The Gift of Time and Wonder: Hail, Mary

June 8, 2017.  The final week I spent on retreat at Holy Cross Monastery in the Hudson River Valley was filled with the wonder of how God knows, and provides for, our needs. In my reading, writing and prayer I found myself yearning for images of the divine feminine. So many of our words, symbols, and representations of God are masculine. We need both feminine and masculine to represent the fullness of humanity and of God, and the fullness of humanity. As I prayed about this, I became aware of the presence Jesus’ mother, Mary, throughout the monastery.

At lunch one day, I chatted with a woman, Leann, who was on retreat to discern whether she was called to ordained ministry. Leann shared her practice of praying the Rosary. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Later, I found an Anglican Rosary and Anglican prayer beads in the monastery bookstore. In true ‘Catholic-lite’ fashion, the Anglican prayers and beads are a shorter version of the Rosary. Find out more about Anglican prayer beads at this link: http://www.trinitycathedral.org/worship/anglican-prayer-prayer-beads

As several of us were reading in a common room one morning, Brother Peter brought in a few of the icons he painted. One icon showed Mary holding Jesus while Jesus gazes adoringly at her, his arm wrapped around the back of her neck. Brother Peter explained that this icon is Byzantine in origin and referred to as Mary Tender Mercy. Later, I wandered into the crypt below the chapel, where many of the brothers are buried, and discovered a large triptych of Tender Mercy in one of the side chapels.

 

The following day, my husband, Paul, called to tell me he was going to Minneapolis to be with his 94 year old father, Douglas, who was in the final stages of dying. I made the decision, with Paul’s support, to continue my retreat at Holy Cross. It was difficult to stay behind and let go of my roles as wife, daughter-in-law, and priest. Instead, I held Douglas and Paul in prayer, and as I lit candles in the side chapel before the icon, I felt the ‘tender mercy’ of the Mother of God surrounding me and them. Douglas died peacefully at the end of the week.

 

I left Holy Cross on the Day of Pentecost, when Christians celebrate the birth of the Church. Following Jesus’ death and resurrection, God gave the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and inspire them in their ministry. As I said goodbye, I felt ready to move ahead in my own journey, grateful for this time, guided by the Holy Spirit, and curious about my new companion, Mary.

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