The great masterpiece of the spiritual life is being awake. We all keep looking for that spiritual master who will enlighten us but the great masters of the spiritual life are there to tell their followers what they need to hear so that they can see that they have inside them what they need.
Although I came across this image one day while I was wandering a temple in northern Thailand between sessions of learning walking meditation, I saw in it not a Buddhist image but a Christian one. I saw an awake Mary.
The “yes” of the annunciation is little more than an angel asking Mary if she would participate in an unfolding of goodness from God. I love the body language of this sculpture. She is so full of energy. She is so open to possibility. So often in Christian art, Mary is folded up like a piece of origami. She is seated and her body is curled in on itself protecting her core. The angel towers over her in classic church authority and domination. She is looking at the angel’s feet or even just the dirt in front of them. And she is obedient.
If I were to use this sculpture as an icon of Mary, I would see a strident and powerful woman with open body language expectant, still, encountering, welcoming, courageous, kind, gentle, powerful. That is what I see when I see my female colleagues. That is how I see Mary.
She lends me courage to be in this posture when I pray. “Here I am Lord, awake. Fully awake and un-distracted.”