Beyond the secular sense of the New Year, the Christian acknowledges the gift of time. A new year is a gift; a doorway to a future unknown but full of possibilities. It’s a time when we more readily embrace the mystery of the next twelve months. It’s an invitation to reflect, let go, declutter, focus, and renew. A new chapter begins. Even if the past year was a fantastic one, something greater beckons us onward. Such is life, we can’t go back. Each precious moment is unrepeatable; we can’t hold onto it. If the past year was tragic, the new year invites us to surrender it unto God’s healing mercy. We look to a new day.
God, who is outside of time, enters our time to lead us forward. It is not futile to create sincere New Year’s resolutions. It’s not a matter of failure or success. It’s a matter of hope; of acknowledging that some change for the better is called for.
The devil can enter the mix. The ancient “Accuser” tempts us to remember every failure and forget every triumph. The “Liar” shouts crafty falsehood to divide us from one another, paints a dismal picture, crushes hope so the future appears futile, so we cease to try to make a difference. These lies are too often entertained. The “Thief” wants to steal our inheritance, entice us away from the reward of Heaven, plots to rob our peace, hope and joy. The “Destroyer” seeks the destruction of personal integrity, our identity as a child of God, our relationship with the Lord and humanity. The “Roaring Lion” shouts noisy hateful thoughts to prevent us from entering the silence of God’s love, the serenity of the divine will, and the confident surrender of faith.
At the start of this year, the Holy Spirit tugs on my heart with three words: silence, serenity, surrender. This spiritual tripod is part of my journey already but growth is needed. These spiritual ideals are the work of God in a soul, however I can dispose myself to cooperate with divine grace.
Mother Mary is the ideal of silence, serenity and surrender that is fruitful, not passive. In a profound work titled, The Silence of Mary by Ignacio Larranaga, O.F.M., Cap., we learn:
“During the long nights, in her sleep or sleeplessness, during her walks to the spring or on the hill, in the synagogue or during the ritual prayers demanded by the Torah, when she was working in the garden or taking care of the flock on the hill, when she was weaving wool or kneading bread…Mary, prostrated interiorly, submissive, full of the Lord, concentrating on and penetrated by that presence; identified herself with the One who was the life of her life, the soul of her soul. Never in the history of the world has any women lived such vital plenitude and existential intensity. Silence halted and incarnated itself in Mary, along with the Word. During these nine months (her divine pregnancy), Mary did not need to pray, if by praying we mean to voice feelings or ideas. Here, during these nine months, everything was still: “in” Mary and “with” Mary, all is one: time, space, eternity, word, music, silence, Mary, God. Everything was assumed and divinized. The Word was made flesh.”
1. Silence. “…On Calvary, the silence of Mary is transformed into adoration. Never has silence meant so much as in this moment: surrender, availability, strength, fidelity, plenitude, elegance, fecundity, peace (serenity)… Never has a creature lived a moment with such existential intensity as Mary did on Calvary” (Ignacio Larranga).
- Christian silence, interior and exterior, should lead to adoration of the Most Holy Trinity.
- Christian silence is not passive but creative. In the silence of God, the soul is acted upon. The soul is receiving, listening, believing, trusting and surrendering to the Most Holy Trinity. Silence is the language of the Trinity that speaks volumes.
- Silence strengthens and empowers us to fight the good fight, to proclaim Christ’s victory. Noisy demons are humiliated by Godly silence; evil is thwarted.
- Christian silence is strength in battle. The Word was made flesh in silence and became the two-edged sword that defeats Satan. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, … and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb.4:12).
- Christian silence is penetrated by the Word of God; infused with His presence; revealing, transforming, affirming, correcting—love.
- Full disclosure: In my family, the silence of sacrificial love in action speaks louder than words that are easily misinterpreted.
2. Serenity. “Mary traveled this desolate ‘via dolorosa’, clothed in dignity and silence. She was simply magnificent. She was never demanding, she never protested. When she did not understand certain words, she kept them in her heart and analyzed them serenely. To some rough scenes, she responded with sweetness and silence. Never did she break down. Throughout the journey, she maintained the stature and elegance of an oak tree which remains more firm and solid because it is beaten by stronger winds. She came to understand step by step that maternity in the Spirit is more important than that according to the flesh” (Ignacio Larranga).
- Indeed, Mary sets a high standard. We have an original wound (sin) that was absent from Mary, but we must strive for virtue. Grace carried Mary in every delightful and dreadful circumstance.
- Marian serenity is the fruit of silent pondering, courageous surrender, and selfless maternal charity.
- Serenity (peace of soul) can reign during painful trials. Often the greatest tragedy calls for serenity because wisdom leads in peace.
- We can be the calm in the storm of life. Such is the Catholic witness.
- Mary teaches us to ponder the events of our daily lives in the light of God’s love that leads to a well-ordered life wherein peace exists.
- Serenity of soul is attractive. We appreciate the example of peaceful people –saints, priests, nuns, who radiate Godly peace.
- The chaotic world longs and seeks for serenity amidst the maddening distractions. The Christian discerns that Christ alone is peace.
- Full disclosure: I lose my peace of soul too often and for ridiculous reasons. Thus, I need the sacrament of reconciliation often to maintain serenity.
3. Surrender. “Mary is not sovereign but rather a servant. She is not the goal, but rather the way of surrender. She is not a demi-goddess but the Poor One of God. She is not all-powerful but an intercessor. She is above all the Mother who continues to give birth to Jesus Christ in us. Mary will give birth to Christ in us in the measure that we are sensitive, like Christ, to all the needs of this world; in the measure that we live like that Christ who sympathized and identified himself with another’s misfortune, who could not witness an affliction without being touched, who stopped eating or resting to attend to a sick person, who not only felt sorry but found solutions. Mary is the Mother who must help us to incarnate this living Christ, suffering with those who suffer, so that we ourselves live for others and not for ourselves” (Ignacio Larranga).
- Christian surrender is a decision of the will; assenting “to the loving will of the Father in ever deeper union with his beloved Son” (cf. CCC 2713).
- The Lord Jesus is the icon of surrender to the Father’s will. The agony in Gethsemane led to the glory of Easter. We are called to imitate Christ.
- Love surrenders; is the gift of self; is entrustment to God.
- Surrender moves us out of the way of God’s perfect plan.
- Surrender is active faith that makes confidence in God real.
- Surrender is not submissive slavery, it is empowering self-mastery with acknowledgement that God’s is in control.
- Full disclosure: Surrender is not easy for those of us who hold on too tightly, but surrender relieves the stress of trying to control life. Letting go is joyful relief.
Lord Jesus, graciously lead me to deeper Marian silence, serenity and surrender that I may live for others, not for myself. Please form me in the silent, serene, surrender of Your Sacred Heart that I may be transformed into a servant of love.