Immaculate Heart of Mary

[Scripture Readings: Is 61:9-11; Lk 2:41-51] At Mississippi Abbey

“Mary kept all these things in her heart.” The heart is the core of a person. When it is affected-as in falling in or out of love-one’s whole way of thinking about the world and of feeling it is profoundly and permanently altered. When so affected at the core, one realizes her whole life is at stake. This is what happened to Mary; it is what happens to anyone who has a vocation, marital or monastic.

The heart was made to worship, to give itself totally to something. About that, Blaise Pascal has said that “the heart has its reasons that reason cannot understand.” But it is worth trying. It is a worthy, most worthy, use of reason.

And so we have answered the call to a contemplative vocation, a vocation to ponder what seems to constantly elude our hearts, yet we constantly seek it. It eludes us because we experience our hearts as fragile. We hide them from ourselves.

Today we mark the immaculate heart of Mary. And the gospel is about her seeking. It is, perhaps, immaculate in part because she does not experience it as fragile, but as powerful. (And God is first and foremost a power.)

She takes the movements of her heart as being from Him. So rather than hide her heart she ponders. She experiences the agony of searching for a lost child. She recalls the confusion and mystery of the annunciation and the joy of the visitation. She remembers the flight into Egypt. She will feel that power again when Jesus’ preaching is causing controversy and she tries to bring Him home with her. And she will experience it at the foot of the cross. She will not avoid its power. She will let the power of the Father do its work.

We who would be contemplatives are called to face the power of the heart and how God uses it to call us to Himself. Facing this power and allowing it to work is how conversion is different from mere socialization in religious life. In facing that power we must allow the heart to be broken… and then we listen to it. We learn the meaning of: “A humbled and contrite heart you will not spurn.”

When, with the immaculate heart of Mary, we have renounced the fragility of the heart and allowed its power, we also learn, with her, the meaning of “My spirit rejoices in God my savior; He looks on His servant in her nothingness; His mercy is from age to age; He scatters the proud hearted and raises the lowly; He protects His servant.”