Madonna and Child, Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, Rome, 1685, Private Collection.
Monday was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Friday was the Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Needless to say, I’ve had the Blessed Mother on my brain all week. My thoughts are often with her, but especially during Advent.
The Stone Gate in Zagreb, Croatia
My first adult encounter with the Blessed Mother occurred while backpacking in Central Europe. As I was meandering through the streets of Zagreb, my friends and I encountered the Stone Gate, which leads to the entrance of the city. There I saw a famous painting of the Blessed Mother that was enclosed in a shrine. There was a huge fire in the city that destroyed a big part of it, but the painting of the Virgin Mary remained completely untouched. My friends and I read bricks surrounding the painting with inscriptions from people all over the world who paid homage. When we started to walk away from the gate, my grandmother’s Miraculous Medal fell from my neck. There it fell at the Virgin’s feet. I don’t see things as mere coincidences. Rather, I see them as signs. I feel as though the Blessed Mother was trying to tell me something. For me, I recognized the call to return to the Church and to my faith. I grabbed the medal and tightened the clasp of my chain and carefully put it back on. Through the years Mary has been “popping” up in various places in my life as a guiding light through novenas, prayers, books, and medals.
As a woman, I connect to the Blessed Mother through her femininity. Even as a young girl, I saw Mary as I would my own mother. In adulthood, she is a woman like many of my friends who have recently had babies. I imagine Mary, after giving birth to Jesus, holding him tightly and staring at him with awe. Though I am not a mother, I do know what it is like to hold a newborn. You do not want to peel your eyes from them. I often wonder what it would be like to hold my own son or daughter. What was it like for Mary to hold Jesus?
One of my favorite verses of the Bible and why I love and connect to Mary so much says that Mary, at the birth of Jesus, “[…] kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” I am a woman who sits, ponders, marvels, and processes everything. I hold many things in my heart. I see myself like Mary fully observing and absorbing everything. She would have been well aware that her boy would only remain a small boy for a brief while and she would have to cherish every coo, babble, breath, and sigh for as long as possible. For just a brief while her son would be an infant.
Her infant son would grow up to be the Messiah changing the fate of the world with his ministry. The old testament prophet Isaiah declared generations prior, “for to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The Gospel of Luke describes Mary (from the Angel Gabriel) as, “Favored One.” Favored is she for not just anyone will obediently declare herself a handmaid of God. Take a moment to ponder the Annunciation for a moment.
You are Mary. You are sitting at home most likely sewing or stitching. Suddenly this gigantic glowing being comes bursting through your room. How terrifying that must have been. Then you are told that you will conceive a child through the Holy Spirit. If that was not terrifying enough you have to convince your fiancé that you got impregnated by the Holy Spirit?? That takes some serious grace under fire! Not only that but she would have faced stoning if Joseph did not believe her.
Mary, full of tremendous grace. We all heard the Christmas story over and over, but have we thought about Mary? She obediently took on the role of the Mother of Jesus, traveled several hundred miles on donkey or maybe a camel (which by the way, are both horrible choices pregnant or not) while nine months pregnant and gave birth in a stable. She gave birth without any epidurals. No ice chips. No nurse. She did not have a birth plan. There was no plan. Just Joseph and few peeping farm animals. She wore no hospital gown. She probably did not have a bath or anything afterwards. The birth of Jesus was probably pretty painful and messy. I’m sure Mary did not feel clean or comfortable.
Most likely Mary’s first thought after birth was “he’s so beautiful,” but perhaps she also contemplated the prophecies spelled out by the prophet Isaiah, “but he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” It is no wonder she ponder all of this and held this in her heart. That is a LOT to process!
Mary had to be quite a woman. After all, can you imagine, shouting, “Jeshua, Jeshua, please, come in, it’s time to eat. Can you set the table?” Can you imagine having to tell Jesus to wash up before dinner or help wash the dishes? Further more, can you imagine watching strangers shove a crown of thorns on the brow of your son whose forehead you kissed several times?
Mary is full of grace. humility, and utmost obedience. Her life reflects how we should live out our own. We can approach Mary much like our own Mother. In times of need, failure, and fear we can ask Mary, please Mother, intercede on our behalf. In times of joy, she will be there to relish in our victories.
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.
Mary, like any good mother, guides her children with patience and love. She guides us to her son. Just like with my friends with babies, she looks on to her son with great pride wants everyone to see His face. This Advent sit and chat with Mother Mary. Remember, she is a woman who holds everything in her heart. A woman who ponders deeply will have plenty to say. Take the time to listen.