The paradox of Mary’s nothingness

…[Mary’s] highest privilege is her poverty
and her greatest glory is that she is most hidden,
and the source of all her power is that she is as nothing
in the presence of Christ, of God.
Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

Today we Catholics celebrate the Assumption of Mary into heaven. Among the Orthodox, this is the feast of the Dormition of the Virgin.

The Dormition Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome

The Dormition, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome

The Gospel, the account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, closes with Mary’s Canticle, the Magnificat.

Mary is the Lord’s handmaid, God’s lowly servant. But she connects that status with the grand revolutionary vision of a God

who scatters the proud-hearted
who casts the mighty from the thrones
and raises up the lowly,
who fills the starving with good things
and sends the rich away empty.

How can one whose “chief glory is in her nothingness,” according to Thomas Merton, be connected with such an upside-down vision of the world?

That’s the paradox.

Nothingness puts oneself at the service of a radical transformation.

God uses the poor and weak of the world to confound the strong.

Just because we are lowly doesn’t meant that our vision should be limited.

Our lowliness can open us to the wide vision of God and put us at the service of God’s Reign.

That lowliness recognizes our limitations but give us hope that our limitedness can help God transform ourselves and the world.

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