Emptiness and Fullness


‘Vita Consecrata’ series part 7 of 12

from Vita Consecrata #57-58

As sisters it is not uncommon for us to get some unexpected questions about our identity such as: “Are you from the movies?”~taxi driver, “So, are you a goddess?”~little girl, “Look its Noah!”~little boy. The best compliment ever, though, is when we’ve been confused for the Blessed Mother.

Our Lady is the ultimate model of femininity; she is the model of love.

In this small section of Vita Consecrata Blessed John Paul II focuses on the role of women, and he says “The future of the new evangelization, as of all other forms of missionary activity, is unthinkable without a renewed contribution from women, especially consecrated women.”

This “renewed contribution” is rooted in women recognizing and living fully their femininity. Blessed John Paul II coined the phrase “Feminine Genius” and he refers to it throughout his writings. In 1995, during an Angelus Address Blessed John Paul II said, “Without the contribution of women, society is less alive, culture impoverished, and peace less stable. Situations where women are prevented from developing their full potential and from offering the wealth of their gifts should therefore be considered profoundly unjust, not only to women themselves but to society as a whole.”

How are women called to ‘contribute’ to the Church, society and culture? Ultimately, the Feminine Genius is woman’s capacity to make room for the other, and Our Lady is the blueprint. We see in a woman’s “capacity” a space shaped for something. This capacity is meaningful.

In Mary we see this “capacity,” this emptiness or space, was crafted to receive God Himself! We see in Mary a heart shaped with particular openness for God.

“Hail Mary, full of grace!” She is full – yet she has an emptiness ready to receive the Gift. Her womb is empty, and in her “yes” it may be filled. There is a divine balance of emptiness and fullness. She received the Gift of Christ but she did not cling to the Gift and keep Him to herself. She continually gave the Gift away: the Visitation bringing the presence of Christ to Elizabeth, the Presentation offering Christ to the Father, the Wedding Feast at Cana – over and over again she gave the Gift of Christ away. Each time she allowed herself to be emptied, her capacity to receive increased. So much so that as she stood at the foot of the cross once again giving the Gift of Christ her son, she was able to receive in full what He gave her: “Woman, behold your son.” She was entrusted with all of humanity.

She wasn’t clinging to her Son at the Cross. She was living what she constantly practiced – detachment and holy love. In the depths of this holy love and detachment, Mary has complete and total freedom to receive. She’s able to be loved and to love.

The Feminine Genius in our own lives is spoiled if we are willing to receive the Gift (emptiness) but unwilling to give it away (detachment). We also spoil the Feminine Genius when we fill the emptiness with trivial things instead of the gifts of God. Father Iain Matthew, in “The Impact of God” offers us a perfect image: God, coming down to us is like an emergency helicopter trying to land to rescue people on the ground. What is needed is space so that what is coming can come.

God cannot fill what has not first been emptied. This is what woman gives to humanity.

Blessed John Paul II in Vita Consecrata says, “The Church depends a great deal on consecrated women for new efforts in fostering Christian doctrine and morals, family and social life, and especially in everything that affects the dignity of women and respect for human life.” The Church depends on the fact that as women, and particularly consecrated women, we receive the “Gift” of Christ in love and we love in return. We receive Him as LOVE but we also surrender this Gift of LOVE. We give Him away. We give ourselves away. And every time we allow ourselves to be emptied, God stretches the “womb” of our hearts.

Mary is our model for openness to God and she always points us in that direction. May we live in the heart of Mary as we are formed into Christ.

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This meditation is part 7 of 12 in our series on Blessed John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata.  You can download a copy of this document from the Vatican’s website: www.vatican.va