first stage is “they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them” (Lk 2:50). Even for the believing man who is entirely open to God, the words of God are not comprehensible and evident right away. Those who demand that the Christian message be as immediately understandable as any banal statement hinder God. Where there is no humility to accept the mystery, no patience to receive interiorly what one has not yet understood, to carry it to term, and to let it open at its own pace, the seed of the word has fallen on rocky ground; it has found no soil.
Even the Mother does not understand the Son at this moment, but once again she “kept all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:51).

Every human person must listen to this, and hear it. A contemplative spirit, a listening and remembering heart, a focus on the holy truth of God – this is essential to us all. There must be humility. There must be patience. There must be a heart of good ground, allowing the mystery of God’s truth to be carried to term and come forth in holy wisdom. We see here in the Blessed Mother Mary an essential characteristic of a disciple of her Son. We see it in the example of Mary the sister of Martha. And we see in Martha, a woman caught in a busyness that distracted her from the one thing necessary, something to be overcome in us all.  As Jesus said, it is a choice to be chosen.  We cannot allow ourselves to hide behind busyness, or be distracted by the noise and the empty activity of this world.

We must develop in ourselves an attitude of prayer. We must learn to listen to Him, so as to hear – really hear – God who speaks to us. We must look so as to find Him, here and now, present every moment. What a tragedy it would be to realize too late that the very One we have been seeking was all the while right beside us, waiting for us to know Him.

What Pope Benedict XVI said bears repeating:

“Even for the believing man who is entirely open to God, the words of God are not comprehensible and evident right away. Those who demand that the Christian message be as immediately understandable as any banal statement hinder God. Where there is no humility to accept the mystery, no patience to receive interiorly what one has not yet understood, to carry it to term, and to let it open at its own pace, the seed of the word has fallen on rocky ground; it has found no soil.”

(See also The One Thing Necessary blog post.)


Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thank you for this important message so close to the Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption. As you point out so well, Mary is both Mother and Model for all who strive to develop a contemplative spirit.

    In the same book you quoted, the then Cardinal Ratzinger continued:

    “In Mary the true greatness and surpassing simplicity of Christian mysticism emerges into view: it does not consist in extraordinary phenomena, in raptures and visions, but in the abiding exchange of creaturely existence with the Creator, so that the creature becomes ever more pervious to Him, truly one with Him in a holy union at once bridal and maternal.” (p.73)

    Mary and Joseph as they searched for the Child, did not understand why He was not with them, nor did they understand His words to them, when they found Him, but they continued faithfully to keep their hearts open to hear more as they returned to their quiet home in Nazareth. Martha was willing to listen to Jesus and learn as her sister Mary learned. All of us who desire to be saints, need to learn moment by moment from Him Who is Humble of Heart. All of us are called to union with God, and we need to hear and cooperate with Love Who calls us.

    Our Lady’s Assumption encourages us further because in Mary we see all that we as Church are called to be! We see in her our return to the Father, through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We see by faith, our Mother in Faith, who kept all these things in her heart.

  2. Thomas,

    Well said and thank you,

    This morning I had the pleasure of attending Mass. Father Bob’s Homily was all about St. Maximilian Kolbe whose Feast Day is Aug.14 the day before the Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption.
    Until today I had never known of St. Maximilian so my Catholic knowledge was expanded.
    St. Maximilian was truly inspired by Mary as he spent most of his life promoting the Consecration and Entrustment to Mary.
    He said that the way to Jesus was through his Mother Mary.
    I also understand that one of the few times he became angry was defending Mary.
    One of the last words spoken by Jesus on the cross was:
    “Woman, this is your son”.
    Then he said to the disciple:
    “This is your mother.”
    Gospel of John 19:26-27

    I personally feel we are all that disciple of which Jesus was referring to and I know my faith has been strengthened since realizing that she is My Mother.

  3. Hi Thomas,

    I recently purchased a HP Street mp3 player. The only files loaded in this tiny machine is the Scriptural Rosary. It takes about one hour and twenty minutes to go through all the mysteries.

    Yesterday while walking in one of our Canada Trails, I had the chance to listen carefully, ponder and meditate on these mysteries.

    How fortunate we are to have the mother of God here, with us, willing to help realize how profound her son’s teaching are through the rosary.

    To achieve any degree of holiness, one must be malleable and let himself be guided by the teaching of the Magistarium, read the bible daily, pray and also read the lives of the Saints.


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