Today is the feast of the birthday of Mary, the “archetype” of the dignity of women. Mary is the model of virtue and holiness. But have you ever wondered, what did Mary the Mother of God desire? No one I know ever talks about it. But if she’s a woman, she definitely had desires. We tend to think of holiness as the renunciation of our desires. After all, much of motherhood involves renunciation. But Mary is the true model of a woman precisely because she honored her desires as sacred to her heart, and God fulfilled them in a surprising and breathtaking way.
When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the Mother of Jesus, she responded, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” Now if you tell an engaged woman, “You’re going to have a son next year,” she’s not likely going to be surprised. She knows the birds and the bees. But Mary, though betrothed, is surprised! “How can this be?” That’s because Mary’s most secret desire was to have exclusive union with God through virginity. It’s important to appreciate the desire of her heart in order to realize just how stunning is the gift God gave her. A woman who desires this consecration knows that she will not be with another in the natural sense. In other words, Mary never expected to be expecting.
Notice, too, that in her reply to Gabriel, she does not dismiss or bury her desire, but actually announces it before an angelic being (talk about courage!), “I have no relations with a man.” After Mary honors her desire to be given exclusively to God, Gabriel announces that God too will honor her desire! She will remain a virgin because the Holy Spirit will “overshadow” her. Gabriel doesn’t say, “Renounce everything sacred to your heart and obey him.” Rather, God fulfilled her deepest desire for exclusive union with him through the Incarnation in a totally unexpected way. She and God (and no one else in human history) would become flesh of the same flesh, heart of the same heart. Talk about an exclusive union! In other words, his will for her was the fulfillment of her deepest desire.
Now Mary could have said, “Well, motherhood was not a part of my plan,” and dismissed the sheer brilliance of the Father’s gift because it wasn’t what she had expected. But she didn’t. Rather, she did something profoundly feminine: she received this unexpected gift. “Let it be done unto me.” It wasn’t just “obedience” on her part; it was her reception of the sheer genius of God knowing the full contours of her heart and delighting her in a breathtaking way.
So if you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I’m just not really growing in the spiritual life,” consider first taking the time to get in touch with the sacred desires of your heart. It’s hard as a mother because we’re always thinking about what everyone else needs. But if you don’t know the desires of your own heart, you’ll miss the exciting ways that God wishes to surprise you with his love. And that’s the secret to real intimacy with Him.
What are the sacred desires of your heart?