The Virgin Mary is a role model for many reasons. She possessed a purity of being which won her the favor of the Most High God. She accepted with unparalleled humility the calling to mother the Son of God. She bore unspeakable suffering as she watched her Son make his way to the cross. But we often overlook another remarkable part of her story.
Mary received God into her body. Wow. The writers of the four Gospels don’t dwell on this amazing little detail. In fact, Mark and John don’t even mention it. Matthew (1:18) skims over it – “She was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” Luke (1:35) alone goes into more depth when he recounts Gabriel’s words to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
Recently, the magnitude of everything that is not said in these short few words swept over me. God came to life in Mary’s body. The Son of God was formed in Mary’s womb. He was knit together, cell by cell, membrane by membrane, nourished by Mary’s blood, Mary’s breath, Mary’s heartbeat. God dwelt in the very depths of Mary’s body.
What does it feel like to have the Holy Spirit come upon you? To have the power of the Most High overshadow you? What does it feel like to receive God into your body?
To be sure, Mary is unique in the scheme of things. None of us will get the chance to conceive and give birth to the Son of God. Yet, I think this lesser-discussed aspect of Mary’s story holds truth for us as well. The truth is that God is not absent from our physical bodies. He deems our bodies worthy enough of his divine nature to enter and be present with us in them.
So how can we receive God into our bodies? We talk a lot about asking Jesus into our hearts, but what about into the rest of our beings? I can’t speak for us all, but I can give some personal examples.
I receive God into my body when I slip into a warm bath, mindful of all the burdens I have placed on my body throughout the day – exerting muscles, staring at computer screens, tensing from stress – and grateful for its God-given abilities to recuperate and heal. I receive God into my body when I enjoy dinner, remembering the farmers who raised the chicken, the workers who picked the tomatoes, the truck drivers who transported the food, and the store clerks who work at just above minimum wage to get it to my table. I receive God into my body in a friend’s hug, in a fierce wind that blows the cobwebs out of my soul, in a much-needed nap. I receive God into my body when I partake of the Eucharist, which is the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation.
How do you receive God into your body?