December 10, 2015

Theotokos: Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

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Theotokos: Thursday of the 2nd Week of Advent

He has looked upon His handmaid’s lowliness” (Luke 1:48)

Yesterday we tasted how Mary’s emptiness fostered her echo. Today we hear Mary glorifying God in her lowliness, and there is no coincidence. Empty leads to echo ... and suffering leads to emptiness. In Dawn of the Messiah, Edward Sri reminds us that the Greek word Mary uses to describe her lowliness is the word tapeinosin.  Somewhat paraphrasing Sri, tapeinosin describes not simply a spiritual humility but a condition of great suffering. In fact, the word was commonly used in the Old Testament to depict the affliction of God’s people when they were persecuted and oppressed but about to be rescued by God’s saving hand. For example, recalling how God once freed Israel from its slavery in Egypt, Psalm 136 says, ‘It is He who remembered us in our lowliness (tapeinosin) ... and rescued us from our foes.’”

As a Jewish woman living during the affliction of Roman occupation, Mary would have lived in the daily cry from a suffering people. The village of Nazareth and the people of Israel yearned for God to save them from their suffering.

Suffering is a tough reality for us. It is dismissed by our culture, yet pervades the life of everyone in it. Few of us embrace it, yet all of us face it. Suffering is a part of life. There is a lie whispered deep inside suffering that sounds something like, “I’m alone.” Thus, many of us run from suffering because we fear abandonment more than we fear suffering—none of us want to face suffering alone. Yet, Mary sings of her lowliness (tapeinosin) because she knows she is not alone. God has chosen her, so she need not run from suffering. She can remain empty, for God “has looked upon His handmaid’s lowliness.”

What’s your attitude toward suffering? Toward your suffering? Toward others’ suffering? Ask Mary how she dealt with suffering.

For your prayer

Mary would have often prayed with Psalm 22. Prep your imaginative prayer by slowly reading Psalm 22:1-8; 19-31. Use your spiritual senses and imaginatively pray with Mary in Luke 1:48

“Father, I ask to taste your love for me in my weakness. Help me not to run away from suffering, but to run to you in the suffering.”

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© Fr. Mark Toups, 2015