By Sister Deborah Troillett
In the July/August issue of Commonweal, Tara Isabella Burton writes: “The Magnificat helped me … Mary helped me. My fiancé had never liked her much. She’s just some girl, he’d often said. Just a mom. But it is Mary who knows the truth in her body, the truth of her body…”
For many of us, reflecting on Mary’s Assumption can evoke stained glass images and European masterpiece depictions of this mystery. This year, such images never came to me. Instead, photos of Black moms—Allison, Wanda and Tamika, the mothers of Botham Jean, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor—filled my mind. These women—just moms—dealing with the execution of their children by “law enforcement” officers, took me to a different place in thinking about Mary and the truth she knew in her body. Watching a nearly nine-minute video of George Floyd’s murder felt like hellish eternity. What sustained Mary as she watched for hours her son’s execution at the hands of Roman “law enforcement?” What “something” happened in her body?
In another recent article, Penn Rhodeen writes in America that Jesus’ execution was “carried out by as many officers of the state as are required to get it done with total domination.” Following George Floyd’s death, mostly peaceful protests broke out across the United States and worldwide. “You have to dominate the streets,” President Trump told U.S. governors. At times facing brutal force, many thousands of protesters remained steadfast and peaceful. What “something” happened in their bodies?
Burton continues: “There is something that happens in the body that is also not governed purely by blood, and that something is what makes the valleys high and the mountains low, and also makes a man who died come back from the dead. That the proud are scattered; that the mighty are put down; that a virgin bears a child: all these are part of the same eschatological miracle of Christ. The social order of things—its hierarchies, its divisions—may seem inevitable; it is not.”
That something also “lifts up” the lowly and, in this current social crisis, that something causes me to re-think the theological import of Mary’s assumption. The truth Mary so “wholly” knew in her body—that something not governed purely by blood, but rather a kind of integral knowing—wholly sustained and empowered her. Certainly then, this degree of integrity would translate—body and soul—to eternality.
Mary’s Magnificat is the Gospel “good news” for today’s solemnity, and today, in Morning & Evening Prayer of the Sisters of Mercy, we pray in Mary’s confidence—her own bodily knowing—“that the promises made to her would be fulfilled.”
May our pondering and praying this day sustain our commitment to act with justice in mercy because we, too, KNOW that current social injustices, inequities and divisions are not inevitable.
“Something” is happening in the body—in and through so many … in and through us—here and now—body and soul, “on Earth as in Heaven.”
“The Magnificat helped me … Mary helped me.”
“Just a mom.”