The Most Beautiful Creature - St. Bernard's

The Most Beautiful Creature

Mar 28, 2023

Apolonio Latar, S.T.L.

It came in an unexpected way, in a seemingly insignificant place, at a seemingly insignificant time, and yet it was the most perfect time to the most perfect creature: Gabriel came to Mary to announce that she was to receive the eternal Son of the Father. Israel had been waiting for this very moment for a long time. Many prayed that it would come, but they did not get to see how the promises of God would have been fulfilled. And they suffered. We can only get a glimpse of how much they suffered in their waiting. We suffer because we wait, because we still carry unfulfilled longings. It is very difficult to have wants and needs that seem to never go away and prayers that seem to be rejected, as if God does not care or does not listen to them. Why do we carry unfulfilled needs? “Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?” (Jer.15:18). How long do we have to carry this pain, this incurable wound within us?

Grounded in hope, Mary waited with all of Israel. She deeply desired God and, at the same time, she knew that God was God and that she was not. She learned from her people, like Abraham, who hoped against hope, to have the certainty that God continuously acts in history because He is faithful. To desire God is not only having the persistent prayer that He comes, but to also want the specific ways He wants to come. Most of the time, we have ideas of how He should come, how He should fulfill the needs of our hearts, how He should heal our lives. Our Blessed Mother had the purest, most childlike, and most beautiful prayer: that He comes in His own time and in His own way. She understood that our time is not His time and yet she had the trust that God never abandons the human heart and puts everything beautifully together. She knew that His time is what we really need, that His way of revealing Himself to us is what we really want. How did she have this certainty, this trust that can be so painful for us to have? The answer seems to be simple: she intimately knew and felt profoundly that she was deeply known and loved. She can trust Him who knew her because she was attentive to the depth of His promises.

Mary was chosen to receive the Savior of the cosmos. We are not told why Mary was chosen just as we are not told why others in the history of Israel were chosen. We know that from the moment she was conceived, she was “full of grace,” filled with the abundant life of God. The preference of God towards Mary should not be an occasion to be jealous or to be angry that we are not preferred the way she was. It is very easy to be jealous of other people’s gifts, especially if we do not have them. But God gives His gifts to each person in a unique way, not so that we can be jealous, but so that we can enjoy the other’s presence and be certain that we cannot live without the other. We need the gifts of others, not just our own, and their gifts become ours when we receive and enjoy others. Why did God choose Mary? This is a mystery, but we do know this: God chose her so that we can receive Christ. The preference of God towards Mary is not just for her, but for the whole world. This means that any gift we have, especially the gift of our very lives, is not just for us, but for the whole world. God chose Mary because He deeply loved the world. When the Infinite and Almighty God looked at the eyes of this beautiful creature, He saw the whole cosmos.

From the instant that Mary said “yes,” the Son of the Father was made flesh and dwelt in her. In the life of Mary, we perceive what true power really is. It is not the imposition of ideas on the world, or a bending of the world to our will. It is very similar to the “power” of a child. The child is useless, not being able to do anything on his own. Yet, in his very vulnerability, full of wonder and receptive to another, he is able to draw out a deep affection from the other. True power is letting the depth that the other unveils emerge. And what emerges from Mary’s “yes” is the outpouring of the tenderness of God within her; it is the very life of God as an embryo in her womb.

It is fitting that there are many statues and pictures of Mary stepping on the head of the serpent. From her childlike obedience comes what seems to be impossible: that God becomes flesh for our salvation, rescuing us from evil and death. What we learn from Mary is that power and poverty go together. Because she did not impose anything on God, did not force God to bend His will to hers, but was receptive to the very ways and thoughts of God, God could heal His fallen world and restore whatever is beautiful, good, and true. True power is being transparent to the will of God so that His glory can be seen. It allows the utter gratuity of God to radiate, to shine forth once again so that life can be seen to be meaningful. Power is not force. It is gratuitous and fruitful love.

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Apolonio Latar III received his M.Ed. at Marymount University. He also studied Philosophy at Rutgers University and Sacred Theology at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. He is currently the Theology Department Chair at St. Paul VI Catholic High School. His interests include the theology of Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar, metaphysics, analytic philosophy, scripture, and fundamental theology.