Sabrina Reyes-Peters

#AdventWord 2021: Heart

Earlier this week, my father-in-law, master of dad jokes, asked my spouse what I'd do without my Soul (car). My spouse, an apple fallen not far from the tree, replied, "oh, she's all heart."

(That was a freebie.)

Yesterday, the word was "fulfill." It's easy for me to associate that with Advent, because the gospel writers who recount the story of Jesus' birth quote prophets and allude to Jesus as a fulfillment of those prophecies. But, "heart" is a little more subtle, at least for me, a head person.

I'm thinking of Mary, again. (Who's surprised? The entire season of Advent has a Jesus-focus, for many Protestants, but we would do well to consider a feminine perspective, particularly that of Mary's, more often, in observing her December feast days or not.)

When Luke writes of Mary's encounter with Gabriel, he presents her responses as head-oriented and succinct. When Gabriel appears and calls her "favored", Mary is described as attempting to make sense or order of the angel's particular salutation. When Gabriel tells her what is going to happen, Mary naturally asks how it's going to happen. Very logical, if you ask me. What Luke does not describe is Mary's heart, that is, until the story of Jesus as a boy, wandering away from his parents and arguing with rabbis: Luke writes, "his mother [carefully stored] these things in her heart."

My question is, what was Mary's heart like before Jesus was born? I touched on this a couple days ago, imagining the road to Bethlehem, but we can ponder outside of that, as well, starting with the angel Gabriel. First, Luke does not describe the angel at all, but sometimes angels are presented as fairly intimidating. Was Mary scared or intimidated? Or did Gabriel present as a human being? What did Mary feel after considering the angel's message? After all, she was going to be a young girl, carrying a child, while pledged to another man but not married. We know the social and religious stigma around that.

Luke writes that Mary went to visit Elizabeth after receiving Gabriel's message. I wonder what she was feeling then, since her encounter with Elizabeth sparked a song of praise, very similar to the one Hannah proclaimed after she dedicated her boy Samuel in service of the temple and its high priest, Eli. Was her heart heavy, and did Elizabeth provide the Spirit's reassurance?

Some folks like to portray Mary as a perfectly submissive, servant of God, merely a vessel who then grieved over her son's suffering and death. But Mary was a human, and more dynamic than the gospel writers liked to portray her.