For the One, eternal God to be present in space-time, He needs a receiver, a receptacle. God is present, and all is present to God, as the ultimate cause of all that exists. God’s “personal presence,” if we can use this language, depends on human cooperation, for God and man meet in the in-between of the divine-human. The Almighty seeks carriers, human beings in whom He may dwell, and through whom He may act. For the ancient Israelites and the devout Jews before Jesus, God was experienced as dwelling especially in chosen men and women as prophets, as those who “spoke the Word of God.” And God was understood to dwell on occasion in certain chosen individuals into whom His Spirit rushed, leading to action on behalf of God’s People, Israel. Israelite and Jewish scriptures (our Old Testament) provide much evidence of the belief in God’s presence as a spirit of power, charisma, insight, vision, and decisive action. Finally, the magnificent stories that open the Book of Genesis (chapters 1-2)present the belief of Jewish spiritualists that what we recognize as human being is essentially that into which God inbreathes his spirit or breath (ruach). To be human is to carry God.
What God does apart from His action as the ultimate cause of all that exists, and His presencing action in particular human beings, we do not know, for we cannot experience God in Himself. To speak to you, God needs a human carrier. God in effect borrows a voice, an image, silent thoughts stirring in your heart. That which is utterly silent needs a voice to be heard by human ears, and that which is pure Love needs a loving receiver of His love to bless human beings. Although God has indeed “spoken to us in many and various ways” as we read in the opening of the Letter to the Hebrews, there remains the unique God-bearer: According to our Gospels, Mary is the human being who utterly disposed herself of God, and through whom God directly entered our human condition—a truth expressed in the belief that God took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. She clung to nothing of her own—no ego, knowledge, reputation. Mary allowed herself to become an active-docile receiver of the God who is ever coming, that is, always presenting himself to human beings. And so we honor her as the Godbearer par excellence: as the mother of God in the flesh, as the mother of Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist loves God as the Almighty, as the Just Judge of the world, and in his preaching John presents what he imagines as the coming wrath of God to destroy evil and evil-doers. In the same Gospels we see that John had difficulty accepting Jesus as the coming of God, because Jesus did not bring destruction to evil-doers, but mercy and conversion to those who welcomed his word. And we see that Mary’s way is simpler than John’s: Mary loves God as the One who has presented Himself to her, in her, as the One we call Christ. John proclaims; Mary adores. John speaks of what he partially knows; Mary loves the One who is utterly intimate to her. The Church cannot dispense with either John or Mary: John as the voice warning us in the wilderness of our lives; Mary as the most humble, loving servant of the One who “has come to set us free” from bondage to sin, self, death. Her head is bowed, she sits in silence, she beholds with a wide-open heart Christ Jesus dwelling in her. As St. Bernard wisely wrote, “Mary conceived Christ in her mind before she conceived him in her womb.” And conceive she does. By silent adoration Mary understands more of God than can ever be reached by prophets, philosophers, spiritualists, or knowers of one kind or another. Mary has become, by God’s sheer grace, the home of God in the world. She is the human manger, she is the stable, she is the womb where Life itself grows in sheer silence. Her response is quiet, still, “filled with love beyond all telling.”
Apart from Mary, we do not have, we do not know, the Gift of God that is Jesus Christ. God did not use Mary and throw her away. This young woman of Nazareth has become for all time the chosen vessel through which Christ entered the world in divine fullness. And His entrance began, not as an adult, nor as a child, not even as an infant in Mary’s arms. Christ’s entrance in the world began as the unseen Presence, the conceptus-fetus-infant growing in Mary’s womb. With the most childlike, loving faith, Mary conceived Christ in her womb, and adored the unsurpassable Gift of God.