"The Pool of God"

Jessica Powers wrote of Mary: “There was nothing in the Virgin’s soul that belonged to the Virgin—no word, no thought, no image, no intent/ She was a pure, transparent pool reflecting/ God, only God…God was her sky and she who mirrored Him/ became His firmament.”

Mary’s glory is often seen as a matter of glorious privileges…stupendous prenatal purity, sinlessness, divine election and all the rest. And perhaps all this is true.

But as Julian saw it, this purity was, at bottom, a matter of unflinching honesty, an absolute appreciation of and acceptance of her creatureliness and the greatness of God, the “wisdom and truth of her soul” that had an unobstructed view of reality—“the greatness of her maker and the littleness of her created self”—that caused her to say very humbly to Gabriel, “Behold me here, the handmaid of the Lord.” Julian adds that the reverent awe of this contemplation of God filled Mary with humility. Hence there was vast space for pondering these things in her heart, but no room for the words, thoughts, images, or intentions of an anxiety that would have sprung from a distorted estimation of herself.

 On account of all this, Mary “is greater in worthiness and grace than everything which God created below her” and “was filled with grace and with every kind of virtue, and she surpasses all created beings.” And yet also on account of, not despite this, she is also a template of the holiness the disciples are called to, the exemplar, with Jesus, of that unflinching honesty that sees all things in proper perspective.

How to get there? We are, as Powers put it, “dry earth or stubborn sod.” We will avoid, by the most religious means and phrases, any real encounter with or admission of this absolute contingency and poverty of our being, the fundamental dependency on God that Jesus embodied and which both he and Julian presented in the image of a child. Safer far just to admire the Blessed Virgin and call it a day.

But Julian concludes that this admiration—which she found in herself as the desire to see Mary—is insufficient, and that she herself was taught to consider instead “the virtues of her blessed soul: her truth, her wisdom, her love, through which I may learn to know myself and reverently fear my God.” This knowledge of oneself and reverent fear of God is precisely what Julian saw in the Virgin’s soul. After Mary, it is the way of all the saints, to become—without ever noticing it oneself—“water that lost the semblances of water/ and was a sky like God.”

 "The Pool of God" is the title of Jessica Power's poem quoted herein.

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