And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.
Reflecting in Her Heart
The first day of this New Year finds me in a new way of life; a way of life totally unanticipated at the beginning of 2015. I am no longer a Redemptoristine nun. I no longer live in a monastery pursuing the daily round of prayer, work and recreation. I can no longer depend on the work of others to keep life spinning. It is hard, at times, to know who I am now. (A previous post offers some background to this profound change.)
To append this change to the list of events to which I often refer as "my checkered past" makes me shake my head in disbelief. Italian-American Brooklyn boomer, daughter and sister, college girl, wife, mother, divorcee, single mom to three sons, teacher, graduate student, librarian, parish and community volunteer, contemplative nun, grandmother, and at the age of 70 a lay person once again. It really makes me wonder.
Running over the list in my mind I most often tend to dwell on how much I messed up; all the times and places in which I failed; all the people I let down and did not love well; and all the times I imagine being a disappointment to God. I see all the broken places.
But I have been urged to turn away from notions of brokenness and rather to ponder the continuity of spirit (with an upper case 's' as well as lower) which undergirds the meandering events and occupations of my life.
The presence of God was always there; the guidance of the Spirit; desire for the Holy One; and the "Hound of Heaven" unrelenting in pursuit of a soul often not knowing where it was headed.
Today's Gospel is a simple one concerning the shepherds coming to see Jesus and praise Him and Mary's reaction to it all. Luke says, "Mary kept all of these things, reflecting on them in her heart." Another translation offered, "Mary wondered at these things, and pondered them in her heart." I wonder and I ponder. "Wonder" suggests awe at the mysterious ways of God and "ponder" speaks of the effort to plumb all these things for depth of meaning.
I have said that I am currently exploring a new contemplative path, a way of living contemplatively in the world as a lay person. In this context my small but very comfortable apartment may be considered my hermitage. I do relish my time here alone. But I am too much of an extrovert to ever dignify myself with the title of hermit. Rather I have returned to an image from the writings of Maria Celeste Crostarosa, foundress of the Redemptoristine Nuns. One collection of her writings is entitled "Il Giardinetto", or "The Little Garden."
But this is no ordinary garden. She suggests that a more precise meaning is this; that for God the 'giardinetto' is the dear enclosed garden in which God and the soul enjoy each other. My little place can be this enclosed garden. It has all the verdant, cool, shady loveliness and protection of a childhood remembrance; the lush grape arbor seriously cultivated by the old Italian immigrant gentleman who lived next door.
So as Mary kept, wondered, reflected and pondered in her heart the wondrous things that had taken place in her short life, I do the same but with a longer list unrolled over a whole life time and still unfurling to reveal its mysteries. In daily meditation I struggle to center myself, to enter the precious enclosed garden and ponder the meaning.