For our Lord gave me no revelation about any particular individual except our Lady Saint Mary; and he showed her three times. The first was as she was conceived, the second was as she was in her sorrows at the foot of the cross, and the third as she is now, in delight, honour and joy.Julian of Norwich. Revelations of Divine Joy; Long Text, Chapter 25.
I wrote this series of three posts on and around International Woman’s Day. The women in Jesus’ life I find absolutely crucial in drawing out for us the fullness of his divine nature. They act as looking glasses into compassion, equality, intimacy, forbearance, loyalty, intuition and courage.
The first way that St Mary was shown to Julian was as she was conceived, before she had done anything right or wrong, before she had experienced anything of life outside of the womb. I’m sure she led a very quiet and very ordinary life, just like many of ours. And yet, God’s choice of her was predestined (following a broad understanding of Romans 8:30). She certainly hadn’t earned her place in history, her calling seems to have come as quite a shock to her. And yet, whatever her life looked like prior to the Annunciation, her response was one of complete humility in the midst of that mystery; she had peace in the midst of unknowing. We know that Mary pondered these things in her heart, she would have had many many questions no doubt. It’s unlikely that she really understood the full implications of what was going on. And yet, she simply obeyed and submitted to the will of her Father.
Do we ever really know what’s going on? The last few years of my own life has brought a testimony to the answer being, probably not. How much choice do we really have? How much of our lives are spent following God’s leading without realising it? How do we respond to the mystery of God in our lives? Are we willing to simply obey and submit, pondering these things in our heart? St Mary is the archetype of the humility of what it means to truly follow. For if we draw close to God, it is unlikely that we will miss anything of real value.