Mama

My mother is having surgery today.  She needs to have a full tear in her rotator cuff repaired – a surgery that is not uncommon.  But, I admit… I’m still worried.

Yes, I’m a bit of a worrier, what can I say?

Of course, I hope and pray that all will go well – that God will guide the hands and minds of the surgeon and all who are involved, according to His Perfect Will.  And I do trust in God’s goodness.  (All prayers are welcome!)

I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a little of my mother with you.

So much more to me than a mother is she, although a mother is beyond good and beautiful, a wonderful wonder to be…

I’ve always been disabled, but mothers are supposed to take care of their children.  Now that I am an adult with great dependence and need, my mother is still my caregiver – even though, through the years, her own physical abilities have declined and racked her body beyond her age.  Being a hard worker, selfless, and stubborn, she pushes through pain and weakness, shuffling, bent over, dragging herself to do what she feels needs to be done.  As a woman, she is a marvel.  As a mother, she is a treasure.  And, as a human being, she is my friend, one of my favorite people in the world.

Hoping that this doesn’t sound too sacrilegious, I was thinking the other day of how my words to describe my mother are many of the same words that I use to describe Christ.

She is my rock.  Not only because she is tough, but also because her gifts and talents are constants, reliable, always there when I need them.  She is the firm foundation of our family.  No matter what the many things that assail her, if I really need her, she finds a way.

She is my refuge.  Everyone who has ever come to our house knows that my mother’s home is a true home, not only for her family, but for everyone invited, who all feel comfortable and lavishly pampered in a house of love.

She is my light.  When my mother is happy, everything is easy, music and laughter fill the house, and we deliciously delight in each other’s company.  Even when she isn’t happy, if I have a small decision to make, if I’m not quite sure how to do something or move forward, my mother is the one to whom I turn.  Her practical wisdom is unmatched (even if she doesn’t always take her own advice!)

As we are preparing for Christmas (my mother’s favorite time of year) these thoughts about my own mother make me think about Christ’s relationship with his.  Aren’t many of the things that I said about my mom true about many good mothers?  Of course, the mother of Jesus is exceptional – there is no denying that.  Mystery of Mysteries, God chose her to be His own mother.  How he must have loved her!  But… my mother is exceptional, too.  As disabled as her body is, she pushes through her pain and weakness and cares for me (and I so don’t deserve it – no arguing.)  And she cares for others with love and joy, with a selfless generosity that goes beyond being a “good” mom or even a great one.  And… mystery of mysteries, God chose her to be my mother.

I thank You, my Lord and my God, for the amazing person whom I am honored and privileged to call, “Mama”!  Watch over her and take good care of her, please, helping her to recover fully and well, with as little pain as possible.

© 2017 Christina Chase

Art of My Heart: The Annunciation

Perhaps you, like I, have looked upon many artistic depictions of biblical scenes and have been left wanting.  Jesus’s hair is way too long and pretty, everyone’s garments are far too pink and blue, the buildings and courtyards are inordinately clean, etc., etc.  I’ve written on this subject before.  Loving beauty and truth, I want to be both aesthetically pleased and spiritually impacted.  Good religious art should cause me to be powerfully moved by the beauty and meaning of the piece, powerfully taken back to the moment depicted.  In other words, I want to be spiritually transported by the aesthetic image to feel myself present at a moment when Heaven touched Earth.

And so much art just doesn’t get that done for me.

There are exceptions, of course, and I have reflected on them from time to time in this blog.  One exceptional work of art has recently been purchased by me (in the form of a print bought through AllPosters.com) to hang on my bedroom wall.  (My awesome parents are helping me to mount and secure it as I write this.  So many blessings for which to be thankful!)

It’s a depiction of the Annunciation by Henry O. Tanner.

Before I show it to you, if you aren’t familiar with it already, a little on the traditional depictions of the Annunciation.  I do appreciate them, typically with symbolic touches, usually with the winged angel kneeling before the Virgin Mary, who looks humble, pious, and open to what she is hearing.  The work of Fra Angelico comes to mind:

Annunciation, Fra Angelico

(Check out a wonderfully informative video on this work and other frescoes by clicking HERE.)

But, the angel, Gabriel, is as usual, lavishly and heavily garbed and Mary is so very calm and serene.  And, for some reason, this doesn’t strike my heart.  In Fra Angelico’s work, the pair look like they are in some Italian portico, in others,, young Mary has a greatly receding hairline.  I am willing to look beyond the contemporary “fashion” details that an artist will add in keeping with his time – if, and only if, I am taken in by a look in the face, a gesture of a hand, a radiant light….  Too often, however, details not contemporary to Scripture get in the way of the heart of the matter.  And, so, the works don’t find their way to my heart.

