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meditations on Mary's life.... (an essay)

Saturday, July 24, 2004
Seven Sorrows, Seven Joys
Sonnets in Meditation on Mary's Life

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Art and Spirituality is a series of brief monographs published by The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.
Its purpose is to promote personal meditation. In general, each issue is based on a focal image of religious character,
preferably with a Marian theme.
Seven Sorrows, Seven joys: Sonnets in Meditation on Mary's Life departs from this schema but pursues the same
goal. In this second issue of Art and Spirituality both word and image are vehicles of meditation. They both illustrate
the meaning of pondering, which is a spiritual form of moving the cradle to and fro. God's own Word is cradled in
the heart of the believer. It begs to be rocked and rolled and cuddled to reveal its secrets and disclose the depth of its
love. This is what artist and poet set out to achieve in this booklet. They represent two different voices singing the
same tune, Mary's life. Following in the footsteps of Mary of Nazareth, the poet tries to intuit and recreate in sonnets
filled with noble empathy the seven sorrows and seven joys of her pilgrimage of faith. The artist captures and frames the
wealth of poetic imagery in weightless drawings, beckoning the reader to enter the mysteries of Mary. Though differing
in artistic expression, the two artist-sisters are of one heart as they tell us: "Mary's human discipleship becomes ours,
and ours becomes hers."
This booklet owes its existence to a God-human interest story. The story is about God, two sisters, call and response.
God manifests his presence in one sister (the poet) as call, and in the other sister (the artist) as response. The result
is a beautiful conversion story, pointing once more to the manifold ways of God's coming among us, ink drawings and
sonnets included.
Johann G. Roten, S.M.

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Audacious angel! How do you dare
to enter here without a knock, without
a warning whir of wings, without a sound
to signal, softly, somebody about?
This is a maiden's chamber after all.
Are you, a seraph, shadowless? Or could
you not have altered light and air to let
her untouched heart beware? Can this be good
to break into a space of grace? intrude
so suddenly, with prophecy, on her
when her reserve, her insularity
is winter-warm and passionate and pure?
Perhaps you knew she'd answer bold and free:
"I am a virgin, Sir. How can this be?"

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Elizabeth, were you expecting her
to stand so bright, sun-circled, on the step?
Were you prepared by prophecy for that
great joy, the word at which the Baptist leapt?
Did you anticipate her haste? Were you
half-listening to hear her sweep the stone
with her quick steps? To hear her hail you, call
your name, magnificat in every tone?
Or did surprise surge up, a buoyancy,
elation like a bubble rainbow-run
that's spun with air in darkness, in the deepest
depth of soul, and surfaces in sun?
So jubilant was your humility:
"The Mother of my Lord has come-to me!"

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Joseph-what could she tell him? How explain
the body budding in her flesh, the child
he knew was not his own? He stared at her.
His fingers formed a fist, and something wild
took hold of him and seized upon his soul.
He struggled for control; he looked and left
and Mary lingered at the door; a weight
below her waist and on her heart, bereft
of all support but God's. What could she do
but trust in Him to be her Advocate?
Inviolate, a virgin still her Son
all Spirit-sprung, what could she do but wait
for Him to send an angel in the night,
while Joseph slept, and set his thoughts aright?

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Angelic odyssey! That fabled flight
across a universe expanding, star
by star, through jeweled space and shining night,
from Heaven's height to hills of Bethlehem,
where angels mounted moon-lit on the air
and met to form a constellation new,
a crown of light, resplendent, rich and rare,
suspended high above the lifted heads
of shepherds startled into fear and awe,
who trembled at the tidings that they heard
and marvelled at the symmetry they saw:
a diadem for David in the sky,
a vision pointing to a greater sign:
the Virgin Mother with her Child Divine.
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    7/24/2004 09:15:00 PM :: ::
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