A week ago, December 25th, we celebrated the birth of the infant Jesus at Bethlehem. Today’s Gospel reminds us of that event: "The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed . . . . And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart."
What were the things the shepherds told her? We heard them on Christmas night: "The angel said to them ‘Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." Through the past week we have heard other stories of the infancy of Jesus, and how Mary pondered their meaning in her heart also: the words of Simeon at the presentation of the Babe in the temple, the flight into Egypt, the finding of the boy Jesus in the temple.
At the beginning of Advent we were introduced to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a young woman pondering the meaning of what God was doing to her, for her. "The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.’ But she was greatly troubled with what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be." We recall the wonderful, most mysterious conversation that then took place, and how at her consent God then took on our nature, becoming human in the person of Jesus in her womb. When Mary had asked the angel Gabriel, "how can this be?" the answer she received was filled with mystery, an explanation that only thrust her more deeply into the unknown. And she replied from the depths of her being, a full affirmation to the one thing she was certain of. "Let what you have said be done to me." Not knowing really what was being asked of her, what exactly she was consenting to, she was certain that God loved her. She said "Yes" to the unknown certitude of God’s Love. At that moment the Incarnation began.
These stories lay the foundation for our feast today: the Blessed Virgin Mary, truly the Mother of Jesus, truly the Mother of God, and truly our Mother. In them Mary sets a life-long example of contemplating the mysterious daily workings of God within her and around her, filled with hope because of her firm commitment to the unknown certitude of God’s Love for her. May Mary give us that same certitude for this new year.
Br. Peter A. Fitzpatrick, CFX, a Xaverian Brother, is a Passionist Associate at Ryken House, across the creek from the Passionist Monastery, in Louisville, Kentucky.