This week in church, there was a new face at the Communion rail. His name was Theodore, and he was a fat, happy, laughing, bald baby; a miniature Laughing Buddha. I’ve always loved that image; it conveys such joyfulness, such approachability. So many of our Christian saints are martyrs that we often portray them as thoughtful or solemn or sad, but the hallmark of sanctity is joy: joy in this life we have been given, joy in our salvation, joy even in our errors, which show us the greatness of God’s love and mercy for us, over and over again.
Of course, I should have said that Theodore was a miniature Christ, for Christ, too, must have been a laughing child. In portrait after portrait we see him gazing solemnly at his mother or at a small cross, but, really, he was a kid. To think of him only as as the One Who Was to be Crucified is to deny his essential humanity, to make him an idol of our own imagining. To me, it seems clear that Jesus played; Jesus giggled; Jesus loved gags and told corny jokes and ate dessert rather than dinner and drove his Holy Mother crazy. That’s what it is to be a child.
Today is the feast of St. Mary the Virgin, who more than any other must have known just how human Jesus was. The appointed psalm mocks the idols, contrasting their inert wood or stone with the living flesh Mary gave to Christ:They have mouths, but they cannot speak; eyes have they, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; noses, but they cannot smell; They have hands, but they cannot feel; feet, but they cannot walk; they make no sound with their throat. (Ps. 115:5-7)
I would add,They have mouths, but they cannot laugh; eyes, but they cannot weep; hearts, but they cannot feel.
There is no better tribute we can give to Mary, no deeper way to honor her gift, than to revere Christ as he was, flesh and blood that she gave him. And that means making peace with our own humanity, not dividing soul from spirit, but laughing in our own frail flesh, taking joy in the gifts it gives us: this life, these loved ones, this salvation, and all.