Above is a photograph of a man leaping from a wooden tower without any safety equipment, and instead with only two tree vines attached to his ankles. It is an amazing capture of the ritual of land diving in the southern part of Pentecost Island, Vanuatu. This ritual is associated to the yam harvest. It is said to be a test of manhood and of religious beliefs that the higher a man jumps and the closer his head reaches the ground without touching it, the richer the crops will grow and the more bountiful the harvest.
When I look at the picture, I try to reflect on how it must be like at that particular moment, the long climb up that unstable-looking wooden tower, being tied with only two tree vines around the ankle and no safety harness, the climactic feeling looking down before the jump and the plunge itself. What must have that man been going through? Or if giving the opportunity, what if it were me up there? Would I even dare?
It gets me thinking about my faith. I look at that picture and automatically, the words that pop into my head are ‘Leap of Faith.’ People know me as a risk-taker, malakas ang loob, daring … That’s just a mere personality trait though. It’s my adventure seeking attitude. When it comes to faith, it cannot be compared to a personality trait or someone’s characteristics. Spirituality involves less of the human will and more of the Will of God. When it comes to faith, I know that I need to pray for the grace to be daring for the Lord, for 1faith belongs to the humble, not to the proud. There is less of me, and more of the Lord working through me. Submission.
There is much about faith that I have yet to understand, and when I say, ‘I try to live my life by faith’, I may only know even less than half of what that statement means. But I do know this: when it comes to a life that is filled with faith, the full submission, that enormous courage, embodiment of grace, ever-enduring love, complete self-surrender and that daring act of living for the Will of our loving Lord, a gentler image comes to mind — Our Blessed Mother.
She is that 2good instrument, completely identified with the mission received. Once she learns of God’s plan, she makes it her own. Her plans are not something added on. In the just fulfillment of these plans, she completely disposes her intelligence and will and all her energies. She is never an inert puppet: not when she sets out joyfully through the mountains of Judaea to visit her cousin Elizabeth; not when, truly exercising her duty as mother, she seeks and finds the Christ Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem; not when she causes our Lord’s first miracle; not when she appears — without being called — at the foot of the Cross on which her Son died … By saying ‘Be it done’ she freely disposes her entire person to the fulfillment of her calling. This calling does not seem foreign to her: God’s interests are her own interests. She does not run the risk that her plans might pose an obstacle to the plans of God; her plans are perfectly identified with His.
Hail Mary! Full of grace, indeed, the Lord is with you.
1 St. Augustine, Catena aurea, vol VI
2 J.M. Pero-Sans, The Sixth Hour, Madrid