Candlemas Homily Continuation One can imagine the maelstrom of emotions that must have been in the heart of this young woman. Betrothed yet not yet married she is confronted by the archangel and presented with the extraordinary annunciation that she will carry God within her in a way hitherto unknown. Her womb will carry salvation for the world. But she is not coerced, nor is she forced. Yes she is afraid, yes she is astonished and yes she is perplexed, but neither fear, amazement nor incomprehensibility are able to deter her faithfulness. Her faithfulness is the source of her grace and her favor. She assents. Mary chooses to be faithful in the most extraordinary of ways in the most extraordinary of moments for the most extraordinary of days. But perhaps the painting is correct. Perhaps in that moment there is a premonition of pain; a posture not of defiance but of faithful expectation of what is to come.As a good friend once reminded me, what we know is that Mary was the first to say yes to God’s particular grace for her. Maybe there were others. Maybe the angel had traveled through time and place searching among the grace filled women of Israel. Maybe others succumbed to fear. Maybe others were driven mad by the angel’s presence or message. Maybe others simply refused, unable to comprehend, incapable of carrying the holy burden the Spirit offered. Maybe the pain of the angel’s presence, message or promise was too much. And so Mary was the first. Mary’s was the faithful yes through which God brought salvation to the world.But faithfulness is never without pain. From the beginning, we can imagine the stares and gossip from the lips of neighbors, the rumors and the innuendo. Maybe they became unbearable and Mary’s journey to the house of Elizabeth was a flight of fear, a faithful flight from pain. Separated from her family she waits for the appointed time. The travel to Bethlehem, the birth of her son in the manger, the coming of shepherds, the gifts of the magi, the hunting of Herod and the flight to Egypt. Let us be clear, Mary’s faithfulness was not repaid with an absence of suffering, and her faithful yes to Gabriel was not the last faithful yes she offered God on behalf of his son. Faithfulness in their flight, faithfulness in their fear. And the faithfulness that brings us to this night.Tonight we celebrate two simple acts of her faithfulness; her purification in the Temple and Jesus’ presentation for circumcision. Ritually unclean from her giving birth according to the Law of Moses, Mary arrives with the meager sacrifice of the poor: two turtledoves and her child. There she is restored to worship and communion, there her child is presented before God. There Jesus is made part of the people of God and a sacrifice is made. Perhaps this is a foreshadowing, an inversion; the sacrifice He will make will welcome all to become the people of God. Then the Song of Simeon and the words of the Prophet Anna, the joy of salvation come to Israel, the fruit of Mary’s faithfulness prophesied before all and then, then the terrible prophecy of pain: (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.The feast we celebrate tonight is a celebration of Mary’s faithfulness and the faithfulness of God. But, insofar as we celebrate their mutual faithfulness, we see especially in Mary’s example, the reality of true faithfulness. Faithfulness is never without suffering. Mary’s life is an example and archetype for the Christian life, not for its ease or comfort, but because her life is the bright reminder that a faithful life is not a life free from pain. In fact, to live a life of Christian faith is to invite a kind of holy pain.Beyond the natural pains of life and living, this holy pain is unique burden of the Christian.When we are regenerated and restored to new life in the waters of baptism, we become the temple of God. Inspired by the Holy Spirit we are given new eyes to see the world around us anew. We see the world with the eyes of Christ. We see the world as Mary saw it; God’s beloved children scattered like a sheep without a shepherd. We see the pain of the world deep and wide and seemingly insurmountable. But, we are empowered by the same Spirit that empowered Mary to bear this holy pain faithfully. God will reconcile all pain to Himself, and we must be its faithful bearers until that Great Day comes. We see the world with Mary’s eyes.We find ourselves in strange days. The news, the anger, the confusion and the great unknown. But the call of the Christian remains the same call made to Mary, the same call to which she said yes, the call to faithfulness. But faithfulness is not a thing without pain. May we be worthy of our call, may we be full of grace, may we know the divine favor that calls us. May we say, let be to us according to your will, O Lord. And may we have the strength of Mary for true faithfulness.