Dr Bonnie Thurston gave the Marian Lecture to gatherings of Marists in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne this month. Her talk, entitled ‘After the Angel Departs,’ brings her personal contemplation of Mary to the fore. As May draws to a close, I read her lecture and reflect on what it teaches us about being a woman (or human) living in trust and faith that she cannot fully comprehend.
Bonnie encourages us to throw away the twee images of Mary in a “filmy, blue nightgown” and recognise her strength and courage to live in faith. How do we, like Mary, trust what we don’t feel, can’t see, and don’t understand?
As we contemplate life in the way of Mary, we would do well to remember the starting point for this lecture – the angel departs Mary after she makes her decision to say yes, and she is left alone to face the consequences, the risk of being rejected by her family, friends and community, perhaps even in ways unknown. Bonnie highlights that we each live in times ‘after the angel departs’; after we make our decisions, we are left alone to live out the consequences, even if they make us unusual or unpopular. It is up to us to work out how we live out our decisions in faith and trust.
A key part of Bonnie’s talk notes that our spiritual life is our life: “Life is of a piece; the spiritual is not separate from the physical and the bodily.” Life after the angel departs is messy and practical, we are often alone in the totality of our offering ourselves, the silence can feel like an absence of God, and yet life is all the more profound in living it in the light of the mystery of God.