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O Wondrous Exchange

O Wondrous Exchange

December 25, 2023

With the gospel of the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38), we sit on the threshold of Christmas.  This breaking-in of God into human flesh, beginning with Mary, becomes the paradigm for God’s continual incarnation into our human lives.  In a beautiful poem titled “How can this be?” the author John Shea gives a poetic expression of the importance of our ‘yes’, rooted in the first ‘yes’ of Mary.

“[This] is what I learned from Gabriel.

            He saw in me

            more than I saw in myself

            and troubled my ordinariness

            with the announcement

            of a full and unfolding grace.”

I stop here to note it is the Divine gaze, the Divine heart that sees more in ourselves than what we see.  And then this visitation of the Angel Gabriel will trouble our ordinary ways of thinking and doing…this “disturbance” comes with grace, a grace that is unfolding right now, a grace that is fuller than what we know right now.  The poem continues:

            “I became both cooperator and observer.

            The moment I said, ‘Yes,’

            I swam in rivers

            Not of my own making.

            How little we know!

            How much we have to trust!”

Does this not resonate with our experience?  The moment we each said ‘yes’, we find ourselves in uncharted territory, in places and situations of our lives that we did not create nor ever imagined we would be in.  The new of God places us in these uncharted events and experiences.  ‘How much we have to trust’: trust is at the core of our ‘yes’.  Each ‘yes’ opens the human soul to incarnate a little more the Divine life.  What a gift to God and to our world to live our ‘yes’ to the end.  We are ‘cooperators’ and ‘observers’ as the poem says.   Indeed, living our ‘yes’, like Mary, places us in unknown waters.  Trust is woven into our ‘yes’ and gives us the impetus and courage to swim in these unknown waters.

Sr. Maria Boulding writes in poetic prose a similar thought.  She says: “You are the answering readiness, the receptivity, without which even today God cannot give as he longs to give” (The Coming of God, p.7).  Dear sisters, here is a beautiful depiction of the interior posture of Mary’s and our ‘yes’: ‘answering readiness’, ‘receptivity’.  The heart’s horizon is now open, open in trust.  And almost without delay, God bestows grace, his new gesture of Love and of new life.

This ‘answering readiness and receptivity’ are contained in Mary’s words: ‘Let it be done to me according to your word’…They are a response to God’s invitation given through the Angel Gabriel.  To make these words our own, to utter them in the depths of prayer, allows the miracle of God’s self-gift in Christ to become part of our flesh, indeed part of our whole being….‘O wondrous exchange’!

The poem concludes with these words:

            “Hold my hand.

            I will take you to the place

            where the spirit rejoices,

            where lowliness becomes largeness,

            where all space and time is pregnant,

            where the center has no circumference,

            where the divine child lays his head

            upon the breast of your earth.                                    


            My question is the answer I found

            when I said, ‘Let it be.’”

So, we each pray: ‘Let it be’…I am ready to receive your Son in the humble stable of my heart.  No matter what the state of our heart is, we can still pray: ‘I am your servant…let it be done to me according to your Word’.  Grace is waiting at the door of our heart, not waiting for a perfect, stainless heart, waiting only for our consent…our ‘yes’.  Our consent will usher forth the gift of Christmas, for with God nothing is impossible.

Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess

Chapter Talk – Christmas Eve – 2023 – cycle-B (Fourth Sunday of Advent)


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