The 1898 work by Henry Ossawa Tanner is the exception.  In it, Mary is real, vibrant in her attentiveness, in what seems a lively curiosity, as well as serenely open and willing.  She is on the edge of something, almost vibrating, yet perfectly still.  The Angel Gabriel is, well… alive, aflame, pure light, marvelously and wondrously a powerful messenger from God.  Now, that is an angel!

Without further ado, then, I present to you the moment when the Angel Gabriel appeared before the Virgin Mary and told her that she was to conceive the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit…

Annunciation, Henry Ossawa Tanner

This man-made painting of the moment when the Divine pierced the temporal veil and awaited a young woman’s full acceptance and embrace of faith, embrace of God’s salvation… Well, this work of art does find my heart, deep within, striking the chord of truth and beauty that only a sublime and subtle glimpse of the Divine can.

Yes.

I say with Mary, Yes.

Read my  depiction of the Annunciation in words by reading my posts: A Stranger Appears in the Making of the Bread  and In the Cloud of Glory a Portal Opens

© 2017 Christina Chase

 

Something about Mary

Mary statue close-up Catholic Suncook

There sure are a lot of titles for Mary, the mother of Jesus – more than I can list, or even know and remember. Virgin Mary. Blessed Mother. Our Lady. Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Queen of Heaven and Earth. And so on, and on, and on… besides the names given to her apparitions throughout the world, like Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima…. All Mary.

Why?

I think it’s a case of giddiness – the good kind.

We Catholic Christians are Continue reading

May

In the month of May, we honor motherhood – and the dead of war.

All over the earth, mothers watch their sons go off to war every day. The baby she once cradled in her arms, lovingly, tenderly keeping him from all of the world’s harms – a soldier now, battle ready, double-edged sword in hand. Hundreds… Thousands… Millions of boys become men ground up by the machinery of war; the blood of beloved sons spilled out, saturating field and forest or mingling with the salty tears of fathomless seas. What gain can be had by so great a cost? What treasure could entice a woman to offer as potential sacrifice a child whom she has raised and loved?

On battlefields and disputed fronts, in gunfights, bombings, and hand-to-hand combat, the cries and gory wounds of war march on… for country! And more deeply… for faraway home… for brothers in arms beside them… and mourning mothers kneel upon the mossing graves, a clutch of flowers in aging hands pressed against the stones.

This Spring, the Earth unfurls her verdant green banners and swells with the peaceful rush of life. This is the time of bright trumpeting daffodils and of violets… and also of forget-me-nots, and tulips reaching up from the ground like offered prayers. The lilies of the valley, demurely bowing their heads, white veiled, emit their sweet and heavy fragrance from the quiet of their leafy grottoes. And the robins redbreast are warming their nests of promised chicks in appletrees thick with blooms, undeterred by frost or storm… until, one day, in the month of May, the sky cloaked eggs will open and reveal new life being born.

Not so long ago, in pasturelands of deep country, farming families would gather at the crossroads to pray the rosary in the cool, clear of a May evening.

crossroads cross

St-Venant-de-Paquette, QC, Canada

In May, for our ancestors knew that the Queen of Heaven sits upon her mossy throne, bedecked with buttercups and bluets, with wild strawberry blossoms at her feet and purple lilacs at her shoulders. Her head is bowed, white veiled, and her cupped hands, like a chalice of petal flesh, catch the tears that are spilling out from her violet eyes and down her cheeks of new roses.

DSCN6716

La Grotte, East-Hereford, QC, Canada

She, too, has watched her son go off to war, like a lamb sent among wolves.

He laid bare the mighty enemy with the spiritual swiftness of his sword, but his brothers went astray and left him to the cruelty of men, to be tortured and humiliated. She saw her beloved son put to death before her eyes and her tears, her agony, could not end the madness, could not save him from the pain, could not spare him the grave. But… the stone that had marked the place where his lifeless body was laid to rest did not green over with the coming spring. The grave did not keep his mortal remains, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, for the life of her son is purely divine – and he did rise. And in rising to eternal life he raises dead sons and daughters, saving all with souls of faith, who valued others more than self.

The Mother of God saw her son, meek and humble and strong, go off to war and, though painfully grieved, did not begrudge the sacrifice – for the treasure won by his blood is the kingdom that has no end, not just for herself and him, but for every person of hope. The Kingdom where love is true armor, love the lance, love the way, love the victory without violence, the glory without gore, the eternal summer, the eternal spring. And, now, every day of firefight and weeping, every day of cold, barren darkness, every day of Renewing Life pushing up tender shoots, of flowers yielding to luscious fruits – every day is a memorial.

