Finer words on the matter of obedience have surely been penned before, particularly as it relates to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Psalter, the Holy Rosary. Out-of-synch with the recommended practice of recitation though I was, in praying the Joyful Mysteries this morning it occurred to me — and I assume many others long before my time — that each mystery carries several models of obedience, natural and supernatural alike. Indeed, the first Joyful Mystery — the Annunciation — opens with St. Gabriel carrying out his divine duty by announcing to a Jewish maiden that she, who was immaculately conceived, would bear the Savior of the world. In an act of obedience far more profound than St. Gabriel’s, the young virgin declares, Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. One might also extend their meditation on obedience in this mystery to the very obedience of the natural order itself to the will of God. For it was not by a man that our Queen and Mother conceived, but by the Holy Ghost.
We see obedience flow forth in the four subsequent mysteries. In the second, for instance, the Blessed Virgin, again in obedience to God, sets out to visit her cousin Elizabeth, the bearer of St. John the Baptist. The babe in Elizabeth’s womb, foreshadowing the great obedience he would later show to our Lord Jesus Christ, leaps for joy in utero, for the Baptist was made to serve God and it is in that holy service he finds eternal happiness.
The third Joyful Mystery contains both natural and supernatural examples of obedience. The Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, in earthly obedience to the civil authority of Rome, make their way to Bethlehem for the census before the birth of Christ. And it is that birth, the Incarnation, which brings shepherds and kings, in obedience to the one true God, to kneel before Him.
The fourth mystery, too, contains more examples of obedience, ranging from the Holy Family’s obedience to the Law of Moses. In a final act of obedience from his long life in service to God, the Righteous Simeon gives thanks to the Lord in the Nunc dimittis before offering a prophecy to Our Lady concerning the trials she must endure as the Theotokos, the one who has borne God the Word, the Redeemer of Mankind.
Finally, in the fifth Joyful Mystery, we see a blend of natural and supernatural obedience as Mary and Joseph, mindful of their station in life and the great mandate they carry from God, search out for the child Jesus, presumed lost in the streets of Jerusalem. It is even more remarkable that in this same mystery one meditates upon Christ’s twofold illustration of obedience, one to his Heavenly Father (“How is it that you sought me? Did you not know I had to be about my Father’s business?”) and one to his earthly family (“And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them.”). Faithfulness to our state on earth, so long as it is good, is faithfulness to God.
It is regrettable that we — or perhaps maybe just I — fail to meditate properly on the virtue of obedience. What drives our obedience? Where can we, in an age so enamored with the idea of the individual and the self-selection of “the right life,” find beautiful examples of holy obedience?
It is, regrettably, a dark truth of these days that even in the Church we are now accustomed to find not obedience, but revolt — revolt against the precepts of the Lord and the natural order He has established for us. There is a gross absence of humility before the teachings of Christ and the Holy Doctors and Popes of the Catholic Church. “This must be updated…”; “this must be changed…”; “this must be made easier for the people…”; “this must be brought into line with ‘the times,”; etc.
God, through the Church, still calls each and every one of us to live a righteous life in service to Him and the state of life which He has given us, and yet we betray Him so easily, so flippantly; it is as if He never revealed Himself at all. If those entrusted with the care of the Church and the salvation of souls will not show obedience to God when exercising the highest duties of their respective offices, how can we be expected to? But we are expected to. God does not let us “off the hook” because some who should know better no longer appear to believe the “old rules” apply either to them or those wayward souls they seek to please in the name of a perverted application of “mercy.” We may protest that that’s “not fair,” but we should rest assured, by the very words of Christ, that those who choose a life of revolt, a life of non serviam, will receive their just reward. As such, faithful Catholics must continue ahead, not by casting glances from side to side to check out the latest, shifting, “measuring stick,” but with eyes fixed firmly on Heaven and mouths open in supplication to Mary, Queen of Heaven. It is her Rosary which provides both instruction in obedience and the graces to cultivate that splendid virtue which will assist us on our journey to the Gates of Heaven.