The word Islam has often been translated as peace, similar to the word shalom. The Arabic root for the word Islam, however, gives a fuller understanding; it means surrender or submission. This is the goal of Islam; the surrender and submission of everything to Allah, the One Who is All-Powerful and All-Knowing. Allah, the absolute Master and Ruler of the universe. It’s believed that peace will come to the one who completely submits to Him.
There is a clarity and a boldness that comes across in this teaching, especially in our pluralistic society. Our hearts are often dominated by a myriad of forces other than God. Many today crave the inner peace that comes from being focused on One, and the submission of the self under the power of Allah is appealing. To lie prostrate before Allah’s power and to give all to Him is seen as a path to deep contentment.
But there is another way to peace, subtle in its distinction, and yet revolutionary in the way it affects our understanding and our relationship with God.
Advent has begun for the Christian world. With this holy season we see revealed a more ancient and unique vision of God and our path to His peace. For Christians, God is also the One Who is All-Powerful and All-Knowing, and He is the absolute Master and Ruler of our lives. But He is also more than this. More than Absolute Power, Wisdom or Dominion, God is the Lover, the Suitor, and the Husband of our hearts. And like a lover, he asks for our hand. Like a Gentleman, he will not force love. He made us for it, but He will not make us do it. Like a poet He seeks to woo our hearts.
So this Great and All Powerful God chose from all eternity to come down into our broken world to tell us of His love. And He sent not just a love letter to His wandering, stumbling bride-to-be, but His very Word in the flesh. Himself, disrobed of glory and now wrapped in rags. At a certain time and in a certain place and to a certain young woman, He lowered Himself. And are we not all there in that quiet room, present too in Mary’s heart? Are we not all the unborn children in our Mother’s eyes?
The Almighty “littled” Himself before Mary to win her heart; He took off His majesty. He became flesh. And that day, Heaven married earth. What God has joined, no man now can break apart. The Word is made flesh… forever.
This is the scandal of the Incarnation. Some shake their heads at this act of humility as if it were a humiliation. How can this great King put on rags and serve the beggars in the street? What about his high office, his dignity? Oh but it’s worse than that! His body is not a set of clothes to be changed when the dirty work is done. Now God in Jesus has taken on a body, Jesus is a body, just as you are your body and not “a ghost in a machine.” (Now, by the way, the dirty work is divinized. Just wait until Easter! And then the gift of the Eucharist!!)
This is how Love first knocked on the door of our hearts:
– not in great power to bend us to His Will.
– not demanding prostration but offering an invitation.
– not through forcing our surrender but by offering us a wedding proposal.
So for us, peace comes not as a divine mandate, but in Mary’s way. It is an opening up of the mind, heart, and yes the body, to Love.
So this Advent, let us submit ourselves. Let us surrender ourselves, but in the way our little Mary did. For in her, God became one of us, small enough to wrap our arms around. Close enough to embrace. This He wishes to be for us all. This is Love.
So let it be done unto us, according to His Word!
Bill Donaghy has spoken internationally on faith and the New Evangelization since 1999. Through his work with the Pontifical Mission Societies, Bill gave hundreds of talks on the spirituality of mission to young people throughout the greater Philadelphia area and beyond, creating a teaching and speaking ministry known as MissionMoment.org. He holds an Associates Degree in Visual Arts, a Bachelors in Philosophy and a Masters in Systematic Theology. In addition to his full-time work for the Theology of the Body Institute, Bill teaches at Immaculata University. He and his wife, Rebecca, live outside of Philadelphia, PA with their four children.