Sunday, December 24, 2017

Advent, Mary and Woman

Advent is a time of expectant longing. The prophet Isaiah expresses it beautifully when he says: “ Return for the sake of your servants!” or “ No ear has ever heard, no eye has ever seen, any God but you, doing such deeds for those who wait for him.” One senses an air of impatience, of calling out with insistence that God would come back. During Advent, we find expression of this longing in the way we celebrate this season. We remember those we love, we buy and give gifts, mend broken relationships and ponder the state of our inner life. God has planted that longing in our heart. He created it in us so that like Isaiah, we may cry out in a loud voice the desire for a deeper kind of fulfillment.

The mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus is God’s response to this cry. It is as if leaving heaven, God assumed a body and entered the realm of time to satisfy this longing. It was an act inspired by love for the sake of those He loves. This was the greatest manifestation of God’s power, but more so, His greatest manifestation of Love.

Our longings are about to be fulfilled in the coming days as we await the great day of Christmas. But before we bask in the glory of the coming of the Lord, let us focus our attention on Mary, the woman of the hour. The story of Christmas is intimately linked to Mary. Her presence dominates the scene. The spotlight is on her as the drama of the Annunciation unfolds. What vigilance she practiced! What vigilant expectation! What anticipation she manifested as she waited for the realization of the words of the angel. What deep faith she had as she allowed the light of the event to illumine her response and her actions following her consent. She was focused to go beyond the trappings of this great event of revelation: the vision of the Angel, the words proclaiming her greatness, and focused on the reality of a life offered to her. As the story of the Incarnation progresses, we shall see how Mary recedes into the background to give way to the presence of the Child- her Child- the Emmanuel. In this instance, I seem to hear the echo of a voice- that of the Baptist- who said “He must increase, I must decrease.”

Isn’t this the story of every woman? And in particular of a woman with child? Isn’t this the ethos of woman, to conceive within her the reality of God and in due time, according to the degree of our cooperation, give birth to the Son of God in the realm of grace? Aren’t the qualities inherent in woman- her nurturing instinct, her maternal solicitude, her intuition, her self-sacrificing ability for the sake of others- present precisely because of this reality? These qualities are never effaced whether one chooses a life of natural motherhood or single state of life as a lay person or as a consecrated woman.
The reality of spiritual motherhood is as real and deeper. A woman with child is reliving the mystery of God made Man. If we believe that we are temples of God, then we must agree that a woman pregnant with her child is pregnant “with God.” Can she like Mary, be vigilant so that the mystery does not pass her by? Can she look beyond the trappings of physical inconvenience, added responsibilities, added expense, added burden, and focus herself on the mystery being unfolded within her? Can she, like Mary, be joyful in the faith that tells her “she is blessed among women because she believes?” Believes in the power of LIFE? Believes in her dignity as a woman, a vessel of life? Can she, like Mary, sing in refrain the Baptist’s cry “He must increase” because the life within her is of God? And that she must decrease because she must forget herself with all her supposed needs?

The Season of Advent is a time of conceiving and giving birth. To conceive in faith desires that transcend ourselves and giving birth to them by the help of God’s grace thus transforming ourselves, our lives and those of others. We wait... Wait for what? For the Good News promised to us that God will come to be with us. As the Psalmist exclaims “God delights in his people!”

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