Sunday, May 31, 2015

THE VISITATION OF ST. MARY, A JOURNEY, AND BRISKET


Carl Bloch

St. Mary, the Virgin Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, is honored in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopal, and Lutheran Churches. In the Western tradition, the Feast of the Visitation is celebrated on May 31. In 2015, the feast is transferred to June 1 due to the conflict with Trinity Sunday. The feast day in honored on March 30 in the Eastern tradition.

She has many names; Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, etc. In Italian, Virgin Mary is Maria Virginia. She’s the one for whom I’m named, the reason Saints and Recipes exists, and my muse.

She is the Mother of God and a name for the divine feminine.

But first she was a pious Jewish girl, obedient and betrothed. Then, St. Gabriel, the Archangel, appeared to her at the Annunciation (First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary) to prepare her for the miracle that she was to be a part of forever.

The norms and life spans of her era puts Mary’s age at the time of her betrothal at around 12 or 13. Most likely, try as she might, she couldn’t understand the magnitude of the Angel of the Lord’s message, so she journeyed to visit her elder cousin, Elizabeth, whom Gabriel announced was also miraculously with child. The Visitation is the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary:

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Luke 1:39-45

Biblical commentators believed that Mary was so moved by Elizabeth’s deep recognition and understanding of the miracle within Mary’s womb, that her heart filled with joy and the Holy Spirit spoke the next words through her. Known as the Magnificat, it’s a passage encompassing the past, the future, and the political conditions of her time:

And Mary said,

“My soul magnified the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
Luke 1:46-56

There are other ancient texts which state that Elizabeth is the one who spoke the Magnificat about Mary. I believe that version to be more accurate based on their characters. Mary was a young woman who journeyed to her elder cousin for help in understanding what was happening to her. At such a young age, Mary was probably unaware of the broader political conditions of her time. Due to advanced age and experience, Elizabeth would have been much more aware, so it would make sense that Elizabeth would see the grander picture, speak for the poor and say, “Surely, from now on all generations will call you blessed.”

Also, Mary was and is too humble to say these things about herself. Because she’s selfless, she allowed God to replace her self with his Goodness.

Mary grew in years and knowledge along with her Son during such times as The Boy Jesus in the Temple (Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary), the Wedding at Cana (Second Luminous Mystery of the Rosary), and the Assumption (Fourth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary). Much about her life story also appear in my posts about St. Joseph and St. Mary Magdalene.  

Father in heaven, by your grace the virgin mother of your incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping your word: Grant us who honor the exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her devotion to your will: through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Collect, Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints

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Blessed Mother Mary remains a strong presence in our world. Visitations from her to people such as St. Bernadette of Lourdes have happened throughout history. Prayerful pilgrims to Marian sites continue to draw Mary’s presence even to those places that are replicas of an original site.

In this way, I offer Saints and Recipes as a place of pilgrimage to Mary. The idea for this blog grew from prayers to her for intercession and guidance. Her presence is embedded in every word about the Saints whom inspire us with their recipes for sacred living. I offer this site to you, dearworthy readers, with prayers that you enjoy your visit with Mary.

This past Holy Saturday, I received not a visit from Mary, but something more like a postcard or an Instagram. I’ll start my story with a bit of advice:

When the Lord calls you to serve in a particular way, but your community makes it clear that your gifts are neither needed nor wanted, don’t panic, don’t take it personally, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Because as soon as you turn around and focus outward, you’ll see the community or communities in need of your gifts waving you over in friendship.

Or, you can do what I did which was panic, take it personally, and begin what turned out to be a spiritual quest. Some of the boulders blocking my way were huge, but on the other side of each was a life-changing truth.

At first, I learned important general things:  I’m an introvert, I feel the emotional energy of others, and shame triggers are universal. The works of the following authors helped me in areas of recognition and self protection; Susan Cane, Doreen Virtue, and Brené Brown.

I also learned that forgiveness is the key to letting go and moving forward. But knowing that and doing it are two different things. Basically, I needed help in the forgiveness department. So I forgave in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and I’m allowed to do that even though I’m not clergy.

After climbing over all those boulders, learning all those truths, and making all those changes, I couldn't understand why I was still unhappy. On Good Friday, in an effort to do something, anything that would move me forward, I began several devotions, the three-day process of making homemade brisket, a visit to a neighbor’s outdoor Stations of the Cross and the planting of my Spring Mary's Garden:







In the morning of Holy Saturday, a friend posted a reference to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." I found a poignant version and listened to it on a continuous loop throughout the day. Slowly, I began to understand that Jesus desires broken hallelujahs most of all. They connect to Him on the Cross and are therefore filled with empathy and compassion.

