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09 December 2010

Out of surrender, JOY!

Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from him: his name will be Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah: "He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous."  She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?" He said: "Even so: Allah createth what he willeth: When he hath decreed a plan, he but saith to it, 'Be,' and it is!  "And Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom ..." (Qur'an, Sura III)

Whether we read the story of the Annunciation in the Qur'an or in Luke's Gospel, what strikes me more and more about Mary's story is how her joy is a fruit of her surrender. That bubbly contagious bottomless uncontained joy she experienced, as expressed in her famous song (the Magnificat is read as the psalm this Sunday), was born of her complete and unconditional surrender.  

Obsessed with possession and power as we are these days, the idea of "yielding to the possession or power of another"  makes us uncomfortable. As we equate the word "surrender" with helplessness and weakness, we are ready to run ... but therein lies the mystery: that true spirituality requires surrendering our ego.

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Visitation 

What is surrender?  When we surrender, we give up on the will of our small, ego selves. We yield that will, so that we can become open to a far deeper will, the will of God. When we surrender, we let go of what we know, so that we can be in touch with the source of knowing itself. When we surrender, we let go of what we think, so that a mind greater than our own might think within us.  Surrender is a bit like learning to read: the more you do it, the more you discover. The fruit of your surrender will be joy, as vast as the universe.  That joy, although your very own, will be akin to Mary's (here in E. Snow's translation of Rilke's poem "Annunciation):

I feel as if from now on, love, I am for ever. 
God pours into the wealthy's vanity 
almost without paying heed its glitter; 
yet carefully seeks himself a woman 
and fills her with his farthest time. 
That he found me. Imagine; and issued 
for my sake commands from star to star -- 
O glorify with all your might, my soul, 
and raise on high: the LORD. 

This is "Song of Praise" (Lobgesang) by the German poet Dieter Krassnigg:

Ich singe, weil ich singen muss.
Die Freude quillt aus meiner Kehle,
und falls mit meinem Lied ich fehle,
singe ich dennoch, ohn’ Verdruss.

Ich singe von des Winters Bläue,
von Eiseskälte, klarem Tag.
Und wenn ich tirilieren mag,
sing’ ich von Gottes ew’ger Treue.

Ich singe von dem Sieg des Lebens,
von Winternacht und Wunderkind,
vom Anfang, der so klein beginnt,
vom Todesschlaf, der nicht vergebens!

(An approximate translation: I sing because I must. Joy spills from my throat, and should my song not be adequate, I will sing nonetheless. I sing of the blue of winter, of the ice-cold clear day. Having the chance to praise, I'll sing of God's faithfulness. Of life's win over death I sing, of winter's night and wondrous child, of tender sprout that takes its time, the sleep of death that's not in vain.)
Luke 1:39-56

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