By Sr. Doreen, SSJD.
Sister Doreen’s Reflections
O Virgo Virginum (Virgin of Virgins)
O Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be? For neither before you was any like you, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why do you marvel at me? The thing which you behold is a divine mystery.
“O” – a call of longing and wonder to Mary, the glory of Jerusalem, the pride of Israel, and the boast of all humanity; she is all God’s and all ours. We draw near and question her, to ask a way deeper into mystery. We praise the wonder of that name; and ask a request for a particular need.
This antiphon is unlike the others, and forms a short dialogue between Mary and the women of Jerusalem: a poetic interplay between the daughters of Jerusalem and the woman in the Song of Songs and the Crucifixion narrative in Luke 23:28 where the women of Jerusalem are told by Jesus not to weep for him.
A Poem by Malcolm Guite
“Who are the daughters of Jerusalem seeing?
Whom have you called to this myterium,
And bathed in the blithe fountain of your being?
Daughters of sorrow, daughters of despair,
The cast-aside, the overlooked, the spurned
The broken girls who scarcely breathe a prayer
The ones whose love has never been returned.
O Maid amongst the maidens, turn you face,
For when we glimpse you we are not alone,
O look on us out of grief and into grace,
Lift us in love made stronger than our own,
Summon the spring in our worst wilderness,
And make us fruitful in your fruitfulness.”
All we can do is let go of our questions before this moment of mystery – Mary giving birth to Jesus – let go of our questions and problems, placing our hopes, needs and wishes with her before God, trusting in the power of intercession beyond all words. We can decide with Mary to say “yes” to God’s question: “Will you become God-bearer to the world?” And as Barbara Taylor writes in ‘Gospel Medicine’: “We can decide to take part in a plan you did not choose, doing things you do not know how to do for reasons you do not entirely understand. You can take part in a thrilling and dangerous scheme with no script and no guarantees. You can agree to smuggle God into the world inside your own body.”
Her song, which always accompanies these antiphons sums up our prayers on this Nativity: “Here I am; let it be with me according to your world … For the mighty One has done great things for me – holy is God’s name. God’s mercy extends to those who fear God, from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:49)
We are invited to say ‘yes’ and become one of Mary’s people, one more Theotokos who is willing to bear God into the world.
Meister Eckhart wrote: “We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to God, Emmanuel with us, if I do not also give birth to God in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When God is begotten in us.”
In joy and humility let us pray to the creator of the universe, saying, “Lord grant us peace”
By the good news of our salvation brought to Mary by the angel, hear us, O Lord – Lord grant us peace
By the mystery of the Word made flesh, hear us, O Lord – Lord grant us peace
By the birth in time of the timeless Son of God, hear us, O Lord – Lord grant us peace
By the manifestation of the King of glory to the shepherds and magi, hear us, O Lord – Lord grant us peace
By the submission of the maker of the world to Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, hear us, O Lord – Lord grant us peace
By the baptism of the Son of God in the river Jordan, hear us, O Lord – Lord grant us peace
Grant that the kingdoms of this world may become the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, hear us O Lord – Lord grant us peace.
(Book of Alternative Service, Anglican Church of Canada: page 120)
We ask God to come and be born in our hearts today
- Let us find ourselves beneath her mantle with all those who weep
- Let us look on them with the eyes of a mother
- Let us learn to let Mary look at us
- Let us dwell in her gaze and so receive a share in her overshadowing
- May we find echoing in our hearts too the dialog: “Hail, favoured one, the Lord is with you!”… “May it be done to me according to your will”
- May we offer ourselves as Theotokos – Mothers of God
Image Credit: Sr. Doreen, SSJD.