I also realized that ignorance is bliss. Wisdom brings true understanding of pain, along with the recognition that I can be content with my place in the world and sad about things going on in the world, close to home and farther away. In other words, it’s entirely possible to be happy and sad at the same time, and it’s, in fact, a natural state but one that we must allow through wisdom.

That evening, after I placed the brisket back in the fridge for its second overnight rest, I drove to the garden center and returned home with my Mary’s Garden plants. And soon after walking through the front door, I received a sign from the Blessed Mother Mary via the angels – my house key chain had connected to the chain of the Rosary I carried in my pocket. I wondered what the sign meant, and I heard the message, “It’s time to come home.”

I believed then that my journey was over. I was supposed to come home to my identity in Mary and her connection to and through me. It’s a powerful connection, one that I hadn’t maintained due to feelings of unworthiness. But this time I stood crying in great relief, “Okay, okay, okay.”

Early Easter morning I sat on my front porch with the setting moon to my right and the rising sun to my left and I prayed the Rosary with joy and thanksgiving.

Shortly thereafter, I began to receive one angelic message after another. I remembered learning in St. Michael and all Angels that Mary and the Saints intercede on our behalf while angels intervene for us according to God’s instructions. The signs and messages came through the unexpected actions of my cats, song lyrics, dreams, intuition, light and color flashes, number sequences, social media posts, birds, chance encounters, and answered prayers. It was a bit frightening, but one of the messages was, “Don’t be afraid.”

The biggest message was that I was supposed to work towards becoming a healer.

This is a good place to stop and mention all of my friends who’ve helped me size up some of the boulders on my path and suggested that I look at them from a certain angle or take my first step in an unexpected direction. You know who you are because I’ve thanked you. But I’d like to thank you once more this way – sometimes the Lord needs human beings to step in and do the work of His angels, so thank you for being my particular earth angel when I needed particular help.

I rejoiced in my Easter clichéness and allowed myself to shine. I began to take baby step towards becoming an energy healer and enjoyed being happy again because it was all over. This was the final message and the end of my journey.

I didn’t know it then, but when you are divinely helped over the really big boulders on the path to your true self and you feel a strong connection to something bigger than yourself, that’s when the journey gets the most difficult. It’s as if someone wants you to know they’ve got your back, that when you take the next turn along the path, you’ll fall into the river and the rapids are going to bash you around those boulders something fierce. But they’ve got you, and you won’t go under.

And that’s what happened.

That someone was the Blessed Mother Mary. When the river ran smoother, she did what she always does, she pointed to her Son as He climbed out of the water with us indicating that I should listen to Him.

Comprehension dawned! I had been studying the saints and devoting myself to Mary because I hadn’t believed I was worthy of Jesus’s specific attention. But, the journey and the messages cleared the blockages that had been preventing me from understanding this truth for myself, that we are all worthy of God’s attention -- every single one of us. And that the person who most needed my healing energy was me.

In other words, I knew that Jesus was with me every step of my journey. He never abandoned me. I felt the faith He had in me, but now I was ready to stand, face Him, and be assessed.

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
John 2:5

So what does Jesus tell us to do?

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

“The second is this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Mark 12:30-31

I read and heard that one often. I’ve even blogged about it. In rereading my post on St. Mary Magdalene, I saw that my own words explain everything about what I’m to do, and how to do it. It’s a perfect recipe for saintly living.

So why hadn’t I followed my own recipe yet? I think I was so focused on the difficult process of understanding and sharing the metaphysics of Holy Wisdom that I believed that to be my mission. But really, it was an assignment within the mission. Also, there were other specific reasons that come to light, here beyond many boulders:

When I was a child, I remember having a serious reaction to the love-God-above-all-others page in the catechism. So much so that I pretty much stopped reading the book. How could I possibly love anyone more than Mommy and Daddy? Mommy and Daddy were everything, without them I was nothing and I was frightened at the merest possibility of the merest thought of not loving them enough to make them stay with me.

Then I grew up. Not over years, but over my recent spiritual journey. My parents are human beings, and human beings are, by our very nature, fallible. Miscommunications and misinterpretations of a little girl notwithstanding, they were never going anywhere. They’ve been championing me all along.

In recent years, I thought I was allowed to love my children most of all as part of the package of being a mom. My children are almost grown up now and mostly no longer in need of my services. My daughter has three more years of high school and my son just completed freshman year of college. They no longer need me for hours of attention and nurture, the strength for which is sustained via deep parental love – an energy that searches now for a new purpose.

