Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bedewed From Heaven

Gideon asked for a sign (Judges 6:36-40). If God was going to deliver Israel from the Midianites, let the fleece which Gideon was laying on the threshing floor be covered with dew, while all the ground is dry. God granted the miraculous sign, and Gideon wrung out a bowlful of water from the fleece, though the ground was dry all around. Then Gideon became just a bit presumptuous—he asked for another sign! This time, let there be dew on all the ground but not on the fleece. And God, in his long-suffering patience, granted the second sign.

The fathers of the Church have seen in this miraculous fleece a foreshadowing of the mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She has been called (by Gerard Manley Hopkins, I think), “Our tainted nature’s solitary boast.” This applies both to her immaculate sinlessness and to her being the only virgin-mother in the history of the world. God blessed her in a way that He blessed no other.

So we have a beautiful hymn in our tradition, one line of which runs: “Queen and Virgin Mother, fleece bedewed from Heaven—rejoice, O unwedded Bride!” Heaven descended upon her, the Power of the Most High overshadowed her in a wholly unique manner. Worthy as she is, however, I didn’t intend to write specifically about the Mother of God here, but to reflect on that felicitous phrase, “bedewed from Heaven,” and what it might mean for us. (A little actual dew from the heavens would be welcome right about now, as it is going up to 111 degrees here today!)

Every time we receive the grace of God, it is dew from Heaven. When we consider Our Lady, however, it is a total gift, for it was not merely a special touch of God she received, but God Himself, bodily dwelling within her. This means that she had a profound and ineffable “connection” with Heaven, her inner life was “taken up” into the mysteries of God, of the Other World, of the Life of the Age to Come. Heaven came to earth and permeated the body and soul of the Virgin.

Yet God comes to dwell in us too, not in precisely the same way, but still tangibly, sacramentally, through the Holy Eucharist. The dew of Heaven covers us, the gates of the Kingdom are mystically opened to us, a marvelous other-worldly Light shines upon us. As we receive the Son of God in his inexpressible Gift, a connection, a bonding, is made with Heaven, and we are further secured in the divine embrace.

Unlike ordinary rain, the dew appears rather mysteriously. We say the dew “falls,” but it doesn’t really fall, it suddenly is just there. It is really all around us, in the air, but under the proper conditions it condenses, so the earth can be refreshed anew with cool droplets of dew. The presence of God is all around us too, like the very air, but under the proper conditions (faith and prayer being the main ones) his omnipresence “condenses” into the gift of grace—something mysterious, yet something that can be experienced—refreshing our souls with pure divine love and mercy.

Sleep outside under the stars and you’ll wake up covered with dew. Stand in awe of the mysteries of God, open your heart to the world of the Spirit—and you’ll discover that you are enlightened by his grace, that is, you are bedewed from Heaven.