When was the last time you felt an exultant joy? Can you remember where you were? Who accompanied you? What did it feel like to be alive and in your body at that moment?
I pose these questions at the risk of sounding tone-deaf as the anxiety of the prolonged pandemic returns in frightening form with the Delta variant. On yesterday’s solemn feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as we remember that Mary died and was taken, body and soul, back to God, I found myself marveling at the exquisite encounter between Mary and Elizabeth. Instead of grief at her departure, I savor with gratitude the quality of rejoicing that occurred between these two extraordinary women.
I love that Mary, upon her audacious “yes” to bear the son of God, is single-minded. She knows who she is and what she needs, traveling with haste to be with her older cousin, Elizabeth. In a time where pregnant, unmarried women would be stoned for adultery, she does not choose fear. She protects this time to care for herself and the new life within her, taking a whole trimester of refuge in sisterhood with her cousin.
I admire Mary’s conviction and clarity of faith. She knew her God and proclaimed God’s radical promises with inner strength and vision. So often, Mary can be portrayed as silently obedient and unattainably pious. This feast, we remember Mary’s fearlessness and how it shaped her to be an incredible force in Jesus’s life.
Recently, I have been in conversation with other educators about how to cultivate a formation program for student scholars that rejects limited notions of charity or deficit mindsets. We wonder aloud: What would happen if these scholars took the time and space to embrace and proclaim their full identities and histories? How might centering students’ abundance, strength and vivacity create an expression of the fullness of life for us all?
Our faith teaches us that there is a sacred place within each of us where God lives and sparks. Today, we celebrate Mary’s belovedness and legacy. We honor how she shared a glimpse of the aliveness within her, and taste the joy and liberation of her belief through the Magnificat. Mary invites us, in these critical times of division and fear, to lean into the deep reserves we each have to become solace for each other and to co-create a place where we can all be more open, wholehearted, and merciful.
Grace Salceanu lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she teaches, directs adult spirituality, and gives the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.