Also, I guess that I’ve been waiting for my husband. The idea that we could someday love the Lord together with one love as one being really appeals to me. The reality is that my husband’s beliefs are different than mine. But my husband believes in me and I believe in him and that's where our divines meet.

And so – “It’s time to come home.”

A few days before Pentecost, I was drawn to the beach, to ground myself in the sun-baked sand, to wash in the salt water, to open up to the mighty winds and the understanding that as vast as the sea is, there is no real comparison to the immensity of God’s love.

And then I prayed – Dear Lord, You are my Protector, my Beloved, and my Sweetness. I love you above all others. I turn my life over to you. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Light and use me in your name and by your will so that when I shine forth, I shine for you. Amen.

“Love your neighbors as yourselves.” It’s amazing how much easier this second part is once you surrender to the first part. We are one. All of us.

My love for my family, friends, and neighbors is not diminished; it’s divinely partnered and strengthened for all time.

So that was it then, the clarity for which I so desperately searched, the purpose of the intense struggles along my path – I found it within my own words and within my own heart, there where God waits for us to turn around and give Him the gift of our whole being.

I was shocked by the revelation that I had been working so hard to earn God’s love, when all that time He’d been waiting for me to give Him my love.

But soon I felt an overwhelming sense of release, relief, gratefulness, and oneness.

I also felt a sense of exposure. Stripped of so many layers (boulders on the path), I didn’t know how to be the God-infused me. As if in trying to get dressed, I realized that my clothes no longer fit.

But here’s another wonderfully miraculous thing, the signs and messages have not stopped. They keep coming and guiding me, and the next one was, "Mission accomplished."

I’ve done it! I’ve studied the saints, followed their recipes, and successfully graduated from the program!

I am now a saint! Ta da! Aren’t you so proud of me?

Yeah, here’s a “secret” I discovered and shared in my All Saints, Jesus, & Rice and Beans post:  Saints are those for whom Christ died – all Christians. It happens at baptism. That’s it. You, my dearworthy Christian readers, are saints, too!

Congratulations!

But, you know, devoting yourself to strengthening your connection to God couldn’t hurt.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:13-16
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There is another meaning in “mission accomplished” for me. The idea for Saints and Recipes Blog came about after a failed attempt to write a book about the saints, when I realized that I didn’t know enough about them, when I thought maybe I should switch to cookbook writing, when I had stopped writing to work on mommy-do projects for a while.

Towards the end of Lent in 2012, I prayed to the Blessed Mother Mary for intercession and guidance one night and awoke with the idea for Saints and Recipes. It wasn’t just a vague notion that I formulated on my own later. It was a clear directive including – “three years of saint research, then book.”

Sharing my research on this blog was way to practice the craft of writing, include my love of cooking, maintain contact with the world and not be lost to the loneliness of the research library. I appreciate every connection I’ve made through this blog, especially to Lent Madness.

Lent Madness is a snarky, intelligent, big hysterical deal over nothing (they’ve already got their halos), peaceful place to hang out. I’m simultaneously a fan and a teammate. It’s an awesome feeling to have the crazy in you accepted by a bunch of like-minded crazy people who get that all this saintly stuff; bio’s, recipes, brackets, kitsch, and competitions, is a way to do what the saints do  -- direct us to Jesus Christ.

It was more than coincidence that along my journey these past many months, Lent Madness was a beacon in the dark – a way station filled with coffee, laughter, and perspective. A place of You’ve got this, get going, here’s a snack for the road.

But, it’s time now to listen to my Mother, "Three years of saint research, then book." It's time to complete the project called Saints and Recipes Blog -- to wrap it up and gift it to you, my dearworthy readers. To let it go in faith that the connections I’ve made through it will hold strong without it.

It’s a good place to begin devoting yourself to the Lord via the Saints and Blessed Mother Mary. Remember that devotion is active prayer. And when we devote ourselves to a study or task in the name of saints, we are not worshiping them; we are honoring and learning from the lives they devoted to God.

It’s no accident that the climax of my story happened in May, a month of motherhood, roses, and renewal – Mary’s month. She’s more than a Saint; she’s an important part of the whole Package and a name for the divine feminine. 

I connect to Mary not only in my name and heritage, but because she transmits on an open frequency deep inside all of us. She has been for countless people and she can be for you a loving guide who points you, no matter where you are on your path, always and forever to her beloved Son.

