Sunday, September 8, 2013

This Is My Son...

The other day, I came across this picture of the virgin Mary gazing down upon a host & chalice. Catholics understand these implements (once they are consecrated by the priest at Mass) to be the body & blood of Christ. The bread & the wine both conceal & reveal His "real" presence. That is to say, the bread & wine still appear to be bread & wine to our senses, but they are no longer merely representations of Christ's body & blood... They become, somehow, Christ Himself.

When I initially saw this picture, I felt like Mary was doubting & maybe even a bit confounded by the concept of the Eucharist. But then, I'm probably just transferring my own feelings.
This is the woman who was visited by an angel & was miraculously impregnated by God's own Holy Spirit. This is the woman who carried the Son of God, Jesus, in the flesh, for 9 months in her own body. She nursed Him & watched Him grow into an adolescent, a teenager, & finally a man whom people followed. She watched from afar as He wandered around the countryside "with no place to rest His head". Imagine how this would make a mother feel! Did she swell with pride that her Son had become such a good man? Or did she think He had maybe lost His mind & fallen into the wrong lot- afterall, what kind of person would surround himself with sinners? What self respecting man in those days would put off  procuring a livelihood & settling down with a wife & kids? Jesus went around doing good, but in the end, He had nothing to show for it. He was mocked & hunted by the religious leaders who despised Him... In the end, He was abandoned & seen as nothing more than a blasphemer, crucified like scum. Mary must have been caught up in a swirl of emotions... sadness, outrage, maybe even doubt that He was Who He said He was. But whoever He was, He was still her son & she was losing Him to the injustice of popular opinion. Only John stood with her that day at the foot of the cross while the others looked on from a distance.

So fast forward a few years. Jesus rose from the dead & went back to Heaven. Pentecost has become a distant memory.  Now Mary lives a quiet life in Ephesus, in the house that John built. She breaks bread with the disciples there & hears them proclaim as Jesus did: "This is My body. This is My blood. Do this in remembrance of Me." What must she have thought as she partook of the Eucharist? Was Jesus "real" for her as her teeth ripped into the bread... as she drank the cup of wine? Was she numb? Did she weep? Was she filled with joy or doubt? Was she at all aware that Jesus was supposedly as real in that moment as He had once been in her own womb, in her home, in her heart? Did she echo the words of God the Father with confidence:  "This is My Son, in Whom I am well pleased" or did she just have to take those words by faith, like the rest of us?

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