In the final week of Advent, a contrast is often drawn between Mary's angelic visitation and Eve's encounter with the serpent.
Both women gave a freely chosen response to God, Mary a "yes;" Eve a "no."
Through the lens of mindfulness, it is worthwhile to consider the categories we may be placing each of these women into (elsewhere I wrote about the historic conditioning around Eve and its impact on women's role in society/Christianity). For many, Mary is a symbol of submissiveness and perfect compliance with God's will, Eve of free-willed disobedience.
Many of us may also consider Personal Power as a term associated more with Eve's free-willed disobedience than Mary's compliance; perhaps as a disobedience toward the will of God, a lack of humility, or arrogance in elevating our will to what should be God's. Especially given that, generally speaking, women have been historically not encouraged to pursue personal development outside of their caring roles...
We can draw on mindfulness for help in becoming aware of the associations we have formed around the term Personal Power; so that we can deconstruct them and create a more rational, less conditioned definition.
For me, Personal Power is a celebration of the control we have over our inner experience, mindset, the focus our attention, and behavior.
When I think of Personal Power through a Christian lens, I am mindful of countless examples of Saints, who, drawing on their strength as well as compassion and vulnerability, achieved great outcomes for God: Saint Mary, John the Baptist, Saint Faustina...; and ofcourse Jesus Himself!
They were clear about their identity and the values they felt called to serve. And, they were aware of the gift and responsibility of personal freedom, which within the Christian philosophy is one of human beings' most defining attributes, related to the dignity that comes from being a creation of God, created in His image.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Cor 3:17 (NIV)
Their personal power and clarity about their purpose and values, were essential to their ability to overcome a wide range of obstacles, whether external opposition, or inner self-doubts, insecurities, illnesses, or temptations...
Going back to the contrast between Mary's angelic visitation and Eve's encounter with the serpent...
Both women expressed their personal power. Both women gave a freely chosen response to God, Mary a "yes," Eve a "no."
The difference between them is that Eve's personal power served her ego. This can happen to any of us whenever we place greater weight on the valuing of our self-image, short-term gratification, or others' approval, over other values.
On the other hand, Mary's personal power served something greater than her ego: her God; and this brought the fruits of her personal power, her service to God and His values of truth and love, to ever greater fulfillment!
Strong in personal power, even angelic complements did not flatter her ego, as she remained faithful to applying her personal power to the service of something infinitely greater than herself...