As a people, we are smitten by the allure of average. This standard in spirituality, which is so easily reachable, does neither the human person, nor our Catholic heritage, any valued service whatsoever. First, it represses the vision of the dignity which God has granted humanity, and secondly, it obscures the uniqueness of the favor granted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Could it be that much of the current anti-Marian mentality is fed by a minimalistic perspective on humanity’s value? If we worship average, we cannot appreciate the favor granted to Mary. Nonetheless, the Blessed Virgin Mary remains the icon of human dignity.
In today’s generation, as in days gone by, much of our effort is centered on gratifying our whims and fancies. We worship our image and likeness and lavish extravagant gifts upon our wounded feelings and inconvenienced selves hoping to continue the appearance of being better than those miserable souls around us. It is exhausting to consider spending time and effort in areas which may not provide immediate results. So we, in our age of luxury, have done everything possible to protect our fragile existence from anything that hints at accountability, responsibility, and even the pursuit of greatness. Possibly pursuing glory for the sake of satisfying a new craving could be permissible, but certainly not for the purpose of falling in sync with a Maker unseen and unmoldable. We shall not resort back to days of mythic oppression in this period of luminous reason. It will either be a deity of our choosing or it will be none at all.
Today though, we look about and the heroic examples are awfully average. What we have idealized reflects the inflation of self with little or no concern of the other. When our strivings seem to fall short of these societal standards we either deceive one another by parading the constant injustice with which we have been treated, gathering needed support, or we numb our measly existence with exorbitant purchases pretending we are the definition of royalty, or in moments of extreme desperation consuming narcotics may erase the daunting reality we seem to occasionally find ourselves in. There have been times of increased applause for those existing in a state of delayed adolescence where responsibility and accountability are non existent. It is also here that greatness can be modified to whatever narcissistic dreams one creates. In this state, the only thing that matters is how we view the world and its view of us. We cannot see past average.
What this obsession with self and defense against responsible existence has done is distracted a generation from the still small voice of God. By pretending that our age of technological advancement is beyond the fanciful notions of traditional spirituality, the neo-enlightened created Frankenstein threatens to snuff out the beauty of humanity. In dwarfing our expectations and ignoring the primordial questions of matters beyond self-satisfaction we have forced one another to view existence and others as utilitarianistic and disposable, based singularly upon our whims.
The dumbing down of expectations, the minimalizing existence to various forms of entertainment, and the denial of accountability and spirituality have diminished our moment in time to something sadly unmemorable.
Even within Christianity, the body seems shriveled from conformity to the emaciated values of the world rather than the image of Christ! Within the familiar trappings of Christianity unity is found in battling the overt evils which strike at the core of our spiritual senses, yet it is the subtle noxious undercurrents of complacency and minimal expectancy which has crippled our ability to become heroic or even identify true heroism. We have few exemplary role models today because few believe such heights are possible. We have lowered our expectations so much that the smallest hint of a spiritual life seems monumental, this juxtaposed to the sea of complacent Christian expressions, let alone the onslaught of worldly decadence. As a result of this flood of mediocrity even within our own walls, we tuck our unconventional saints into the quiet corner with acceptable labels such as legendary or mythical, created and sustained to service the awkward needs of the uneducated and babbling masses, enchanted with illusory days gone by. We redirect other saintly expressions from heroic models of self-donation to primarily relevant models of social service, and in the end we succeed in making everyone else seem just like us. On rare occasion, another is granted a slight nod of recognition for generous acts, yet our attention is quickly drawn to the latest tabloid scandal or millionaire gone awry.
Along these lines consider the jolt one feels upon hearing terms such as, Queen of the Universe, Immaculately Conceived, Mary assumed body and soul into Heaven, and Mother of God! How can such extreme verbiage ever be applied to one as average as our own? How is it remotely possible that a girl situated in a time of feminine oppression could truly rise to such heights? Certainly she is a model in ways we aren’t; yet, let us not become too carried away in our ejaculatory praises. We must contain her honor within these small boxes we have created lest we be labeled devotionally extreme. Such adulation cannot smell remotely of the past with all of its superstitious drivel. She is just like us in most ways and this is how we shall remember her. Resisting all attempts at acknowledging the extraordinary effects of divinity freely entering time through, and because of this woman, over reacting bitterness surfaces to correct the dogmatic banter Catholics hold in matters Marian.
