Sadly, I discovered it on Christmas Day.
So, this year, when Advent came around, I was ready. And I am still so excited to read what so many wonderful poets and thinkers before have had to say, and to contemplate what they mean in my thinking on the "arrival" of the Christ.
Today's reading was from a dearly beloved author, Kathleen Norris, an essay called, Annunciation. Norris begins talking about the importance of mystery, for isn't that what the Annunciation (or God's "announcement" to Mary) is?
Sometimes, Norris explains, Christians try to explain away all the mystery, all the unknown. In the name of apologetics, we want answers.
There doesn't always have to be an answer.
When we get rid of the mystery, Norris says that it, "reflects an idolatry of ourselves, that is, the notion that the measure of what we can understand, what is readily comprehensible and acceptable to us, is also the measure of God." Our minds do not and cannot reflect the measure of God. So perhaps we should rest in the unknown, knowing only that our ignorance is ok.
For Norris, she found this rest in poetry long before she found it in the Christian faith. Poets have a different view of reality than the rest of the world, and I, too, find it resonates with me. For some time I have felt that "metaphor is my reality," a sentiment Norris feels when she writes, "I am glad that many artists and poets are still willing to explore the metaphor (and by that I mean the truth) of the Virgin Birth." What else is a metaphor than the assertion of truth from a different angle? When Billy Collins says in his poem "Snow Day":
Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
we realize he is using a metaphor, equating the snow to a flag. But isn't snow a flag? That seems like a kind of truth to me.
At the risk of rambling, I'll continue, because Norris touches on another important facet of the Annunciation--virginity, though not in its traditional sense. She writes, "It is only when we stop idolizing the illusion of our control over the events of life and recognize our poverty that we become virgin..."
This makes sense to me--thinking of virginity as a giving up of control. I realize this is counter-intuitive--we usually think of self-control as the means through which we practice sexual abstinence, and therefore, remain virgin. But this is both a limiting view of virginity as well as untrue--in fact, if I really believed that I was in control of my own life, chastity would not be my sexual habit of choice.
Virginity, ironically, is a giving of ourselves, first to God, and incidentally, to others. In her book The Cloister Walk, Norris talks to celibate monks and nuns, who explain that the fruit of their virginity is hospitality. They have said "yes" to God, and so they say "yes" to others.
In meditation on the Annunciation, we remember Mary's virginity, and the miracle of the virgin birth. Her virginity is seen just as much in her willingness, her "yes" to God, as in her sexual state.
And what of the Christ? When remembering the Annunciation, we should remember that Jesus is a virgin, too. His was the ultimate virginity. He experience ultimate poverty--the lowering of God to man--and gave ultimately of himself upon the cross.