Stunning Quiet Day at the diocesan retreat house, led by the man who conducted our ordination retreat. Despite the catholic ethos of my current church, I've tended to suspicion of the cult of the BVM and only D's unnerving knack of hitting whole rows of nails on the head where I'm concerned had encouraged me to attend the day. Typically, I spend the first part of any retreat experience agonising about my spiritual shortcomings and becoming increasingly panicky. D's earlier broadside on sacrificial self-discipline had left me rather raw and uncertain about what I was actually for in ministry, and I found myself journalling these feelings madly through the quiet times of the morning, feeling progressively less adequate and more anxious. Then, after lunch, we looked at Raphael’s
Madonna of the Pinks
Not only is this stunning in itself, when you have time to look at it properly, but it’s good theology too.
The longer you look at the picture, the more aware you become that all the initiative lies with the child. He is offering his mother those pinks…(dianthus apparently a sign of betrothal,evoking the Song of Solomon) turning Mary into bride as well as mother, and looking forward to the crucifixion when as she is given into the care of John, a new family the church is created. So…Mary is the symbol of the church. But she is more.
All she has to do is to be loved….and this is where she becomes a role model for us.
We don’t need to try harder.
We don’t have to work on holiness.
We just have to accept the stupendous reality that, with all our complexes and contradictions, our messes and failures, we are nonetheless loveable and loved.
We love, because he first loved us. Simple!