"The man said, 'The woman whom you gave to be with me,
she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate.'
Then the LORD God said to the woman, 'What is this that you have done?' The woman said, 'The serpent beguiled me, and I ate.'" (Genesis 3: 12-13)
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-50)
Grasping. Receiving. As we read the accounts of Eve and Mary in Scripture and reflect on this image, these two words come to mind.
The reality of grasping and receiving is shown beautifully in this image called Mary and Eve by Sister Grace Remington. Looking to Eve, we see a belief we can all relate to, a belief that “God is withholding something from me.” We have all been there…Whether it is the job you have striven for all your life and just can’t seem to get, the vocation you have wanted for so long, the relationship you want to work out and are trying to manipulate, or even just in areas in which you try to plan out your life.
In this encounter of Eve and Mary, there is a consistent theme: both women were created for love and relationship with Love Himself. Both women had great desires for communion and love. In this desire for love, Eve chose something which was a delight to her for a time, but not intended for her. She did not trust the Giver of Gifts, indeed Gift Himself. In belief that God was withholding something good from her, she felt she needed to be “like God,” and take power into her own hands in order to strive for that good. And in such an action, she was rejecting her Father, who alone could satisfy that longing.
One way led to death for all mankind, and the other lead to life. And in our lives, it is the same. A thing which is “delightful to the eyes,” like the fruit of the tree of knowledge, can be so beautiful and something we want to possess with all our being, and yet, it is not truly what is good for us. The goods which we want to cling to with all our being can be idols in our lives. They are something good and beautiful, and yet, we can put them in the place of God- choosing to forgo God in order to reach that good.
But in this image, there is a hope, joy, and peace. Amidst this fault, the “O happy fault” the Easter Vigil proclaims, The Savior enters in. Amidst the taking of the forbidden fruit, there is another fruit- the fruit of the Mary’s womb.
With the taking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, death entered into the world, but with the receiving of a woman, life came. Mary trusted in God and allowed herself to be who she was called to be. In this receiving of the Father’s gifts, it probably looked completely different than what she planned, and yet, it was in such an act of love that God became man within her. Her trust was the vehicle by which she bore God to the world. And in such trust, Mary’s life turned out even better than she could have imagined.
Reflecting on this image, place yourself in Eve’s place. Ask the Lord, “What is the thing in my life which I am grasping after, like the fruit of the tree, which You do not seem to be giving me?” This is holy ground…This is where He wants to enter, and He has a plan for you in it.
In the areas of our lives in which we feel we cannot let go of what we want, and feel we need to strive to attain a good, let us be like Eve in this image. In this image, Eve is still grasping onto the fruit of the tree. In such an act, she is bound up in the lies of the enemy, and is looking down and blushing with shame. She is real in who she is- she is weak and, yes, still longs for that fruit she is grasping onto. But in this, Mary is reaching out to her daughter, guiding her hand to the fruit of her womb. In those areas of your life where you see such a false idol, Mary will guide you to the fruit of her womb. She will lead you to receive the gift being given to you- God Himself. God will bring redemption and salvation out of the thing that you are clinging to if you let Him.
As we meditate on this image this week, and try to live it out in your own life, let us reflect on these words of St. John Paul II:
“In the Magnificat the Church sees uprooted that sin which is found at the outset of the earthly history of man and woman, the sin of disbelief and of 'little faith' in God. In contrast with the 'suspicion' which the 'father of lies' sowed in the heart of Eve the first woman, Mary, whom tradition is wont to call the 'new Eve' and the true 'Mother of the living,' boldly proclaims the undimmed truth about God: the holy and almighty God, who from the beginning is the source of all gifts, he who 'has done great things' in her, as well as in the whole universe… Mary is the first witness of this marvelous truth, which will be fully accomplished through 'the works and words' (cf. Acts 1:1) of her Son and definitively through his Cross and Resurrection. (Redemptoris Mater, 37)
In May 2016, women all throughout the country attended GIVEN, a forum which was a week-long immersion in faith formation, and a deeper understanding of the unique gift of what it means to be a woman in the Church. And I was blessed to be able to attend such a gathering, with the hopes that God would speak to my own heart. Part of the acceptance into the Forum was that we would implement an “action plan,” or a way to live out our gifts in the Church. And now, Behold, and this reflection in particular, are fruits of that conference.
Celebrating one year since GIVEN, I cannot even express into words what its graces have been in my life and in those around me. Praying in small groups through Visio Divina with other women on a journey to find God and themselves in such prayer has been a gift beyond measure. And I am excited to continue to receive all that God has in store for Behold ! May we all be like Mary, the woman par excellence, who was the most pure model of trust in God, and receive the gifts He is giving us!
For more information on GIVEN, please visit http://www.givenforum.org/
(The image of "Mary and Eve" by Sister Grace Remington can be found at the following website: http://www.monasterycandy.com/Detail?prod=99)