In her classic contemplation on Mary entitled, The Reed of God, Caryll Houselander wrote, “That virginal quality, for want of a better word, I call emptiness.” Mary’s virginity can be more personally understood through her profound emptiness.
Numbers 30:4-6 outlines prescriptions for a Jewish woman vowed to perpetual virginity and complete consecration to the Lord. Steeped in Biblical wisdom, the early Desert Fathers wrote that Mary vowed such Old Testament consecration, embracing the fullness of Biblical virginity. In other words, Mary had long intended to remain a virgin and had made such a promise to God before and after the betrothal.
Mary’s virginity points us to her emptiness. She was empty of anything that was not of God. She was empty of anything that would prevent her from resting in her deep union with the Father. Yes, she was empty; however, her emptiness wasn’t a “lacking” in essence. Her emptiness came from her deep union, a union so important to her that she had made a vow of virginity even as a married woman.
Many of us panic at the sheer thought of emptiness. A subtly compulsive need of always having to have something fill us is an epidemic fed by the pace at which we live. We are encouraged to fill our lives with more and more so that we won’t have to face our fear of emptiness. The emptiness of the Theotokos is an invitation to us. What needs to be emptied from our lives? What are we filling our lives with, yet remaining unfulfilled in the end?
Spend some time with Mary and ask her what needs emptying so that you might receive as she did.
For your prayer
Mary would have often prayed with Psalm 63. Prep your imaginative prayer by slowly reading Psalm 63. Then, imaginatively pray with Luke 1:27 and ask the Holy Spirit to “show” you Mary in Nazareth.
“Father, I ask for the grace today to empty my heart of anything that is not of you.”
"The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth” (Luke 1:26)
Nazareth was a small village of Galilee in northern Palestine. To many, it was a town of little or no importance. In fact, in John 1:46, Nathanael scoffs at the village’s insignificance as he asks, “What good can come from Nazareth?”
As an insignificant village tucked away on the outskirts of the Sea of Galilee, there wasn’t much was happening in Nazareth. It was small. It was poor. It was simple. The pace of life in Nazareth was much like the pace of life in any small town. Nazareth escaped the hustle and bustle of the big city.
The city was small. Life was simple. The pace was slower.
Mary, as a native of Nazareth, would have had an inner disposition reflective of the village she grew up in. The outer pace of Nazareth helped create an inner pace within Mary.
The secular Christmas season we find ourselves in is anything but small, simple, and slow. In fact, for many of us, the pace of life quickens as Christmas nears. There are presents to buy, parties to attend, and holidays to plan.
As the world around us accelerates into frenzy, Advent actually invites us to slow down. Just as Nazareth’s pace formed the Theotokos, Mary wants to slow us down so that we can receive as she did.
Slow down. Get quiet. Listen. After all, what’s the rush? What are we really preparing for?
For your prayer
Mary would have often prayed with Psalm 131. Prep your imaginative prayer by slowly reading Psalm 131. Then, imaginatively pray with Luke 1:26 and ask the Holy Spirit to “show” you life in Nazareth.
“Father, regardless of how busy my life is on the outside, I pray that you will help me slow down on the inside.”
Theotokos: Introduction for the First Week of Advent
“The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth” (Luke 1:26)
It all started in Nazareth.
Nazareth was a poor, small village laughable to the Romans who occupied her and insignificant to the Jews who surrounded her.
That’s how God liked it, for when God saw Nazareth. He saw emptiness, humility, and utter dependency. For God that’s a recipe for Glory. When God gazed on Nazareth He saw her—Mary, His chosen Theotokos.
It was in Nazareth that young Mary lived. She was in her early teens … and she was searching for God’s will. She was in love with God … and she desired to love Him with her whole being. She was in Nazareth … and she went to pray … and that’s where our journey begins.