December 7 - Vigil of the Immaculate Conception

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A Newly Converted Saul is Confounded by the Greatness of Mary (1)

Barnabas said, "As Elias was carried to Heaven in the fiery chariot and Our Lord ascended before our eyes, so Mary was also lifted when she died in the house of John. We were in his house when she died, and she was wrapped in the burial cloths and spices, and we knelt about her bed, praying, and suddenly there was a great noise, greater than any thunder, for it shook the little house, and there was a light more vivid than the sun, and we fell on our faces, mute and blind and fallen of senses. And when we lifted ourselves, dazed, the bed was empty and only a glimmer of light lay there, which faded before our eyes as we stared at it." Instantly Saul was incredulous (...). "What!" he exclaimed. "A mere woman to receive such a divine honor! I do not believe it. You were stricken with grief, and so looked for a miracle." Barnabas said, "Whence, then, disappeared her body?" Saul shrugged. He replied, "Who knows? Those who sought a miracle, or wished to reveal prodigies, bore her away while you lay stunned." He suddenly remembered that he had uttered similar words when his cousin had told him of the resurrection of the Messiah. But he fumed. A woman, a mere woman, who had but given her virgin flesh to the Lord? Despite Leah and Judith and Rachel and Ruth and Sarah, there were few Mothers of Israel, and none of them, however worthy and beloved of God, had been granted such divine favors. He had prayed countless times at the tomb of Rachel in Jerusalem, and had thought that despite the obvious nobility and grandeur of Rachel she had died and rotted as had millions of women before her. (Saul pondered upon this revelation silently.) It was true that Mary had been chosen among all women to bear the Messiah, and had clothed Him with her flesh and had given Him her blood and her milk, but she had only been, as Lucanus had related to him, "the handmaid of the Lord," a lowly Galilean girl if of the House of David. She had been but a woman, the weak vessel, the river on which Grace had traveled like a white ship. Who honors the waters which bear the sails and the Passenger? The river is but a helpless way.

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