Over 2000 years ago, a “yes” was spoken.
But this wasn’t just an ordinary yes. This was a fiat and a profound expression of the full scope of femininity in service to God’s will. A willingness to give oneself, body and soul, to God.
“…the human body speaks a ‘language’ of which it is not the author. It’s author is man, as male or female, as bridegroom or bride: man with his perennial vocation to the communion of persons.” (TOB 104:7)
Mary told the angel Gabriel, “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38) with her lips, but her body lived the promise. Her body fulfilled the earthly calling to communion with others while her soul was filled with a heavenly grace. Her body nourished and served the body that would one day serve and nourish the whole of humanity with His very life.
“Thus the Holy Spirit brings about a harmony of intimate dispositions between the Mother and the Son, which will allow Mary to assume fully her maternal role to Jesus, as she accompanies him in his mission as Servant.” (Saint John Paul the Great)
Jesus reflected Mary’s physical humanity while Mary reflected Jesus’ spiritual divinity. In a world where the flesh is plagued by temptation, this Mother and Son spoke the language of true love. She, through breasts that nourished, hands that caressed, and arms that cuddled; He, through hands that healed, arms that consoled, and a body that paid the ultimate price. Two bodies, at the same time devoted to one another and to God–something we, in our fallen state, can only attempt to attain.
But still we try. We try to make the language of our bodies convey the same vow we spoke on our wedding day. We try to make the “I love you” to our child at the end of a tiring day be confirmed in the accompanying display of physical affection. We try to make the claim “I’m Catholic” authentic by serving others with love through the actions of our bodies.
“[Man] is constituted in such a way from the ‘beginning’ that the deepest words of the spirit–words of love, gift, and faithfulness–call for an appropriate ‘language of the body.’ And without this language, they cannot be fully expressed.” (TOB 104:7)
My spoken vow of faithfulness to my spouse means nothing if my body falls into the embrace of another. My love for my baby is “fully expressed” when I cuddle her when she cries or nurse her when she is hungry. And my devotion to Christ is made manifest when I treat others like the image of God that they are.
Our bodies speak volumes and their language is powerful.
Was love never so fully expressed than by the body that was nailed to the cross for us? A body that entered the world in a state of vulnerability and dependence. Like parents today, Mary must have observed her tiny son’s every move, allowing her mothering instincts to tell her what He needed based solely on His physical cues. Surely Joseph paced the floor at night sometimes with a fussy, teething Jesus, comforting Him in a strong fatherly embrace. And like any doting mother, Mary must have sat in silence, gazing at her precious Son sleeping in her arms–foreshadowing the love and sacrifice of a mother’s heart portrayed by Michelangelo’s Pieta.
During these last few days of Advent, reflect on Jesus and Mary’s servant hearts and how they were made visible through the actions of their bodies. And as your heart grows closer to Christ, may the actions of your body follow.