Stephen D’Evelyn on Advent: Mary the Magnifier

This morning I represented a Union member in a bullying and harassment case. The staff member had been off on sick leave for several months due to a mental health condition triggered by far-reaching and long-running problems of behaviour by colleagues.

Repeatedly the HR officer tried to dwell on the fact that the staff member had been off sick wtih stress. Repeatedly I pointed out that the issue lay not with a medical condition with which an individual suffers but with the culture in which they were working.

These days I have been newly aware of the approach of Advent. This Sunday is Advent Sunday. Several participatnts in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in which I am taking part will be presented to the congregation in the so-called rite of acceptance–they will (or may not) accept the premise, as it were, of becoming part of the Church and the Church will accept them.

Advent for me is also a time of particular pondering on and with the Virgin Mary. I went to work with the almost-rococo flourishes of the Magnificat as sung by Nóirín Ní Riain ringing in my headphones. Something from a recent RCIA session came back to me: Mary magnifies the Lord.

For those of us wtih a visual impairment, magnifiers are tricky things. They can of course be really helpful and wonderful. Magnifying does not change what you are looking at but it enables you to see it up close. In a sense it changes the conditions in which you see what you’re looking at. Mary is like that for me. She helps me see God differently.
And for me that sort of change is at the heart of the situation I tried to help with this morning. By reminding the HR officer that the issue in question was how we looked at the workplace situation, I hope I helped magnify the matter so we could see more of it. It was not the fault of the Union member that the situation had caused her to need to go off. To see this, however, requried a kind of magnification.

As I say, magnifiers can be tricky things. My heavy reading glasses not only make typeface look big to me, but make my eyes look very big to the endless amusement of our children. For me, Mary full of God’s transforming beauty–the word rendered ‘grace’ in Greek suggests beauty as well as favour and status– magnifies the Lord that way, allowing me to see more of God and maybe to be seen more as well.


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