“Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: ‘I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.’” (Gen 28: 10-15)
The narrative in Genesis 28 about “Jacob’s ladder” is one of our readings for feasts in honor of the Mother of God. Why this reading, specifically on feasts of the Theotokos? Because the Church traditionally “recognizes” the Theotokos in the “ladder” bridging earth and heaven, revealed to Jacob in a dream. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the same God Who chooses from their many descendants, and reveals to all of us, not in a dream but in the flesh, a poor Jewish girl from Nazareth with no washing-machine, to be the Mother of His Son.
As we praise the Blessed Among Women as the elevated, “heavenly ladder” and “gate of heaven,” we also note that the Most-Holy Virgin was a ladder “set up on the earth,” with feet planted firmly on the ground, walking the cross-carrying journey. Her many sorrows and trials on that journey, beginning in the temple in Jerusalem, where little Mary was left by Joachim and Anna at the age of three; and the later trials during the impossible-to-explain pregnancy at Joseph’s house, and the rest of it, to all of which she said “Let it be”: …in Bethlehem, then Egypt, then Nazareth, and finally at the foot of her Son’s cross in the midst of a hostile crowd, – all this suffering endured by the Theotokos explains to me why faithful throughout the ages have found her very approachable or relatable, particularly in difficult times. Just like here in the center of a locked-down Vienna, I’ve noticed people pausing at this statue of the Marienbrücke (the “Mary Bridge”) and quietly praying, making the sign of the cross, and then walking onwards. One finds peace in looking up to her motherly gaze, which seems to be saying: “Let it be.” And there’s always a lit candle here, left by someone, and fresh flowers.
I know this sounds a bit cheesy today, but I’m gonna say it anyway: Thank you, Mother of God, for mothering us, in times of trouble. And speaking words of wisdom: Let it be, Let it be. Happy Forefeast of the Annunciation, NC-friends, and Tuesday of the 4th Week of Lent! Tune in to our daily, weekday “Morning Coffee” audio-podcasts, for some daily inspiration on your Lenten journey, and through this Coronavirus epidemic! Sign up at: patreon.com/sistervassa. Love from Vienna, and please wash your hands & take heart, Sister Vassa