Last Sunday we celebrated the birth of Jesus – Christmas Day – the day Mary brought forth her Son and God became fully human, became a little baby, laid in a manger by his mother. All through this week we have followed the mysterious events that preceded this birth and immediately followed it.
Today, Sunday, the first day of the new year 2012, we celebrate the solemn feast of Mary the Virgin Mother of God. We begin our joyous praise at our entrance hymn: "Hail, Holy Mother who gave birth to the King, who rules heaven and earth forever!" We remember perhaps those wonderful words which began the season: "Hail Mary, full of grace. . . ," ". . . how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"
Then Luke in his gospel shows us once more the infant lying in a manger watched over by Mary and Joseph. Entering upon that scene, the shepherds made known the wonderful news about this child that they had received from the angels. Mary his mother kept all these things in her heart, reflecting on them. And when eight days were completed, the baby was circumcised and given the name Jesus – Savior – the name pronounced by Gabriel at his first meeting with Mary.
Through the liturgical readings of the past week (the nativity scenes, the flight into Egypt, the slaughter of the innocents, the meeting with the old man Simeon in the temple) I have been struck by a theme that I had heard many years ago on my first directed retreat.. In praying the mystery of the annunciation, the director asked me to ponder what was really going on – what was Mary thinking, what was she puzzling or wondering about, what did she really do? He phrased his theme in this fashion: Mary said "Yes" to the unknown certitude of Love. Mary did not understand fully what Gabriel was saying to her. She asked him how it could be, how could she bring forth a child, for she had no relations with a man. The answer Gabriel gave her could only have puzzled her more – "the Holy Spirit will overshadow thee." What did this mean – what was going to happen to her? How much could she have understood? But one thing she did know, one thing she fully understood – God loved her. God loved her most certainly, with God’s own mysterious, unconditional love. She did not know what that Love would do to her, what it would cost her, how it would work in her. But she was certain of it. Mary said "Yes" to the unknown certitude of Love. She entrusted herself, committed herself fully to the unknown certitude of that Love – and to all the unknown demands of that Love, then and in her future.
Mary today lays out her child in the manger for us to look upon. She doesn’t hug him to herself – she gives him to us, shares him with us. She asks us to join her in saying "Yes" in our lives to all the unknowns involved with following him in Love.
Br. Peter A. Fitzpatrick, CFX, a Xaverian Brother, is a Passionist Associate at Ryken House, St. Xavier High School, across the creek from Sacred Heart Passionist Monastery in Louisville, Kentucky.