… he is truly risen!
… he is truly risen!
For the past eight years, my Mary statue has been on our old, cracked patio. I would make up for the icky concrete by putting flowerpots at her feet; it looked nice when they were in bloom.
But our backyard recently underwent a major and much-needed overhaul. Goodbye, old ratty concrete and ugly podicarpus and oversized palm tree that always had me worried it would collapse on our neighbor’s house in a storm; hello, new lawns and curved flowerbeds and the chance to create an entirely new garden layout from scratch. And there was one feature that was a very, very high priority for me.
“I’m going to give the Mary statue a special corner in the new yard,” I told my husband.
“Nobody puts Mary in a corner,” he said.
But I did, and earlier this week I planted all kinds of flowers around her. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
There’s actually a long, long history of Mary gardens in European countries. Often you find in them flowers which were named after Mary herself (including marigolds, or “Mary’s Gold”). I included several of those, bright and sunny.
I also found a bleeding heart at a nursery and had to put it in, too (that’s another flower traditionally associated with Mary, for obvious iconographic reasons).
Mostly, though, I went for colors I like and flowers that I thought would do well in our corner. It’ll need a little time to fill in; I’m counting on time and Miracle-Gro to help with that.
But it’s a lovely new little space, the focal point of our new yard. And I think Mary is pretty happy in her own little corner.
I’m pretty into color. Walk into my house and you’ll immediately notice the bright yellow kitchen, the blue bedroom, and the hallway that is exactly the color of key lime pie (that last one was a bit of a mistake, actually — we thought it would be a slightly more subtle green. Ah well.)
But I’m warming to the absence of color, too. Just check out these lovelies, in all their neutral glory.
“It was a few months after the birth of Matthew that I kept thinking of a well-known quotation from Elizabeth Stone, one I’d heard years before becoming a mom: ‘Making the decision to have a child — it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.’ Bingo, I thought as I toted Matthew around in his infant seat. That’s exactly how it feels. Matthew is outside of me now, in that big scary world, and that is a very vulnerable place for a heart to be.
One day I thought back to those pictures of Mary’s immaculate heart. For the first time ever, that image made perfect sense to me. Like me, Mary was a mom. Like me, she had a beloved child who was out there in the world, where any number of things could assail him. Like me, she must have felt as though the dearest, most vital part of her — her very heart — was exposed and vulnerable.
Once I made that connection, I could no longer dismiss those images as creepy or perplexing. I realized they were, in fact, a perfect way of showing how visceral this maternal-love thing really is. It’s not just something you feel in your head or in your soul. It’s in your very organs, in every cell of your body, in the mechanisms that make you tick. Like any other mom, Mary felt that love, in all its exhilarating and terrifying depth.”
— from Random MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood (Loyola Press, 2013)
This coming Saturday is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. As Mary feast days go, this one has a special place in my heart.
For one thing, I’ve a bit of an affinity for France. And, unlike most Marian apparition sites, I’ve actually visited Lourdes. In a very indirect and surprising way, that visit changed my life. It was in Lourdes that the first little inkling of a “new Mary” entered my mind. Thanks to Lourdes, I could start to see her as more than just the glacially perfect woman in the statues. I started to see her as a woman who actually lived.
The Lourdes story is about Mary putting herself in the middle of the rock and grit, and finding what’s beautiful there. I love how Mary appeared to the little shepherdess, a person no one ever thought was holy or special enough to have such a visitor. Mary’s coming revealed that there was more to Bernadette than anyone suspected, including Bernadette herself. Mary’s coming also tapped into the latent faith of the people of Lourdes, just as Bernadette tapped into the healing waters of the spring. In a way, one could say that the Lourdes story is really about venturing below the surface, finding the beautiful depths that exist there, and harnessing them for good.
And that’s a lesson that never grows old.
This is a rerun of a post from 2010. (I guess I’ve been blogging for a long time, haven’t I?)