Last Sunday during the Christmas Program in worship, the kids read Mary’s story from Luke. We heard the angel’s announcement of her pregnancy, her visit to Elizabeth, and the words of her song, called the Magnificat. Mary’s strength, power and faithful example have bolstered and challenged me this week. A young girl absorbs life-altering news of an unplanned pregnancy and bursts into song, setting forth a vision of God’s power and rule bringing down the wealthy and haughty, lifting up the lowly and feeding the hungry. Her story turns the world upside-down.
As I reflected on Mary’s story this week, I was brought back to my silent retreat in Collegeville at the end of my sabbatical last summer. Every time I’m in Collegeville (on the St. John’s University campus), I make it a point to wind along the path around Lake Sagatagan to visit the Stella Maris Chapel, a spot dedicated to Mary that has become a pilgrimage site for visitors and residents on campus. Last summer was no exception.
View of the St. John’s campus from the Stella Maris chapel across the lake.
The chapel was renovated in 2007, when stunning new stained glass windows by renowned liturgical artist Edward Sovik were added. Stella Maris means “Star of the Sea” in Latin, which is an ancient name for Mary, meant to emphasize her role as a guiding star, giving hope. I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the chapel, as I’d forgotten the emphasis on water and Mary’s connection to the sea. Yet another link across my sabbatical.
Above are the compelling words of Mary’s Magnificat from the book of Luke, also found in the chapel. Christians have clung to promises of The Magnificat for centuries, using them as prayer. They still feel pertinent today.
This sculpture by Alexander Tylevich is called “Madonna with Child.” The weight of responsibility is reflected in her face, and to me, her bare feet demonstrate her youth and vulnerability when she’s called to carry the Christ child. I was in the chapel alone on my last visit, and in the quiet I welcomed the power of her presence.
The view of Stella Maris Chapel from campus.
This week we wait with Mary, anxiously counting down the hours to Jesus’ birth. Come, Lord Jesus.