 © 2014 Christina Chase

with edits © 2016  Christina Chase


Photo credit: © 2014 Dan Chase

Not Devoted to Mary – but No One Should Ignore Her

Some people accuse Catholics of worshiping Mary. Considering the language that some Catholics use regarding the mother of Jesus, I, as a Roman Catholic myself, can’t blame the accusers for this false notion of Catholicism. To be clear: Mary is never to be worshiped. Any Catholic, or any other Christian, would be committing a terrible blasphemy, sacrilege, and sin if they did so. Only God is to be worshiped – and, for Christians, our understanding of the one true, living God is in Triune Majesty: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mary, whom Catholics and Eastern Orthodox call Mother of God, is NOT God. She is absolutely not divine. Mary is merely human.

And that’s the great thing about her.

On Our Mary Way

Anyone who believes in the Bible as the word of God – and even anyone who regards the Bible as simply an ancient book of spiritual wisdom – should not disregard Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a minor figure. Regarding all human relationships with God, she is a beautiful leader by example. She is open to the ways of the Spirit, humble in her acknowledgment of God’s infinite greatness compared to her lowliness, unafraid to seek honest understanding, and completely willing to serve God as best as she can, marrying her will with Divine Will, no matter what the cost to her personal life. Mary knows exactly why she has life, her reason for being: to know, to love, and to serve God. Mary knows exactly who she is: the servant of the Lord – and she rejoices in this. We should all try to be more like Mary.

In the Bible, Mary is clearly honored by God – in a unique way. Proclaiming God’s gratuitousness, Mary, in humble wonder and awe, says, “For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:48-49, RSV.) How many Bible believing Christians call Mary blessed? Just moments before, Elizabeth, her kinswoman, had called her “Blessed among women”. More blessed than Eve, who came fresh and pure from the Creator’s hands, is Mary – for Mary chose to believe in God and to keep faith with God’s Will. Thus is she known from the dawn of Christianity as “The New Eve.” “Blessed is she,” Elizabeth says further, “who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Jesus says something similar, later, when someone in the crowd around him declares, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!” Jesus responds, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Mary herself is Blessed – not merely her human body as a vessel through which the Incarnation came about, but she herself, because, through her act of will, she chose to believe in God’s word and to follow through with God’s Will. How grateful all Christians should be to her for saying yes!

Last Words

This is what has been called the most important piece of advice concerning Jesus Christ ever given: “Do whatever he tells you to.” These are Mary’s last words recorded in the Bible. And they prove that we have much to learn from Mary – from her deeds, her words, her ways… from the gifts that God gave her so that God could use her to be the mother, the willing, real, cooperating, fully loving mother, of the one who is both fully human and fully divine. Mary is called the Mother of God, not because of divine preeminence, for she has none, but, rather, because the Word of God, Who is God, became flesh through her, through her mind, body, heart and soul participation in the Divine Mystery. And she is our mother, too. As Eve was mother of all the living, Mary is Mother of All the Living in Christ, for, in Christ, we are a new creation. From the divine throne of the Cross, Jesus, caring for the well-being of Mary and honoring his mother with his last earthly breaths, tells his beloved disciple to take her as his own. How many people who want to be beloved disciples of Christ take his mother as their own?

Mary Scenes

It’s easy to read the Bible as words on a page – which is actually so dry that it makes reading the Bible difficult. I want to bring Mary more fully alive to my understanding. There are several people I know who are Consecrated to Mary and revere her very highly. Very, very highly. I, myself, am not devoted to Mary – but I love her as Jesus’s mother and as his first disciple, and I am learning to embrace her as my mother in Christ. It was through the prayers of the Holy Rosary, contemplating the mystery of Christ’s life through Mary’s eyes, that I learned to be a Christian. So, I will be writing a “Mary Series” through the month of May. Using my flawed intellect and imagination, I hope to weave threads of Sacred Scripture with spiritual and poetic (license) threads to have a real encounter with the Blessed Mother of Jesus, Mother of God. In reflecting upon the word of God, may I think about the wondrous things that God has done and be like Mary – for “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Christina Chase

– What SHE Said; The Scientist, The Servant, and The Mom

We did it! I was able to go to Mass for this First Friday, which is part of my Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Physically, I didn’t think that I would be able to fulfill this part of the Act, but I was feeling well today and my parents very willingly took me to a neighboring parish for a noontime service. Having started spiritual participation for First Fridays, I had been choosing “Facilitators” to aid me in making a good spiritual communion. Although I was able to receive Holy Communion beneath the Sacramental Veil today, I have still chosen a facilitator for this month’s first Friday.
Since the month of May is dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, in much of the Christian Faith, I choose her as my First Friday Facilitator. Rather than write something deeply theological about the Mother of God, or something poetic about the Blessed Virgin Mary, I decided to use her own words as inspiration and guidance.

“How shall this be, since I have no husband?”

