Our Need of Freedom

Today we ask the Key of David to come and free us from darkness and the shadow of death. Shortly before we sing that antiphon, I shall have given the traditional monastic talk called the Missus Est on the words ‘an angel was sent from God’. The two things come together beautifully, because I think Mary was the most supremely free person who has ever lived. It was given to her either to accept or reject motherhood of God. St Bernard pictures the whole world kneeling before her at the angel’s coming, waiting for the answer she will give: ‘Give the word, Mary, which will give us the Word.’ It was indeed a moment of unequalled faith when Mary embraced the divine Word in her heart and spoke the human word that would set us free: ‘Let it be done to me as you have said.’ The Greek uses the optative, which makes our rather passive English phrase look weak and inadequate. Mary willed her conception, was eager to do God’s bidding, co-operated gladly.

In these last few days of Advent, when the birth of Christ seems very close, let’s spend a few moments thinking about what we owe that young Jewish girl. She let go all her dreams in obedience to the word of God, accepted a vocation that would ask more of her than she could ever have imagined. So it may be with us. Our oblate Pauline quotes these lines of the poet Czeslaw Milosz

Early we receive a call, yet it remains incomprehensible,
and only late do we discover how obedient we were.

They are worth pondering in the light of our own vocation. We may think we have lived all our lives circumscribed by the bonds of duty only to realise that, in fact, we have been, like Mary, supremely free, blessed beyond measure.


4 thoughts on “Our Need of Freedom”

  1. Thank you for such a timely reflection.

    The words you quote:

    “Early we receive a call, yet it remains incomprehensible,
    and only late do we discover how obedient we were”.

    cause me to reflect on how bound up my life seemed to be in work, particularly the Army, where I didn’t consider it a vocation, rather a job that needed doing. Only now can I see it as a vocation, that I was called to, and did for better or worse.

    Now, my life has a different direction, which is bound up in seeking God’s will. As he points me in a different direction, and I see prospects of being trained in mission and ministry in the next twelve months.

    Mary gives us an example of obedience, which is above all, except for the obedience that Jesus showed when he laid down his life for us all – how can we now, not be obedient to his teaching and will.

    The Hail Mary takes on a larger importance today.

  2. What a marvelous Advent meditation Dame Catherine! As my professional life becomes more and more stressful at this time of year, I have taken a particularly keen pleasure in reading your posts which so splendidly bring me back to center amid the gentle chaos of extra rehearsals, Masses, and other sung services with the choir & choristers. While I look forward to each and enjoy greatly my work, it is still sometime easy to become a bit fragmented and spiritually wobbly. Thank you much for all you do!

    • Thank you, Jeremy, and know that you — and indeed all musicians — are very much in the community’s prayer, especially at this time of year. As St Augustine is constantly reminding us, those who sing pray twice over!

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