“She is just like us,” “she is just like us,” echoes continuously within the lectures, sermons and words of many wishing to justify their complacent course.
She is not just like us though! What woman among you has fed God in the flesh? Who but the Virgin Mary submitted entirely to the will of God in all matters, fully united to the Son! It is in lifting our eyes up to the heights with which God chooses to honor Mary that we will somehow begin to be freed from the quicksand of mediocrity which threatens our existence in space and time. It is realizing the heights to which God has raised this young woman that we will begin to comprehend the greatness to which we are called! In order to put things into perspective we need to realize that humanity does not plateau in its expression of utilitarian avenues praised by the world.
Humanity is not invited to simply exist in a constant place of gratification. It is no wonder the world fights inconvenience at every step. We are asked to be what modern man may consider mythical in its scope, supernatural in its application, and unheard of in our time. We are asked to unite to that which is beyond our manipulation.
Consider the heights to which C. S. Lewis intended us to view one another:
The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal… it is with immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendor.
…Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. (1)
It is from this context that I invite you to realize that your placement within existence is not to gratify every notion and whim. You are placed upon a path which reaches heights rarely met, yet offered to all nonetheless. If you chose to ignore this invitation into Beauty and Truth, then you are left within the realm of decayed existence, which establishes illusions of grandeur while serpents feed upon that which God created to reflect His image and likeness. On the other hand, if you say yes to the beauty to which you are called, then we will approach one another with a sense of fear and trembling. Within this context consider now the favor granted this woman created in the image and likeness of her God: Mary, highly favored is extended by the Divine the opportunity to mother God within time. Her fullness of grace completely places her as close to the Divine as humanity will ever be granted. It is from here that we all cry out, “blessed art thou among woman.”
A war has been declared and is being waged. There are many casualties and unfortunately great losses. Today you are invited to lift up your eyes from when comes your help! “I life up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1, 2) As we realize the intensity of our call even within the simplicity of our existence, it is with great profundity that we embrace the Marian aspect within this journey of God’s economy.
Through her comprehension of that to which she is called, we all are the recipients of graces which otherwise would not have been extended. For those denying the beauty of Mary’s role within time, it would be logical to assume their perspective of humanity is primarily one of distortion. We must not grow weary in battle though for there is help lifting us from the clutches of average. Now is the time to appreciate this heroic call upon humanity. Our ability to follow Mary’s journey to God on our behalf will determine the heights of our success in this advancement upon average. We can no longer consider Marian doctrine from the perspective of societal standards of mediocrity. See her from the Trinitarian perspective first. Mary is as close to intimacy with the Divine as humanity has ever been allowed. She is not Divinity; rather she has been honored and raised by the love of the Trinity. With this clarity you will realize that the best you have ever attained in loving Christ would only be the starting point from which she has soared! This does not minimize God’s generosity towards us, rather it shows how much greater He desires to lift those who humbly embrace His will. It is all a gift from God. The beauty for us is that we too are the recipients of God’s generosity, called to heights unimagined. We are made in His image and likeness, and even though you will not birth Christ to a world groaning in Messianic anticipation, you are witnessing to that which is greater then we can imagine nonetheless. Lift up your eyes away from the allure of average, and become enveloped in the mantle of Mary, for then you will see the greatness of your God!
Published on October 7, 2006 by Christopher Padgett in Articles for Future Use
Christopher Padgett is the Youth Editor at Mother of All Peoples magazine. A convert to Catholicism, Chris is a speaker, musician and author, who has a particular ministry to the youth. He is married with eight children.
(1) Lewis, C.S., The Weight of Glory. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York, NY. Pg. 18,19.