Today the sermon was about Mary, the Mother of God. The veneration of Mary vs the worship of Mary has been one of the obstacles I have encountered as I have entered in to Orthodoxy. Some of the language of veneration sounds much like worship words to me. Words like “make us worthy of compassion,” and “manifest thy power as ever.” Those words seem to indicate that Mary has power. I struggle to understand.
However, I have been thinking a lot about Mary. Father Timothy said that Mary was a bridge from God to us and a ladder from us to God. She was the conduit through which Christ was made incarnate, and when she died, she portrayed God’s redemption to mankind, a way to heaven. The priests wore blue today and there was a blue cloth on the altar table in honor of Mary. I did not realize that blue symbolized Mary, but then I noticed the icons of Mary after my friend Nadine whispered to me about them. Mary wore blue.
Blue. The color of the heavens. The color of Mary. The color of peace and tranquility. The color of forgiveness?
I have two icons of Mary that show many swords piercing her heart. “Then Simeon blessed them and said to His mother Mary: “Behold, this Child is appointed to cause the rise and fall of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed —” and a sword will pierce your soul as well.” Luke 2, 34-35.
I have yet to understand the full meaning of the swords that pierced Mary’s heart, but a sword must have pierced her heart when she stood below the suffering Christ on the Cross, watching Him, looking into His eyes, His blood possibly even dripping down on her, as she longed to take His suffering, feeling helpless, with love, in great distress. In anger? In “mother bear” mode? With her innate strong sense of protection rising to the forefront, and yet unable to protect? Perhaps wanting to lash out at those who hurt Him?
Mary, did you struggle with forgiveness?
Oh Mary, Mother of our Suffering Lord Jesus, you who know the piercing sword, please pray for my children, who have caused many swords to pierce my heart, as I have watched their pain and trauma play out in their sicknesses, their decisions and their sins. I have struggled with forgiving those who hurt my children.
Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on them; on my children and on their offenders. And help my children to forgive, lest the root of bitterness defile them.
Today the sermon was also about forgiveness. It was about the man who had been forgiven much, penalized the man who owed him little. Father Timothy pointed out that we have trespassed greatly against God. We ought to forgive those who have trespassed against us, especially in that their trespasses against us are so minute compared to our great sin against God.
Father Timothy read a part of the liturgy indicating that God forgets our iniquities. I struggle to grasp that. Forget as in no memory of? Or forget as in our sins not counting against us? I truly wish I could really not remember what someone has done against me. In my struggling, I can can come to the place of forgiveness, as in I do not want revenge, or vengeance, and I can think charitably of them, understand them, and pity them. And I do believe that I have truly forgotten some offenses. Yes, I can love the offenders, even. But in some cases, when I live with the effects of the trauma and hurt every day in my personality, in the formation of my soul, in the sickness of mind and body, the pain it caused in those I love, and in the painful aftermath of the unwise decisions that trauma influenced, to totally forget is impossible.
I choose not to speak of it with the offenders. I choose not to seek revenge or inflict pain.
I choose to bear it, to seek that continual state of forgiveness, and to pray for healing.