Contemplate with Mary in the silence of Advent

by Donal Anthony Foley –

British Library

Advent is our time of preparation for Christmas, and we have reached the final part of this season in the Church’s year. During Advent, there is a change of tone in the daily readings at Mass, when we shift from a focus on Christ’s second coming at the end of time to one that considers His first coming at Bethlehem two thousand years ago.

In both cases, it is a time of anticipation. As we move from anticipating His final coming in great glory and power, as is portrayed in the Book of Revelation with all its rich symbolism, back to His first coming in great humility as portrayed in a cave in Bethlehem, Advent calls us to go deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.

This has always been difficult in the modern world, with all of its noise and bustle enticing us into a whirl of activity, especially as Christmas Day approaches. Some of this is necessary, of course, but we should try to imitate Our Lady and St. Joseph as they set out for Bethlehem with an attitude of silent expectation.

We can imagine how the Blessed Virgin must have felt as she rode along on the donkey, with St. Joseph at her side, on the rough roads towards Bethlehem. The unborn Child Jesus was in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit and with a longing for the time of His birth.

The Angel Gabriel had told her marvelous things about the Child – that he would be great and the Son of the Most High, that he would inherit the throne of His ancestor, David, and rule over the House of Jacob forever. As they journeyed along, the Blessed Virgin would have had time to ponder all of this in the light of the Hebrew prophets in the Scriptures.

She would have been familiar with the Scriptures and would have had great clarity of mind, due, in part, to her Immaculate Conception. Unlike the rest of humanity, she was not affected by any darkening of the intellect, one of the consequences of Original Sin.

Therefore, she would have been aware of those prophecies that point to the future sufferings of the Messiah, such as the Suffering Servant prophecies in the writings of Isaiah, and realized that these would be fulfilled in the life of the Child she was carrying in her womb.

This becomes more real to Mary, when she is told explicitly by the aged Simeon during the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, that the Child would be a sign of contradiction, the cause of the rise and fall of many in Israel, and that even a sword of suffering would pierce her soul due to the Child. (cf Luke 2: 34-35)

Mary certainly would have pondered the joyous aspects of the forthcoming birth of her Child, just as we do in the first Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. And so, despite the hardships of their journey, and the poor reception they received in Bethlehem, this was a time of joyful and silent contemplation for Mary.

This ought to be the key, then, as we celebrate these final days leading up to Christmas Day; that is, in union with Our Lady and St. Joseph, to have an attitude of prayerful expectation and love, pondering in silence the awesome events that are to unfold before us in scripture and liturgy, just as they occurred in real life all those centuries ago.

In a practical sense, this means we should set aside some time each day from now until Christmas, to quietly and prayerfully reflect on some aspect of the story of the Nativity. A good way to do this is to meditate each day on the Gospel readings from the daily Mass, preferably in the morning, when our minds are fresh and before we are taken up with the daily round of activities.

Even if we could spend five or 10 minutes each day doing this, it would surely have a beneficial effect, and this effect would be further enhanced if we could also call to mind the main themes of the daily reading throughout the day. If we can do this, we will be in a much better spiritual place to contemplate and welcome the newborn Child in the manger, who should be the object of all our desires on Christmas Day.

Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people, and the third in the series is due to be published later this year – details can be seen at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk

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