Having written some hard things about the vocation of the common life as well as having had some other conversations on the stark gravity of its challenges, I was thinking that I should write something encouraging about community. I guess this was somewhere in my heart as I was reflecting on the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary this morning.
As St. Augustine reminds us in the Office of Readings today, a true Marian spirituality means that each Christian disciple is given the work of doing spiritually and ministerially what our Blessed Mother did historically. We are to open ourselves to hearing the Word of God, consent to conceiving the him in our lives, give the Word flesh from ourselves, and bear him to the world he burns with desire to save.
But we also keep in mind that the mystery of the Lord's Nativity teaches us that the incarnate Word is born as a vulnerable infant. He is recognizable as the Word made flesh, for sure, but will have to be nurtured and grow before he heals, teaches, proclaims the Kingdom of God, and finally gives himself up to death that the Spirit may be handed over as the living principle of Christ's faithfulness at work in the world.
In this sense, the vocation of Christian family or common life is something like that of the Holy Family. As grace builds on the unique and unrepeatable creation that is each member, a unique and unrepeatable revealing of the Word made flesh is born into the world. Each new moment in this ongoing work of grace is just as vulnerable and in need of care as the infant Jesus Christ. In community we are given the work of nurturing, protecting, and caring for the graced gift to the world that God desires to make out of each individual member.