It's Advent and everybody's talking about Mary, so SO many great thoughts and posts about our Lady, and I love each and every one. As mothers this is such a natural time of year to think about the Blessed Virgin and even attempt to imitate her quiet, meditative spirit in order to prepare our hearts for Christ's coming, but for the most part I fail.
A few months ago Mike and I were sitting at the diner table talking about a paper he is giving at a conference on Mary as a spiritual exemplar for Christians (life as a theologian's wife? yes). The more we talked and the more I thought about it, and it dawned on me that as a mother, I feel more unlike Mary than like her. I rely heavily on her intercession (i.e. repeated Hail Marys during temper tantrums) and I pray constantly that she would help me to be a better mother, and ask her to pray for me and to watch over me, but I never feel like I can relate to Mary and her motherhood. I am going to pin it on the fact that I am positive Jesus never threw temper tantrums like my girls and the fact that Mary was sinless-- those 2 things alone make it hard to identify with her in so many of the daily struggles. I wasn't quite sure if there was something wrong with that, or if it is something I should try to work on.
After the conversation with Mike, I was struck by a carved wooden statue that we have from my in-laws. It pictures Mary riding on the donkey to Bethlehem, great with child, Joseph leading them with a somewhat fearful look on his face. Here I will just show you:
As I stared at it, it struck me how much more I identify with the donkey in the statue than Mary. I know that sounds ridiculous, but after wondering if it is a problem that I have a hard time relating to our Lady, it brought me a lot of peace and consolation. One of my very favorite saints, Saint Josemaria Escriva, used to talk about striving to be a donkey spiritually. He praised the donkey's hard working spirit and humility and he said that:
"There are hundreds of animals more beautiful, more deft and strong. But
it was a donkey Christ chose when he presented himself to the people as
king in response to their acclamation"
And it is the donkey who carries our Lord, still in the womb of Mary, to his birthplace. Not a bad job, if you think about it.
The donkey has no false images of himself, he is simply doing what he is being asked to do, humbly and obediently. He is probably really tired and weak, but he does what he has to do. He is serving our Lord in the most practical way, through carrying his mother in this most trying of times and I can only hope to do just that in this life. Shoot, I fail at being like the donkey!
I think imitation of Our Lady is a beautiful, important thing to strive for in the
spiritual life, and I think that God's grace can accomplish that level
of holiness. But for me, most days I am all over the place and "imitator of Mary, the Mother of God" would be the last title anyone would ever come close to giving me if they could see my feeble, mucked up attempts to serve the Lord through motherhood.
BUT! "Donkey who serves Our Lord and loves and serves Mary, the Mother of God" is much closer to something I feel like I can aspire to. There is humility and obedience in the task of the hard working donkey, and while I am not even there yet, I can work towards it. I can work towards loving, serving and honoring Our Lady- exemplar of all mothers- as that donkey did who carried her to Bethlehem.