An Image Reflection for the Saturday of the Second Week of Advent
STM's staff will share an image and reflect on it each Saturday. Today, David writes about Mary and embracing God's divine fire.
The Gospel reading on Thursday for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception immortalizes the moment the Angel Gabriel meets with Mary and forever transforms creation. We commemorate this every time we pray the Hail Mary and remember Mary’s emphatic yes to God. In this moment, Mary serves as the perfect model of faith and discipleship. She reminds us that the Church is about choosing and turning toward God.
Above is my favorite depiction of this scene but the artist Henry Ossawa Tanner. I love it for both its simplicity and depths of mystery and warmth. In it, Mary is clearly a young girl in a simple, rustic setting. Such a supernatural occurrence happening to her, however, is not met with fear, but rather fills the room with warmth. The divine presence is fire, one that promises to consume Mary, but rather than burn, it will transform and give life.
Today’s readings speak to God’s propensity to appear as fire. This divine fire is important to the founding and continuity of the Church and the building of the Kingdom of God. God’s sacred presence is revealed as a burning bush. The fire of the prophets was the burning presence of God that promised to change the world to how it ought to be. Elijah appears and leaves cloaked in flames. His words are like a furnace for those who would turn away from God. John the Baptist, this new Elijah, based his entire ministry on moving people to repent. At Pentecost, the early church was sent forth alive and energized by tongues of flame.
Rather than embrace this flame, we often do not see it, recognize it for what it is. God’s presence fills our lives like a warm flame and promises to transform us in some way like it did for Mary. We fail to perceive this energizing flame when we turn away from God by failing to love God, ourselves, others and God’s creation. Rather than scare us, this flame should inspire us and fill us with joy to do the work of building the Kingdom of God.