My private Oratory features an assortment of Holy Icons and small pewter statues, an old standing crucifix and a second-class relic of my dear patron, St. Philip Neri.
It also contains a stone I’d dug up while gardening, a perfect oval shape that I like to keep around because it reminds me of the question the women asked as they went to Jesus’ tomb after Passover: “Who will roll away the stone?” (Mark 16:3)
I like the question because it reflects our daily vulnerability and anxieties, our daily quandary: “I have these plans; how am I going to accomplish them? What can I do of myself; with what do I need help? Of what or on whom am I wholly dependent in order to do some things?”
The answers are always the same (I know the plans I have for you…) and yet different too.
What do you choose to surrender (pride, control, feelings, things)?
What do you choose to hold on to (usually, the same)?
What do you really ask?
Beginning prayer at the oratory means letting my attention slowly wander over the whole; eventually, as my prayer deepens, either my eyes will close or they will focus on something which I have “seen” a million times before but with fresh perspective. This morning I began the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary while simultaneously studying the Vladimir Theotokos Icon. I beheld Creator and created, sharing the same flesh, the same blood, entwined, together, and found the whole story, right there in the joyful mysteries.
The Annunciation: Since Eden, God’s purpose—slow and baffling, yet inexorable—has been to restore all things in Christ. There are so many things we do not know. Mary is hailed as “full of grace,” born without the stain of the “necessary sin of Adam” which has set Gabriel his task: will she consent—she full of grace, yet free—to be the Ark of a New Covenant, the Host for the Lord of Hosts, who needs her flesh and blood before he can shed his own as the spotless Lamb, the acceptable sacrifice?