The Prayer of Mary: Living the Surrendered Lifeby Keith Fournier
In this readable, succinct volume, Keith Fournier portrays the young virgin of Nazareth in a fresh light as an antidote to the spiritual ills of the age. The Prayer of Mary presents humility, simplicity, and selfless love as fitting responses to the loving invitation of God, who visits people in their daily lives and invites them into a relationship with/em>
In this readable, succinct volume, Keith Fournier portrays the young virgin of Nazareth in a fresh light as an antidote to the spiritual ills of the age. The Prayer of Mary presents humility, simplicity, and selfless love as fitting responses to the loving invitation of God, who visits people in their daily lives and invites them into a relationship with Him.
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The Prayer of MaryLiving the Surrendered Life
By Keith A. Fournier Lela Gilbert
Nelson BooksCopyright © 2007 Keith A. Fournier with Lela Gilbert
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). Human history was forever changed when Mary spoke those words. They came from a deep spiritual reservoir within the heart of a young Jewish girl who was in love with the God of her fathers-Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Mary's yes to her Lord is called the Fiat, which in Latin means "let it be done."
Mary's Fiat was spoken from a heart filled with pure love for God. In a biblical context, heart is a word that means much more than the fleshy organ at the center of our chest cavity. It refers to our center, our core, the place where our deepest identity is rooted and from which our fundamental choices in life are made.
Mary's words proceeded from her heart, and it was a humble heart. This young woman was not full of herself, not self-protective, not cynical. She was, therefore, able to completely surrender herself in love, to love. Her initial assent to the angel Gabriel's announcement reveals the very meaning of another biblical word: holy. Holiness is not about being religious or looking pious. It is about being selfless. Mary was holy. Her life shows us how to become holy too.
In the original languages, the words in holy Scripture that were translated into the English word holy mean "set apart" or "consecrated." They refer to people or things that are totally given over to God and His worship. If we want to be holy, we need to explore the meaning of these words and make them our own. In everyday language, these people or items involved in temple worship were entirely dedicated to God's service. It is in that sense that we, too, are called to be set apart for the living God. We are to make a place for Him within ourselves and within the world. We are to bear His message through a lifestyle that radiates His love.
It is only by embracing ideas of being set apart and consecrated that our own personal histories can be truly transformed. This happens through conversion, or metanoia, which means "to change." Our hope for change, for becoming holy, is to open our lives to the One who is the source of all goodness and holiness. We are called to respond to His invitation, to say yes to a relationship with Him. This is what Mary's Fiat is all about. In saying yes to God, as Mary did, we are able to discover the path to conversion, to holiness, to authentic spirituality.
Our call to embrace the Fiat and to make it ours is not a formula for easy spiritual growth, nor is it the first in a series of steps that lead to solving the problems of life. The Fiat is not the answer to a riddle or the meaning behind some mystery. Bookstores are filled with how-to books. This is not one of them.
The spiritual life is a path, a way, and it involves a continuing, ongoing walk with the Lord. He has invited each of us into an intimate, personal exchange of love. This kind of intimacy with a living, loving God is the interior meaning of Mary's Fiat, her Magnificat, and her way of life. When we embrace Mary's Song and make it our own, we allow the One whom Mary bore in her body to be incarnated in and through us too.
Each of us can say yes to God. Each of us can respond with our entire being, with a Fiat of surrendered love. When we do so, our positive response marks the beginning of our participation in the very life of the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We become sons and daughters of the Most High and enter into the life of the living God. In Him, we find our deepest identity, our real selves, through our participation in the One who made us, who redeems us, and who transforms us by His continual grace. Our holiness comes through touching the holy God, through being filled with His life and love.
Conversion begins when we say Fiat with our words and our deeds. It introduces us to a new and dynamic way of living with God and in God. As we lose ourselves in Him, we find ourselves again. We are made new and complete. This holy exchange-our life for His-is the essence of the spiritual journey. It is not about power but powerlessness. It is not about increase but decrease. It is not about becoming greater but becoming smaller.
In short, true spirituality is about surrender.
Centuries of Christian people have learned that as we lose ourselves in God, something significant happens. He reveals Himself as a God who can, does, and will act in the reality of our daily, human experiences. He makes it possible for us to have a genuine relationship, a dialogue, with Him. He certainly wants us to live life to the fullest. It is precisely because we were made for Him that we find our fulfillment in emptying ourselves, in selflessness. Then, of course, we are both filled and fulfilled in Him. (This is a fruit and not a goal, however. He is the goal.)
Mary's prayer teaches us to stay afloat in the ocean of life, with all of its undertows. Mary's Way is to become an ark within. When we do this, the same God who became incarnate within her takes up His residence in us. He comes to dwell in all men and women who say yes to Him.
Mary's prayer is an invitation to participate in the ongoing incarnation of God's love, for the sake of world. It is an invitation to live a life of redemption. In living a surrendered life, we not only are transformed ourselves, but we also participate in the mediation of God's love to others. The ongoing creative and redemptive work of God's love continues through us as we learn how to become arks, or dwelling places, through which love comes alive for all those around us.
We enter into Christ's incarnation as we participate in the prayer of Mary. But first, we must hear God's invitation. We must learn to listen for it with our whole hearts. Then, we can respond the same way Mary did: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).
God takes the initiative. He may whisper to our hearts through His Holy Spirit, or He may speak through His chosen messenger, but it is God who initiates and then awaits our response. Mary, in her selflessness, was open to the angel's visit. She recognized who was speaking. She listened, received, and responded. In so doing, she demonstrated the framework of all authentic spirituality. God initiates a relationship, and we respond in surrender to Him. This dynamic, this heavenly road, leads to a dialogue, a conversation, a way of life. By saying yes, through our own Fiat, we are set apart. Consecrated. Made holy.
Mary shows us that way.
Excerpted from The Prayer of Mary by Keith A. Fournier Lela Gilbert Copyright © 2007 by Keith A. Fournier with Lela Gilbert. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Lela Gilbert is a Gold Medallion–winning freelance writer/editor of more than sixty books, including the award–winning Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion. She is a contributor to the Jerusalem Post, Weekly Standard Online, National Review Online, and other publications. She is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute and resides in California and Jerusalem.
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