Don’t you just love the seasons of the Liturgical Year?! It feels like we continually get chances to start all over again with each new season. For me, as brief as Advent has been so far, I surprisingly find my prayer and thought of the season quite deep. I can’t wait to see what the Lord’s got in store!
Yesterday morning, as I picked up my Magnificat before Mass, I looked at the painting adorning its front cover, Madonna del Parto (above), and I smiled as I gently stroked Our Lady’s belly thinking about her little baby Jesus inside. Little babies…take a moment right now and pause…think about the first time you held a very little baby or maybe the most recent time, and immerse yourself in that experience… the warmth, the softness, the fragility, the complete dependence… I was lost in that thought as the opening prayer called me back:
“Prepare our hearts, we pray, O Lord our God,
by your divine power,
so that at the coming of Christ your Son
we may be found worthy of the banquet of eternal life
and merit to receive heavenly nourishment from his hands.
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.”
With family visiting, an eightieth birthday party for my dad, Thanksgiving dinner for 38, and a new job, I haven’t been at daily Mass regularly over the past couple of weeks. I really miss it. Mostly I miss the “heavenly nourishment” from the altar, the bread of life given by the consecrated hands of him who stands in persona Christi.
My eyes wandered up above the altar where a huge crucifix hangs. Of late, I cannot keep my eyes off of Jesus in his suffering on the cross – his arms stretched out beyond their limits; the nails piercing his hands and feet; the cleft between his ribs where a lance was thrust; his dislocated joints; his crowned head hanging to one side. I think, “It’s all so sanitary there above the altar, but it wasn’t like that. It was awful and bloody and savage. We clean it up because we could never bear to look at it plainly for what it was.” I see him hanging in the faces of those who have climbed the mountains of suffering I have witnessed this year. I almost expect drops of blood to fall from his feet onto the altar as if to cry aloud, “Do you see how much I love you? Do you know how much I desire to be close to you? Do you know how much I want you to love me in return?”
Mass continues, “This is my body given up for you…”
Mystery. It’s all mystery – the baby in the womb, the man on the cross, the consecrated bread and wine – all of them totally and completely Jesus. Not one different from the other. Him.
My eyes gaze again on Our Lady, pregnant and full in the image in front of me. “May it be done unto me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38).
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, Our Lady’s fiat. Jesus would never have come if not for her consent. That blows me away! The salvation of the world stood in the balance of a young woman’s response. She didn’t know what would come. Her “Yes” stemmed from a knowledge and love of God and a belief in his faithfulness. Our Lady knew the scriptures and today’s psalm must have permeated her mind upon hearing the angel’s words:
Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.
He humbles those in high places,
and the lofty city he brings down;
He tumbles it to the ground,
levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
by the footsteps of the poor. (Is 26:4-6)
She trusted God in a radical way because she knew he is trustworthy.
This Advent, let’s do the same.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee! Anne