Mary in Advent

first_imgFaithLifestyleLocalNews Mary in Advent by: – December 19, 2011 Sharing is caring! Photo credit: imageandspirit.blogspot.comThe fourth Sunday of Advent is devoted to Mary, and the Gospel reading is the account of the birth of Jesus in either Luke or Matthew. It often strikes people as strange that we should read the account of the birth of Jesus before we actually celebrate Christmas. Why can’t we wait?The question really misunderstands the meaning of the liturgy of major feasts. Liturgy on our major feast days is essentially a matter of memorial, not of re-enactment. We do not re-enact the birth of Jesus at Christmas time, just as we don’t re-enact the Crucifixion, or the Resurrection or the sending of the Spirit, when their turn comes around. Every time we celebrate them, we are engaged in a communal (and personal) act of memorial. We recall them and reflect on how life and history (our lives too, and our personal histories) have been shaped by them. We remember to review; we do not re-enact.So we remember Mary’s role in the birth of Jesus even before we commemorate the latter, for the obvious reason that her story preceded his. Every son implies a mother. Of all the titles we have ascribed to Mary, in fact, none is more significant than ‘Mother of God.’ The title, however, needs to be carefully understood. Mary is not mother of God the Father or God the Holy Spirit; she is mother of God the Son, the God who became flesh. That’s what her title means. Furthermore, “mother of God” does not mean, indeed has never meant, “spouse of the Holy Spirit,” as some people erroneously say these days. The Holy Spirit has no “spouse.” The only divine person with human definition is God the Son, the man who was born of Mary. If we ask why God became flesh (so that a mother was necessary), the only answer is that it was something God chose to do. God became flesh, says St. John, because God so loved the world. The birth of Jesus, in other words, occurred through God’s solidarity with and for us, and with and for the whole of creation. The need for a human mother also means that the Incarnation involved two miracles, one of a far higher order than the other, of course, but two miracles none the less. The first was the choice God made to become flesh; the second was the human cooperation required before that could occur. One of Hilaire Belloc’s poems contains the beautiful verse: “Of Courtesy, it is much less/Than Courage of Heart or Holiness/Yet in my Walks it seems to me/That the Grace of God is in Courtesy.” The Incarnation connotes many deep things, but I have always felt one of the things it shows, as Belloc wrote, is the miracle of divine courtesy. God is courteous before creatures. He never comes unless invited. So he came at Mary’s welcome, and he will keep coming at ours.Another feature of the birth of the Son is its character as a virgin birth. This is one of the foundation doctrines of Christianity, even as it has always seemed to strain credulity. I am not sure where one draws the line in determining what miracles regarding Jesus one finds more feasible to accept and what miracles one doesn’t. Thomas Jefferson, for example, cut out of his bible all of Jesus’ miracles. This makes sense to me. What we should remember perhaps is that the real miracle is not the manner but the fact of Jesus’ birth. One can spend a lot of time in perplexity of the one and in the process quite forget the other.A metaphorical meaning of ‘virgin birth’ is also important in its own right. A ‘virgin birth’ means that that when God is born in the world or in anybody’s heart or life, it is always a birth “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (Jn. 1:13).” Only God makes God possible. All that we can do is what John the Baptist did: we prepare the way. God comes when God comes.Mary is finally also there for our imitation in giving birth to Jesus ourselves. We have to consent to the pain of that process in many areas of life and ministry. Nothing of value ever comes easily, and the same is true of the values of Jesus. His values too always involve a process of parturition, the pain of giving them birth. There’s an ‘imitation of Christ,’ as the title of Thomas a Kempis’ classic has it, but there is, one should note, at no great or distant remove, also an imitation of Mary.By: Father Henry Charles PhD. Share 47 Views   no discussionscenter_img Tweet Share Sharelast_img

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