TODAY Coptic Orthodox Christians celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.
It's worth thinking about some of the questions asked in the life of Mary:
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34)
It's interesting that the same angel, Gabriel, visited Zacharias and gave him similarly astounding news. And Zacharias gave an answer that was nearly identical to Mary's:
“How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” (Luke 1:18)
Yet, Zacharias was struck dumb (v.20), while Mary was praised and exalted (v.28).
What is going on here?
The key difference is the spirit in which the two questions are asked. Mary is asking how it will come to pass. What is the mechanism God will use to achieve His purpose? Mary seeks a deeper understanding of God's work in her life.
Zacharias asked "How shall I know this...?" In other words, "How can I be expected to believe this?" "Do you really think I am going to buy this?" "You want me to swallow this?
From Mary to Joseph there is a great ocean of difference in attitude.
The worst thing we can do is ask God nothing, to seek to learn nothing from him, to be passive. We're sometimes under to hideous impression that it is wrong to ask God questions, to learn. Passive is the worst way to be.
When things happen (or we know they are about to), we can take a stance of anger and resentment towards God, or openness, seeking and, even, excitement.
This humble, honest, earnest seeking will drive us to study the Bible, but for the right reasons. I will open the Bible seeking to learn about God and his ways in my life, not to just to become learned, to show off to others (and to myself).
Do I have this humble hunger for God and for learning his ways? Or does arrogance drive me to study the Bible? Do I seek the “master” the Bible so I can feel good about that? What is my sincere goal in studying the Bible and memorizing verses?
Father Matta Al Meskeen writes,
It is easy to find scientific, historical and literary books which seek truth. They explore the reality found within and without man, and they seek it in all its forms. They shed light on knowledge of all kinds, both regarding man and truth in general. They are written on the mind's level. They address his physical well-being, increase his awareness and enrich his intellectual and cultural heritage.
But the Bible is not so, and should not be approached in this way. The Bible is a direct, personal message from God to man aiming at his slavation and lifting his spirit to prepare him for the better life, eternal life.
When you read the Bible as a personal message to you from God, the words find their way to the depths of your conscience and spiritual emotion.(1)Does the Bible find its way that deeply into me? Does it penetrate and enliven my very emotions? Does it make me a stronger, more stable, deeper-feeling person?
You read with a spiritual awareness, your heart being open, receptive and ready for obedience and joy.(2)Do I read with an open, ready, receptive heart?Or do I come to it like a bitter person coming home to his family from work: closed, resentful, feeling a sense of duty, rather than in an open spirit of love, welcoming, and eagerness?
(1)Fr. Matta El Maskeen, "The Bible as a Personal Message to You"