A Bare and Unadorned Space

The following sermon was written by Sister Jean Marie, OP ( Queen of Peace Monastery ) and preached several days ago in our communal celebration of the Joyous Chapter on the feast of the Annunciation.  

In the beginning, God spoke the Word, the Word he spoke was God, and through God’s Word everything came into being. In the fullness of time God’s word is en-fleshed in Jesus, the Son of God. God now dwells in our midst.

The prologue of John’s Gospel retells the creation story. God, now re-creates in his Word made flesh. The good news is that in God’s breaking into our history our capacity to be participants in the Divine nature is restored (2 Peter 1:34). There is within each human person a dynamic impetus toward eternity. God created us with the capacity for freedom; this gift of freedom provides the power of choosing good or evil. 

"For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, your all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne,
into the midst of the land that was doomed . . . and touched heaven while standing on the earth." (Wisdom 18:14-16)

The prophetic image found in this Wisdom text is forceful. In coming into our humanity, Jesus became a bridge that re-establishes our connection to God. Jesus Christ, Word of God made man, touches heaven and stands upon the earth. 

In the teaching of the New Testament we are frequently confronted with our need for healing and redemption. We are healed through opening our hearts to the purifying light of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Jesus. Meister Eckhart would say that our emptiness draws the Word into our hearts—that our emptiness is the cradle for the birth of the Word.

Mary is our paradigm for discipleship for listening to the Holy Spirit. The Annunciation is the beginning of the mystery of our salvation. The Gospel scene is Trinitarian. The Father sends the Spirit who hovers over Mary as in the first creation, and a new humanity is born through the Word of God who takes flesh in her Virgin womb. 

Fra Angelico depicts this mystery so well in his Annunciation found in one of the cells at San Marco, Florence. The simplicity of his presentation: Mary kneels in a bare and unadorned space, rays of light focusing on the intensity of her receptivity. She kneels in prayer bent forward intensely enfolding the Word of God.

Every time I am open to the movement of the Spirit I am born anew. God’s Word came into the world that we might be reborn in the grace of Christ. God’s grace is made full in us through the indwelling presence of God, and our yes to God’s work. The Divine life continually heals our brokenness when we listen deeply to the voice of the Spirit, and like Mary accept God’s Word. 

Jesus, the Son of God enters Mary’s womb and is born in Bethlehem so that he may be born in us through grace. So, that like Mary we may become vessels of the Trinity, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and in our turn, give birth to the Word of God through our ministry of imparting the truth of the Word to others. Through our Dominican vocation, we have been specially gifted to fulfill this Christian mission.

Eckhart teaches that the Father births the Word, his Beloved Son in the ground of our being. Our perfecting is a lifelong process that continues until we enter the fullness of eternity. It is a gift of God, the work of the Trinity. The Father delights that His Word is born in us, and in our turn that the birth of the Word makes us fruitful bearers of the Word.

In Jesus, God’s steadfast love and mercy is available to all humanity. He came to establish a kingdom of peace among all peoples, as the angels foretold to the shepherds. The Gospels teach us how to become people of peace and love. We can radically become a focal point of peace by seeking to live in a non-violent way in all our dealings with each other. Each of us by seeking to live the Gospel deeply in our monastic life, loving one another intensely, sends ripples of love into our world that transforms it.  We need to trust in the Holy Spirit, as Mary did, that great things could be accomplished in her and through her. God promises each of us that he will do great things in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. As we celebrate this great feast of the Annunciation, let the words of the Prophet Zephaniah echo again and again in our inmost centre: ‘I am in the midst of you’. Let us allow God to surprise us: “You are my beloved, be fruitful in the Holy Spirit. Do not be afraid I am with you always.”

Queen of Peace Novitiate