Many years ago, and I mean many, I was a student at Siena Heights College (now University) enduring a bitterly cold Michigan winter and wondering what I could do for advent. The cold and wispy gray of the season inspired me to search for some appropriate advent reading when one of my Dominican professors suggested I read Caryll Houselander’s reflective masterpiece, The Reed of God. “It will open your mind and heart to embrace the Mother of God,” she said. And it did. In fact, at least once during every advent since, I take something from this short but thoughtful book to make part of my advent reflections.
I’ll tell you more about the author in a future blog but for now I want to focus on the message of radical kindness that Mary, the Mother of God, practiced in anticipation of Jesus’ birth.
When she heard of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Mary became concerned and undertook the journey to Elizabeth’s home to offer her assistance mostly out of love for her cousin but also because of Elizabeth’s advanced age. This was ultimate radical kindness. Mary, an adolescent, pregnant and unmarried, risked a journey along some pretty threatening roads leading to Elizabeth. Undoubtedly, there were thieves along the way. Perhaps she shared her meager food and water with others in need. I have no doubt she was more frightened than not.
But she arrives at Elizabeth’s doorstep. And a rousing welcome takes place. The two women kick up the dust of the dirt floor and swirl in a thrilling, excited dance. They embrace each other and sing. The son of Elizabeth joins in moving ecstatically according to Elizabeth’s own words: “The child in my womb has leapt for joy.”
Yes, there is a rather extended scriptural and scholarly theology about this event but let’s just take it at its simple face value. Houselander mentions that the joy, relief, and kindness of Mary’s visit as something that truly convinces Elizabeth that Mary is the “Mother of my God.” Houselander says:
“If Christ is growing in us, if we are at peace, recollected, because we know
that however insignificant our life seems to be, from it He is forming
Himself; if we go with eager wills, “in haste,” to wherever our circumstances
compel us, because we believe He desires us to be in that place, we shall find
we are driven more and more to act on the impulse of His love.”
To all my Anonymous Angels out there—and those of you I do know, perhaps the following will inspire some reflection during this advent:
1. As I open my heart “like an umbrella,” I will notice who needs my love and kindness. Will I extend kindness to them?
2. Am I discerning where I need to go “in haste?” It’s the place where He wants me to be sharing the “impulse of His love,” a love only I can give. Will I do this?
Will I go?