Today is the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Though the psalms today for lauds are for Wednesday of the fifteenth week of Ordinary time, today’s feast gives them a new context in which to be read. I was particularly struck by the opening of Psalm 86:
Turn your ear, O Lord, and give answer
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am faithful:
save the servant who trusts in you.
Usually, when we think of the Virgin Mary, we think of a woman robed in the splendor and glory of heaven, surrounded by clouds and angels with a brilliance of light all around her. The images are otherworldly for they depict events that are themselves otherworldly. Other images depict her with her Son, and often someone else is with them such as her mother, Anne, or her cousin, John the Baptist. Her earthly depictions usually array her with beautiful clothes and, of course, her heavenly depictions array her with the clothes and crown appropriate for the Queen that she is. Even though it is not difficult to find images of our Lady in states of fear or distress, most people do not reflect on those times in our Mother’s life. Due to this lack of reflection most people do not see the relevance of Mary in our life today or see her as a mirror for our own difficult situations.
The above psalm, however, brought to mind Mary’s state when she was a young woman (barely a woman) and pregnant with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Her pregnancy was a scandal and it couldn’t remain hidden for too long. Her parents would find out, her peers would find out, the people of Nazareth would find out, and worst of all Joseph would find out. The fear of having to confront this type of humiliation is enough in and of itself to make one tremble terribly. But for Mary there were other concerns. Joseph could leave her. Should that happen as far as the people of Nazareth are concerned she would be ruined. At best she lives quietly with her parents, never marrying, and her son would be one of the bastards of the town. At worst she is stoned to death. Mary in a deeply personal way knew the intense fear of a young, unmarried, pregnant woman. But her fear is not the whole story; she had confidence and trust in God. She passed through Job’s dark night and like Job received immense blessing at the dawn of day.
In my own life I turn to my Mother not because she is immaculate and perfect. I turn to her because she did what I am apparently incapable of doing: Rather than falling away, she remained immaculate and was perfected through the anxieties, fears, terrors, disillusionment, dread, perplexities, loneliness, rages, dejection, sorrows, and humiliations of life. She experienced greater pain and inconsolability than I can ever know and passed through it all. She wants me to pass through mine. And she doesn’t just root for me; she pleads for me, intercedes for me, gives me grace and loving assistance, and walks with me. So I pray: Queen and Beauty of Carmel by your Immaculate Heart unite my heart with the most Sacred Heart of your Son, our Lord and our God, Jesus Christ.