This in response to the angel Gabriel telling her that she would conceive and bear a son. What I ponder in this is that Mary’s first words recorded in Sacred Scripture are in the form of a question. Her “How?” did not come from sarcasm or incredulity – but, rather, from honest and innocent curiosity. She really wanted to know how it was going to happen. …Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us – and pray especially for all scientists, researchers, investigators, and explorers. May we be like you, so that our questions and examinations be honest and moral pursuits of truth.

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

The angel Gabriel answered young Mary’s question – but not in a tangible way that her mind could fully comprehend. Yet, she knew one very important thing for certain: she knew who she was. Whatever God’s plan was for her, however God would make it come to pass, she knew that she belonged to God, that her true purpose and joyful fulfillment as a human being was to know, love, and to serve God. As one of God’s devoted servants, she united her will with the Divine Will, and submitted herself to God’s word. …Mary, Mother of God, pray for all of us so that we, like you, may know our true identity and true reason for being. May we be guided in all that we say and do, in all of our decisions and actions, by the truth of who we are: servants of the Lord.
Mary…greeted Elizabeth.
Though these are not recorded words of Mary, we can logically conclude that she said something, probably the name of her kinswoman out loud. On just hearing this greeting, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt. Elizabeth immediately recognized Mary as “blessed among women” and “the mother of my Lord”. I believe that Christ’s very presence in Mary, though barely an embryo in form, radiated all through her and opened Elizabeth to the reception of the Holy Spirit. … Mary, Mother of my Lord, pray for us so that we may be open to the Spirit of Christ, who will dwell with us and within us, so that even our very words to others will open their eyes to God’s blessings.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.”

This passage, known as the Magnificat, is a beautiful hymn of gratitude and praise. It is rich with reflection and whole books of sermons could be written upon it. …Mary, Blessed One, pray for us so that we may hunger for good things in humility and recognition of God’s majesty and mercy. May we strive to follow in the Divine Way and work to lift up the lowly and to be people of honor, appreciation, and generosity.

“Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”

These are Mary’s first recorded words spoken to Jesus, her son. Again, the words come in the form of a question – and I think it is fair to conclude that they carry admonishment, since she was a naturally worried mother looking for her son who had disappeared, but, also, honest seeking. We can think of Mary as the first and best of all disciples of Jesus and, as her innocent curiosity prompted her first question, she probably truly wanted to know why Jesus had done what he did and caused them to worry. As disciples of Jesus, we will often experience situations of confusion and anxiety – and, like Mary, we can freely turn to Christ and honestly ask him why. The “Wh  ?” that we ask should not be a mere complaint, however, but an honest question seeking understanding of God’s Will and of what we are supposed to as disciples of His Son. …Mary, mother of Jesus, pray for us when we are confused or anxious so that we will remember that we can turn completely to your son, our Lord, Christ Jesus, with our burden and troubles and trust in him. May we remember that God’s Ways are above our ways and, when we lack understanding, may we grow in faith.

“They have no wine.”

This is a simple statement of fact that Mary makes at the wedding feast in Cana. We could just gloss over it, but only if we forget that Mary spent more time with Jesus than anyone else did on earth. She was there from conception to Ascension and he loved her deeply, as is obvious when he speaks to her while dying on the Cross and there gives care of her to his beloved disciple. Often, Mary is exalted as nearly divine – but, she was absolutely not divine. She was human. She is human. And in the fullness of her humanity, she saw the plight of the family celebrating the wedding. Sure, it wasn’t like anyone was going to die because the wine had run out. But, as a matter of human tradition, as a matter of celebration and joy, the wine was important to those people. And Mary saw this and brought this small suffering to the attention of her son, Jesus. And this is why millions of Christians across the earth believe that she is attentive to even their smallest needs. Whether one believes in the intercession of Saints or not, we can all certainly see that Mary gives us an example of “giving a hoot”. The lack of wine had nothing to do with her and nothing to do with her son – but she wanted them both to help in any way that they could. …Holy Mary, Queen of Saints, pray for us that we may see the sufferings and burdens of others, no matter how small, and bring their troubles before the Lord so that, in our compassion, we may serve God by helping them.

“Do whatever he tells you.”

       These are the last words of Mary – and what perfect last words they are. It is as though this real woman, who was the real mother of our Lord and Savior, turns directly to us, looks into our eyes, and, in her one opportunity to tell us everything about him and everything that we need to know for our own happiness, speaks out these words. Slowly and deliberately so that they may dwell deeply and fully in our hearts, she says: “Do whatever he tells you.” …Hail Mary, mother of all the living in Christ, pray for each and every human being created, as we are, in the image and likeness of God, so that we will see and recognize in Christ the Way, the Truth, and the Life. May we love him as you loved him and seek to do whatever he tells us to – and when we hear the Divine Will, may we have the courage, the humility, and the generosity to do it.
Amen.

Christina Chase