Again, it seems that the whole
Church was there for Her burial rites - but all this is only hearsay, only
tales. As is the story that Her tomb too was found, empty. Neither body
nor flesh was there.
Depending where you are in the church, the
Feast of The Assumption, or the Feast of the Dormition, or simply The Feast
of Our Lady will be celebrated with various kinds of pomp and ceremony.
I personally do not ask anyone to believe any, or all, or even some of
this story. That I personally believe in it with my whole heart is beside
For me, the point is this. The Lady Mary
was no milk and water, silly virgin who had dreams of glory and specialness.
She was no milk and water doting mother. Even as a comparative child she
knew the hardness of real life. Her spirit was stronger than any flesh,
any conformity with even the most moral of society pressures.
Called to be a Tabernacle.
First Her Obedience. At one stage in His
journeying the crowd kicked up a fuss - 'Your mother is here!' and
"Blessed be the womb that bore you'. For Jesus the thing that made Her
special was not that She gave birth to Him. "The One who hears the Word
of God and does it, this is my Mother"..
For we are all called to give birth to
a new and sacred being through the spirit. Whether we are male or female,
we are to receive the seed of the spirit and give of the substance of our
flesh, the nurturance of our minds, our time, talents and love, to bring
that being to birth. She did it. Regardless of Her parents, Her risk of
being stoned, regardless of all. She was the first Tabernacle of
His mortal life. The Orthodox call her Theotokos, God bearer. This too
is our essential vocation.
Second, She carried all that She didn't
understand in Her heart, and dwelled on it. Where another might put off
doing this and that until the whole was analysed and grasped, Ahe carried
all these mysteries. Her life was transformed. She could never again pretend
to be a 'normal' woman. She was going to be lonely in a way that no one
could understand, as Ahe was going to have companionship of a depth and
quality that most humans do not share. But Ahe did it humbly. It was not
her role to swing round in silks and jewels and call Herself the mother
of God. It was not Her style. I think of Her working away at the
laundry on the day of Her death, like any other woman. Being a little tired,
and wishful to lie down, as many a woman has before and since, and I am
filled with tenderness and fellow feeling.
But this woman truly lived the Transfigured
life. She saw and knew the Spirit intimately, and proceeded to live life
as everyone else seems to. Carrying lunch out to Her Son and his disciples
when they preached, walking with Him to the cross. Caring for them when
he had 'gone'. This Poet of the Spirit made a work of art, a treasure
of Her life, fit to bear Him.
We are meant to be like Her. With our own
individual gifts and treasures, offering our whole selves to be the
Tabernacle of the Living Spirit, calling attention, not to ourselves, but
to the light of truth which is, already, under every nose. We are more
than we seem. We are more than we allow ourselves to be. Her great teaching
is that there is no teaching. There is only the depth of being. The graciousness
of service. The depth of love expressed in Her 'being with'.
She was 'with' the disciples', 'with the
women', with the Spirit.
She is 'with' Him in Heaven. The old Anglo-Saxon
hymn has it 'Stond wel, moder, under the cross'. She stands well, and those
around Her draw strength for their own work.
There is a legend that I do believe to be
true. That She walks the earth, speaks with the Great Antagonist strives
with him on our behalf. That she is 'with' us. On our side, and by our
side in the great dark times.
I do believe it. Her quiet, steady, poetic,
nurturing strength is there as a lesson, and is a rescue and vocation for
each of us.
She is the picture of the transfigured disciple.
The picture of who we are. She is uniquely Herself. She calls to us to
be - uniquely - transformed by both the immanence and the transcendence
That is what this long season of Trinity
is truly for. That the yeast in us may leaven us into becoming the Bread
of Life. That our Spirits are strong. Strong enough to change the
world. It is not surprising that He loved her frail flesh so much
that He came Himself, to take it tenderly in His arms direct to heaven.
(I love the way He holds Her in the picture above, as a mother holds her
baby). She had brought, after all, so much of Heaven bodily into the mortal
earth. Even so does He most tenderly cradle us, body and soul, could
we but see it. Even so might we most tenderly cradle this poor bewildered
mortality of ours, our earth, our family, our friends, might we but see
it. Might we believe it. Might we but do it.