Advent Through the Eyes of the Virgin Mary

Friday, December 7, 2012

This past Sunday began the season of Advent, a liturgical season in the Catholic Church that's a time of waiting, of hope and of preparation for the coming of Jesus. Advent obviously brings me closer to Jesus, but it also brings me closer to the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary. While Catholics especially have a deep respect for the Blessed Mother, I think even we can easily forget just how great her example is.

The Virgin Mary in
"The Nativity Story"
C.S. Lewis once said that if you were looking for a religion to make you comfortable, he wouldn't recommend Christianity. One day, I was praying over this quote, it occurred to me that our most holy books, the New Testament, start with a challenge. And who completed that challenge? It wasn't a king, wasn't a prophet, it wasn't even a man. It was a young poor girl from Nazareth. 

She truly was the first to say "yes" to Christianity. And she easily had the biggest challenge of any other Christian to come - to bear a son in a world that could easily stone her for being unmarried and pregnant. Not only any son, but God's own Son, the chosen Messiah.

Mary was conceived without sin (that's the Immaculate Conception - Jesus' conception is "virgin birth"), but she was still human. Not only was she still human, but she was still a young teenager. Like the rest of us, she felt emotion. She had to be confused, but, perhaps most of all, she had to be scared, even with the faith that God would always be with her.

How did she explain to Joseph, the one who she was promised to marry, that she was pregnant? How Joseph's initial reaction must have hurt and how relieved she must have felt when he heard the angel in a dream. How did she explain her pregnancy to her family and friends? Those of us who are discerning religious life sometimes stress out over telling our family/friends that we might just become a Sister/priest/etc. Imagine how Mary must have felt.   This wasn't a discernment, this was a call and action that had already been completed. There was no "Well, Mom and Dad, I'm thinking about this....". No, she was already pregnant. Becoming a Sister/priest/etc is accepted in religious circles, if not in our family and friends. Being unmarried and pregnant, on the other hand....

But what is so amazing about Mary is that she stayed true to her calling. The Gospels never tell us that Mary said "No, God, I change my mind...pick someone else". And well....there were probably times when she doubted, maybe even times where she broke down and cried. But she stayed faithful through all the difficulties. She knew that God was with her - both spiritually and physically - and, through the message of Gabriel, that absolutely nothing was impossible for God.

Dorothy Day once said "don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed that easily" I believe that it is a big temptation for us to dismiss Mary with flowery language and images, especially in the Catholic world. While those can be nice, it is essential for us to know her as a real person who made a very radical choice to accept God's call through carrying Christ. By saying "yes", she made the first footstep on the road we all long to follow. 

This Advent, let us remember her faithful example as the "first Christian", the first one to accept the challenge of Christianity and the first one to wait for the coming of Christ. 
Let us put ourselves in her place as we wait, as we prepare and as we hope as she did.
And when Christmas finally arrives, let us welcome Him as Mary did, with absolute inexplicable joy.

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