Today I am lucky enough to be working from home (doing a little work-related stuff, but also procrastinating with Facebook and email and Spider Solitaire - is this what everyone who works from home does?). I'm listening to a beautiful recording of Advent Lessons & Carols by the choirs of St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle, Washington. As I'm working, procrastinating, messing around, my mind wanders where it will. Suddenly, on Track 31, I hear, really hear the reading from Luke 1:26-38, the Annunciation. I hear the angel Gabriel say to Mary, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." And I hear Mary's perplexity, read by a really good lector. What kind of greeting might this be? Uh-oh, what does he want? "Don't be afraid, for you have found favor with God."
Bam! Suddenly it's 1993, and I'm standing in the office of the Forensic Mental Health Unit in Buffalo, NY, realizing that I will be a priest, and it's not a matter of "...if I'm ordained" (as we aspirants to Holy Orders were all taught to phrase it), but it really is "...when I'm ordained." I knew it then with such clarity and certainty, and I wasn't afraid (as I probably should have been -- if I knew then what I know now!), and a great sense of joy and peace, the peace that passes all understanding, settled over me.
You know, I've come a long way in my relationship with Mary. As a staunch feminist, I had no desire to identify with "Gentle Mary, meek and mild," the one who bowed her head and said, "Let it be with me according to your will." I've always been, as I've heard it described "strong-willed" (nice description of "stubborn"). Maybe I could identify with Mary Magdalen, even Mary of Bethany ("Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."). Then I learned I could identify with the black madonna, that walker of the dark paths of life, paths of grief and loss, of illness and birth and death, of the unknown.
But nope, no gentle submission for me. At some point, though, I realized what courage submission took - maybe it was when I came to terms with (submitted to) my own addiction to food; maybe it was when I realized what Mary actually said yes to -- an untimely, premarital pregnancy with a child obviously not her fiancee's. This was an offense punishable by stoning, and she would almost certainly forfeit her approaching marriage. But she said yes anyway. And I bet she felt that same peace and joy that I felt that day in 1993 when I knew I had already said yes. All would be well, and all would be well.
Now I know what untimely, pre-marital pregnancy feels like, and in 1968, when I experienced it, it wasn't even punishable by death! I know how hard it is to say yes to that sticky situation. But now I also have a shiveringly gut-level realization of what it means, for better and for worse, to say yes to a call from God, even though I couldn't possibly know what that would mean for the rest of my life. There's a fearful stepping off a cliff and then discovering that you've been given wings. There's the opportunity to develop the kind of trust in the unseen Holy One that was only theoretical before. But I couldn't always feel the wings. There were long periods of time when I just felt the stepping off, and the falling. There were lots and lots of times when I thought I must have been a fool to even try stepping off that particular cliff of saying yes to the priesthood. But all was well, and all is well. I bet there were times that Mary wished the whole thing hadn't even got started, too.
My lesson for today: Listen! Listen for the angels! To what are they calling me now? What sort of courageous "Yes" am I being called to say? What dream is God trying to implant in my heart? What of God's dreams for the world will I carry to fruition in the coming months? Oh, my. Right now I feel so grateful.