Sometimes you simply luck out. I well remember a time when, because of the fatigue I was carrying, I fell into a large comfortable chair in front of the family room television and, with remote control in hand [don’t you just love it when you can change channels without moving a muscle?] began to scroll through the channel options. We had far too many. For some reason I ended up previewing a channel to which I seldom turn and began to watch an oldie, only to discover it was actually quite a goldie as well. Black and white, “The Enchanted Cottage” starred Robert Young [Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby, MD – two of my early childhood favorites] and Dorothy McGuire [Friendly Persuasion and Old Yeller – another two favorites] and was released on September 10, 1945. I missed its first debut for what I would like to think you all know to be quite obvious reasons.
The story line was quite simple: a very homely maid and a facially scarred ex-GI meet at the cottage where she works and where he was to spend his honeymoon prior to his accident [his fiancé, of course, leaves him in his “ruined” condition]. The two develop a bond and agree to marry, more out of loneliness than love. The romantic spirit of the cottage, however, overtakes them and as the couple falls in love and begins to see the inner beauty in one another, their actual physical appearance for those watching the movie is also transformed [by the director and make-up artist] so that in the end you have one handsome guy and one beautiful woman. They think the transformation has something to do with the cottage, but it doesn’t. It has everything to do with the way they begin to see one another through the love they feel for one another. CAUTION: reading further will spoil the plot for you. Of course their beautiful world is doomed from the beginning and eventually it comes crashing down around them as they are brought to the harsh reality that nothing really has changed about their respective appearances. She has remained quite homely and he is still disfigured and were it not for the great love they share for one another they would be completely undone. The most poignant scene in the story, however, comes when together they venture out from the cottage to attend a social event. It is their great love for one another, now realizing its incredible power that sustains them in the face of any and all possible embarrassment they might have to face due to their appearance. Begin reading again, here. It was a smaltzy story. It was a bit corny. The acting was not superb [I love amateur theatre as well]. But it was great!
Love, real love, has that power. It can keep you afloat through the most devastating times. It can be a comfort through situations when every other sense of security has evaporated. It is the catalyst that can set you on a course that [in your normal mind] you would never dare setting for yourself. There are no obstacles so great as to prevent the attempt to overcome them; no valleys so deep, or mountains so high, that love will not attempt to traverse. Love, real love, does in fact change us.
When the angel Gabriel visited Mary [LK 1.26-38], she was understandably afraid, for angels are truly magnificent creatures who live in the nearer presence of God; His holiness is the garment with which they wrap themselves. And when they come a’ calling as did Gabriel, they come sent by God Himself for a special reason. They come with a commission, and they come in the intensity of God’s incredible love for His people. So it was for Mary that her fear quickly gave way to complete submission to the Lord’s plan for her life, a plan that would change her life from that very moment on; indeed a plan that would forever change the very world in which she lived. Only His great love, His favor declared for her would be enough to take her on this most difficult of all journeys. But His love is always enough and she would know herself to be embraced by Him even through life’s darkest moments, moments that would descend upon her some thirty three years into the life of the son she had just agreed to mother.
To know His love as the constant of our lives is to be empowered. It is to be transformed. It is to be more than a conqueror of all the hardest and saddest experiences life might have occasion to bring before us because we know that in the end it will be His love that will win the victory. To know and be embraced by His love is to know life’s deepest purpose and plan for our lives. It is to be set free from ourselves and to be given over to His most wonderful and perfect service.
Mary’s fiat, her unrestricted openness to the fullness of the Lord’s love, made possible the most incredible of all mysteries: love would now be known by a new name. Love’s new name is Jesus.