Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Prayer and Trouble

One of the things that has always struck me about the Annunciation, when Gabriel appeared to Mary and she accepted the gift of the Holy Spirit and conceived Jesus, is that in every depiction I have ever seen of this event, Mary is shown praying when she is visited.  Sometimes she has a book upon which she is meditating, but her reading is clearly an aid to prayer.

She is surprised by the angel - but he does not appear while she's baking or chatting or going about her chores.  The Gospel doesn't tell us, but the Tradition, expressed in stained glass, painting, mosaics and literature throughout the millennia, tells us that she was visited by a messenger of God while communicating with God.  She is then, and habitually, it would seem, in a communion, a communion that bears fruit.  She is seeking God and He comes to her.  The Holy Spirit comes to her in a very intimate way not merely because she was chosen or because she gave her fiat, but because she was already intimate with God by communing with Him.

And we tend to think that with prayer comes all that lovely stuff, that peace and quiet and contemplation, that  smiling Buddha stuff, sitting alone and resting.

But what were some of the first things that came with Mary's prayer?  Scandal.  A difficult trip, a sacrifice to help another.  Trouble with Joseph.  Embarrassment.  Persecution.  Exile.

The flowers that spring from prayer do not usually make up the bed of roses we think they will.

Not only does "no good deed go unpunished" as people often say, but also "no good prayer is answered with complacency" - on our part or on God's.  The more we pray the less we are allowed to settle.  God may bring us peace, and yet

The peace of God it is not peace, but strife closed in the sod,
Yet let us pray for just one thing--the marvelous peace of God.

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