232. Beyond the Blue Plaster Statue: An Advent Reflection on the Most Beautiful (and Most Fragrant!) Woman Who Ever Lived


Icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God).

Creator created

God so humbled

Enclosed in the womb of a poor young girl

Crying out, God, God, you are crazy!

And with enflamed desire

I go searching for who this young woman is

Who joined the Lover to the beloved

Looking at her from her head down to her feet

So the more I look at her the more she gives me delight

Pregnant in appearance

She shows me…

(adapted from a poem of Saint Catherine of Sienna)


Who Is This Woman?

The modern mystic Caryll Houselander expresses the sentiments of Many church-going folk with regard to Mary:

“When I was a little girl, I was told …, ‘Never do anything you cannot imagine our Lady doing … If you do, she will blush.’” From then on, preventing our Lady from blushing “became an obsession … since I could only imagine our Lady leaning on a cloud-bank or being a plaster statue.” Eventually, I “broke down and sobbed with boredom and despair … Such was the conception of our Lady imposed on me by a pious upbringing.” Sadly, it’s “a very common one – to many Catholics she is unreal, and even worse, unattractive …No wonder, for nearly all we are taught of her is … the pious guess-work of [the overly sentimental]” (Mother of Christ, p. 31).

Later in life, she heard a “remarkable nun” correcting a girl who believed Mary wouldn’t even have known about sex because of her “innocence” and “purity.” The nun exclaimed, “Stuff and nonsense! When our Lady was 15 she knew the facts of life from A to Z, the gospel proves it.” That began Caryll’s search “for the real Mother of God.” What she found was a woman “consumed by the fire of love,” a woman who “is not only human; she is humanity.” She is what it means to be human …

COR THOUGHTS 234: Rejoice Always and Pray Without Ceasing


This coming weekend we celebrate Gaudete (“rejoice”) Sunday. In the second reading St. Paul pairs the call to “rejoice always” with the call to “pray without ceasing.” A true understanding of Christian prayer is the doorway into a true understanding of Christian joy. Pope Benedict XVI reminded us: “The Fathers of the Church say that prayer, properly understood, is nothing other than becoming a longing for God.” As Saint Augustine put it, “Desire is your prayer; and if your desire is without ceasing, your prayer will also be without ceasing.” Christian joy comes to us as we learn to let go of all of our God-substitutes (our idols) and direct our deep desire for love and happiness toward the one who alone can fulfill it: “in my God is the joy of my soul” (first reading); “My soul rejoices in my God” (resp. psalm). This is what it means to be made “perfectly holy” and blameless in “spirit, soul, and body”: to desire nothing but “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (second reading). At his coming, he will be clothed “like a bridegroom” and we will be clothed “like a bride” and we will “rejoice heartily in the Lord” (first reading).