The paradox of blessedness.
'Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb... Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.' (Luke 1:42, 45)
Blessed is one of the most positive adjectives. It connotes being favored, in a positive sense, showered with choicest graces, and imbued with a deep sense of joy.
After Elizabeth greets her cousin Mary with praise, Mary sings her Magnificat: 'My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my savior.' Mary herself sings of her blessedness.
Scripture scholar William Barclay aptly refers to Mary's blessedness as one that exemplifies the paradox of blessedness. With this blessedness and greatness as the mother of the Savior comes the pain and sorrow she would endure as her son fulfills his mission on the Cross. The joy and the pain of blessedness is its unique paradox.
The paradox of blessedness, the blessings of joy, peace and love won at a great price, this paradox is powerfully illustrated in works of art that show the newborn Child Jesus peacefully sleeping on a cross, with the three nails to be used for his crucifixion lying beside him.
The paradox of blessedness is the paradox of mission. Our life is dedicated to mission, to what God wants us to do, saying 'yes' to it and living it with fidelity to the end as Mary did-from the time she said 'yes' to the angel, through the many 'yeses' in her life following her son, to her 'yes' at the foot of the Cross.
In the movie 'Ignacio de Loyola,' Ignatius was made to reveal the content of his personal diary or journal, which he hid. I was struck by why he hid it. He did not wish others to know at what price the Spiritual Exercises came into being.
The Spiritual Exercises, which was then already an effective instrument for bringing people closer to God and which to this day lies at the heart of Ignatian spirituality, was bought at the great price of Ignatius' interior struggle, the conflict between good and evil inside him, the despair of a sinner that brought him even to the brink of suicide.
Yet this became the pivot point that brought him to the total offering of self that is expressed in Ignatius' own 'canticle': 'Take and receive, O Lord... Give me only your love and your grace; these make me rich, I ask for nothing more.'
'Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.' This is our deepest, greatest joy and fulfillment, that we believed in what God wants us to do, from the moment we said our first 'yes' to it, through all its ups and downs, and up to the point of our standing at the foot of the Cross. Then we are truly blessed.
Blessed are you who believed God's will would in the end prevail, despite the growing divisiveness and meanness seen all over, especially in social media, for example, in the reemergence of anti-Semitism in the Western world and the bashing that seems like daily fare.
Blessed are you who believed God's will would in the end prevail, despite the increase in cases of depression and even suicides 'out there' in society and so 'close to home' in our families and among our friends.
Blessed are you who believed God's will would in the end prevail, despite the continued prevalence of corruption and travesty of justice, and the pain and anger brought about by watching the rich and the powerful 'getting away with murder' for their heinous crimes, while the poor and downtrodden suffer the full brunt of the law for petty crimes committed often to survive.
The paradox of blessedness in Mary begins in the manger when she first carries her son in her loving arms, filled with joy for her newborn child, and is brought to completion at the foot of the Cross when she receives the dead body of her son in her arms.
The paradox of blessedness, the paradox of mission, the paradox of life where joy, peace and love is our way of being bought at a great price. It begins in the manger, to which we are invited this Christmas to start over again and begin to sing our own canticle.