There are two faces to surrender. There is surrender that springs from obedience and fear. And there is surrender that is birthed from trust and love.
I started to write about this very topic, of Mary’s “yes” to God, several years ago. I never finished the piece out of fear. Fear that my views would be considered too controversial for the community I live in.
And then I was gifted with this poem (scroll down).
This poem by Denise Levertov speaks precisely to my personal contemplation of Mary’s “yes” to God. It boldly goes to the shadow place no one ever talks about.
What if she refused?
Just because Mary was born without sin (I have an opinion on what this sin really is) doesn’t mean she was void of free will. She was 100% human, just like the rest of us.
She could have said yes out of fear and obedience. She could have knuckled under God’s request and done what was asked of her with regret and shame.
But God waited.
God waited for her to be a willing vessel. God waited for Mary to open her heart and her body to willingly be the God-bearer. God waited for surrender birthed from trust and love.
She could have said “no” and God would have not loved her any less. She could have said “I’m not ready.” God would have waited.
But in the most profound act of co-creation, Mary said “yes” and gave birth to a God-child, the infinity of God in a finite human body and in need of what every child needs “milk and love.”
Annunciation by Denise Levertov
‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn,
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child–but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love–
but who was God.
This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,
She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
opened her utterly.