If Our Lady spent so much time seeking, what of our seeking? “In our seeking for the lost Child, our contemplation of Our Lady becomes active.” There can be a misunderstanding of what Catholics believe about Our Lady, even among Catholics who are quite active in their faith.
This is because some believe that in seeking to imitate Our Lady, and to ask for her prayers, we are raising Mary to the same level as Jesus, as God. But this simply is not true. In everything Mary always leads us to her son, Jesus. Every time. Every prayer. Always.
Our seeking takes us outside of ourselves, not obsessed with our ego or projecting what we want God to be for us, but rather, our seeking is to find Jesus, the true Christ and not some false idol.
Our seeking “is a going out from our illusions, our limitations, our wishful thinking, our self-loving, and the self in our love.” Even though Houselander wrote this a long time ago, how appropriate it is to emphasize what our seeking is: an outward search for Jesus.
Today with the ubiquitous nature of social media, we are all too often challenged to focus on ourselves. An event is not really an event unless we not only document it with numerous photos, but then post those photos on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Tik Tok or any other social media platform. Rather than an outward search, it reflects an inward search of the ego.
“Look at me!” “Look at this wonderful (yet very ordinary) thing I have done!” Social media can become the constant search for my ego. But to imitate Our Lady means to be constantly searching for the Christ. The Christ in ourselves, the Christ in others.
“Where must we seek?
Everywhere – in everyone.
How must we seek?
With faith and courage and limitless love.”
This passage really struck me because the first question any Dominican friar is asked is about seeking. Whether preparing to make temporary or final vows, the rite begins with a question: “What do you seek?”
Our seeking as Dominicans is a seeking for “God’s mercy and yours”, making reference for our need for both mercy from God and the need of mercy from the brothers. Rather than saying, “Look at me!” or “Look at this wonderful thing I have done!”, it is “Look at God!” and “Look at this wonderful thing God has done!”
Our seeking needs to imitate Our Lady’s seeking. We need to remember what Saint Paul reminds us of in his second letter to the Corinthians. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Our Lady’s fiat did not come because she understood all of the words that had been spoken to her. She believed because of what was said to her.
“This is what faith is: believing something because God has told us that it is so.” And this type of faith requires us to seek the Other, the Divine God. “It is not believing something because we feel that it is true or because we want it to be true or because our reason can encircle it. Truth would be a very small and petty thing if it would fit into our minds.”
To find what it was God had said to her through the angel, did not remove the questions of Our Lady. “How can this be?” There must have been times that the overwhelming reality of Mary’s fiat gave rise to this question over and over again. “How can this be?” as she prepares for the birth of her son? “How can this be?” as she prepares to tell Joseph the good news that she has received directly from God?
But the fiat of Mary did not just make possible the baby-Christ present in her womb. It made possible the presence of Christ in us too. “It is quite incredible to think that God is really present in me.”
Just as Mary was invited to say “yes” to God, we too begin our realization that to imitate Mary’s contemplation in our own lives means making an act of faith. “My God I believe that you are within me.”
But making this act of faith does not remove the challenges of its implications. “Because He is in the little house of our being, we will learn to control our minds, to gather our thoughts to silence, and to crown them with peace, just as we learn to control our voices or voice and to move softly when a child is asleep in the house of bricks and mortar.”
And so, the act of faith means understanding the conversion that comes about when we understand that God’s mercy can do far more than we could ever imagine. God loves us!
But it is, of course, more than that. It is seeing the presence of Christ in our family, especially in those moments when we are tired or frustrated. It is seeing the Christ in those with whom we work, those we meet in the store, those from who we often turn our gaze, those who are homeless and on the streets. “The next act of faith is in Christ in other people.”
And yet it is not easy to perceive this faith in others. In fact, Houselander cautions that just as we cannot fathom the Host, the Eucharist, with our senses, it is the same in seeing Christ in others. We cannot see the Christ with the senses. We make an act of faith to believe in his presence, one that we may not directly perceive with our senses.
And in this seeking Houselander offers this caution: “If we look for Christ only in the Saints, we shall miss Him. If we look for him only in those people who seem to have the sort of character we personally consider to be Christian, that which we call our “ideal”, we shall miss the whole meaning of His abiding in us. If we look for Him in ourselves, in what we imagine to be the good in us, we shall begin in presumption and end in despair.”
Seeing the Christ in others means making an act of faith over and over again. It is not a one-time action we can be over and done with in our lives. It is for this reason we read in the gospel of Mark, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”
“There is a very strong tendency in the world to-day to want Christianity to be smooth, attractive, respected by everyone, powerful in the world’s sense; But now, as long ago, Christ remains on the Cross.” This is the temptation that we see in those who have one simple solution to a complex problem. We can easily see this tendency in people who look to the current state of affairs in the Church and in our world with too much simplicity, imagining every one else in the world is just like them.
We see this in suggestions about the liturgy. Simply turn the priest around, say Mass in Latin, or make the Extraordinary Form ordinary.
We see it in those who suggest the shortage of priests would be solved if we did away with celibacy.
We see this when more time is spent in pastoral planning in developing the perfect plan and not in developing a deeper prayer life.
Think again about the answer of the Dominican seeking profession. “God’s mercy and yours.” That is what we seek. That is also what we must give. We must be vehicles of forgiveness. Whenever there is sin, there is the Christ taking on Himself the brokenness of sin in me, and in the one I am called to forgive. And the God who enables us to do these things is a God worth seeking.
Previous Commentaries on the Reed of God
It can be helpful to have the book to read. To purchase books I recommend the Pauline sisters.