Discovering the real Virgin Mary

Margaret Silf

By Margaret Silf

Every springtime, I feel a ripple of joy when I see the first tiny, fragile snowdrop pushing through the hard winter earth. Snowdrops arrive long ahead of the rest of springtime. They look so delicate, as if the first cold wind would blow them over, but they are actually amazingly resilient.

They push through the crust of winter with quite astonishing strength and determination. Their tiny flowers humbly contemplate the earth, heads bowed low, but concealing a rarely glimpsed beauty within themselves. They quietly announce the coming of a whole new season of growth.

It was a snowdrop that first introduced me to a personal engagement with Mary. Nothing in my Protestant childhood had ever encouraged me to regard Mary as part of my spirituality. The snowdrop opened my eyes. I held its petals in my fingers and gently lifted its head to gaze at the delicate green tracery within. I felt for a moment as though I was gazing at the hidden heart of Mary: a tender, vulnerable beauty enclosed within formidable strength — the kind of strength that can break through the human winter to herald a divine springtime.

From that moment, I knew that Mary had become real for me. Here was a young girl caught up in the weighty stuff of heaven’s engagement with earth and facing, in her own body, mind, and soul, the implications of it all. It took massive inner strength to break through all that. Yet the girl who broke through was humble enough to let the snows of a still-frozen earth fall upon her, bending her head low, while carrying within her a beauty and simplicity beyond all measure.

Every winter, I hear her voice ringing through the silence of the snowdrops once again, announcing the coming of an eternal springtime.

(Margaret Silf is author of “Inner Compass” and “Compass Points” by Loyola Press.)

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