Meanwhile, I need to rest, enjoy semi-retirement, and take the summer off. Wow. Those were hard words to write. Take the summer off. But I know I can do it. I know because He wants me to get to know Him better now that we are both on the same page, as it were. He wants me to gift myself a time of transition as I surrender into my future.

I know that I’m not stepping off my path here, because I now recognize that the journey never ends. I’m just hoping for a boulder-free trail for awhile, as I bring my toes to the beach, read lots of books and magazines, do crafty things, play in the garden dirt, and revel in cooking for my family, which for an Italian mama is a particularly joyful devotion.

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Italian mamas share many characteristics with Jewish mamas and, as you know, Mary was a Jewish mama. Therefore, let’s make:

TODD’S MOTHER’S BRISKET


(More photos below.)

There are three steps to this recipe. Steps one and two can be completed on the same day, but I like to devote myself to this task over a three-day period because it’s a third of a novena and three times three is nine because that’s how math works.

Wait a minute, 339. Let’s see what angelic message is associated with that number:

“You and your Divine life purpose are fully supported by the ascended masters. Ask them for help with any aspect of your career or spiritual path.”
ANGEL NUMBERS 101, Doreen Virtue

Wow! See how these messages keep coming at me?! The ascended masters include Jesus, Mary, and the Saints!

Okay, okay. Focus, we’re cooking here.

Step 1

French Onion Soup Marinade/Gravy

Ingredients

4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
4 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
48 ounces chicken broth
14 ounces beef broth
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs fresh parsley (or one teaspoon dry)
1 sprig fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dry)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

 1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.
 2. Stir in salt and onions.
 3. Cook for about ½ hour, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized.
 4. Add chicken broth, beef broth, red wine, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, cook over medium heat for about ½ hour.
5. Remove bay leaf, add vinegar, salt, and pepper. Simmer over low heat for at least one hour. Two is better.
6. Cool and place in refrigerator overnight.

Step 2

Ingredients

Beef brisket, untrimmed is better. Figure about one pound per person.

Instructions

 1. Trim most of the fat off the brisket, but leave some there for flavor.
 2. Place brisket in large roasting pan.
 3. Pour French Onion Soup over the meat.
 4. Cover in aluminum foil.
 5. Bake in oven at 325 degrees F for about 4 hours.
 6. Remove meat from pan, cool, refrigerate overnight.
 7. Pour sauce back into the soup pot, cool, and refrigerate overnight.

Step 3

 1. Remove and discard the large pieces of fat on the brisket.
 2. Slice and place in large roasting pan.
 3. Skim fat from top of French Onion Beefy Sauce.
 4. Pour over sliced brisket.
 5. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Place in oven at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes, until hot.

Serve with cooked vegetables, potatoes, and salad. Bread and wine are optional, but always highly recommended.









SOURCES

THE ROSARY: CHAIN OF HOPE: MEDITATIONS ON THE MYSTERIES OF THE ROSARY, By Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.
MARY, QUEEN OF THE ANGELS, by Doreen Virtue
A RETURN TO LOVE: REFLECTIONS ON THE PRINCIPLES OF A COURSE IN MIRACLES by Marianne Williamson
STARS IN A DARK WORLD: STORIES OF THE SAINTS AND HOLY DAYS OF THE LITURGY by Fr. John-Julian, OJN
LIVES OF THE SAINTS: FROM MARY AND ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI TO JOHN XXIII AND MOTHER TERESA by Richard P. McBrien
ALL SAINTS: DAILY REFLECTIONS ON SAINTS, PROPHETS, AND WITNESSES FOR OUR TIME by Robert Ellsberg
BRIGHTEST AND BEST: A COMPANION TO THE LESSER FEASTS AND FASTS by Sam Portaro

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BONUS MATERIAL

Fascinatingly, my last post is also my forty-second post. According to the late, great Douglas Adams, author of THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, the answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42. So there you go.

Wait a minute. Let’s see what the angelic message associated with 42 is:

“The angels are urging you to keep the faith.”
ANGEL NUMBERS 101 by Doreen Virtue

Oh baby. I’ve been listening to the late, great Jerry Garcia sing me that one for weeks now via the repeated listening to his cover tune "My Brothers and Sister." 

And so, let’s keep the faith together.

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Thank you, God! Thank you Mary; Archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, & Uriel; and all the Saints in heaven for guiding me on my journey.

Thank you particular saints in heaven whose presence I've felt throughout -- Phillip Alexander Ross and Antoinetta Nolletti.

Thank you daughter, best friend, and copy editor extraordinaire -- Julia Elizabeth Ross.

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