The Prayers of Whatever and I Don’t Know
In a very unusual position for me, I found myself at the foot of the Virgin Mary yesterday, looking up with gratitude.
My visit to the surrounding gardens at Mercy by the Sea (Madison, CT) offered welcome respite from the hectic week and this damned busy brain of mine. More so, it provided a brief and overdue moment to gather thoughts after a recent period of turmoil and change.
As I got out of my car, a pileated woodpecker giggled from a tree nearby, as if to say: lighten up. Gatherings of spring robins flittered easily about in the grass. The blue sky streaked with mares’ tails whispered a promise of rain — or not. A labyrinth wove mysteriously through inkberry bushes, while nearby wind chimes sang in the cool shore breeze.
Waves conversed with the sandy beach below, a small secluded expanse of sand and shells and times-weathered stones.
This divine space rolled out alongside the beach, its grassy lawn interrupted only by random steps, small stands of trees, and solitary benches placed here and there for a view. One such bench, facing southwest towards a stone cairn and seawall, was inscribed with a small memorial plaque, “Bidden or Unbidden, God Is Present.”
Pushing aside my immediate resistance, I found I kind of liked the sentiment. In Latin, Vocatus Atque Non Vocatus Deus Aderit, now inscribed on the tomb of Carl Jung who wrote: “It is a Delphic oracle….It says: yes, the god will be on the spot, but in what form and to what purpose?”
To what purpose indeed had I been called to this glorious space, and then there to the foot of the Virgin Mary?
Truth be told, I don’t call her that. I just call her Mary, and I appreciate her existence in the same way I do Quan Yin and Ganesh, and sometimes maybe capital-G god.
But Mary called to me yesterday from her alcove beneath the cedars in a halo of afternoon sun, and I found myself thinking about her outstretched hands.
Were they inviting me in, come here across the lawn? or come back to some old and out-grown belief? Was she praying, perpetually for all…or just for me that afternoon?
The position of her hands downward, palms open and facing forward is known as the “Position of the Distribution of Graces,” but they reminded me of my granddaughter Lia’s sweet “I don’t know” gesture and my own occasional I-Give-Up-Whatever shrug.
And then, in that moment — and still — I found myself wondering if maybe Mary’s gesture was actually one of resignation or acceptance — like Lia and me — just yielding to What Is.
What if the secret to peace and Nirvana — and God even — is in that surrender, in the “I Don’t Know” and “Come What May”?
And there it was, unbidden as promised: God.