Advent symbolizes the waiting and anticipation of a pregnancy, and Our Lady appears as a key figure in the season. There is a good reason for that: she prepares us for Christ’s birth by helping us to let go of inner obstacles to grace and ties that bind us. She teaches patience and attentiveness to the movements of the Spirit. Mary is the best guide for our Advent Journey because she is the one who gave birth to Life Himself.
The Stages of Speech
When we consider the phenomenon of human speech, we see that it normally occurs in a three-stage process. First, one must have an idea of what he wants to say. That is the conception stage where the idea takes root in the mind.
Then, one needs a moment to mentally formulate the words that will express the idea, which is the gestation period of the word. That may be a short period of time in quick-minded individuals or a longer period for those who take time to ponder their words carefully.
Finally, the communicator articulates his word outwardly in speech to make manifest what is inside him. That is the expression stage of speech.
Thus, to bring to light the “word” that is hidden within us, we all travel through these three stages of human speech: conception-gestation-expression.
God also spoke His Word from the depths of His Heart. He manifested His love for creation through a form of speech. And when He spoke His Word, He used a most worthy instrument of expression: a humble, immaculate virgin named Mary. And He did so in the same three-step process.
On the Solemnity of the Annunciation eight months ago, we celebrated the moment when Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and at that point “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). How wonderful that God came to us in this way! No religion or civilization in the history of humanity has seen an act of God like this.
Now, in Advent, we celebrate the gestation of the Word. As a woman reaches the end of pregnancy – I am told by many friends who are mothers – the baby’s presence becomes most real to her. There is an intimate bond between mother and child from the very moment of conception, but the child in utero begins to communicate back to the mother as he grows larger. There is a sort of conversation between mother and child that takes place at the end of pregnancy, not so much in words but in movements, gestures, and feelings.
Finally, nine months after becoming flesh, the Word was born into the darkness of our world, symbolized perfectly by that beautiful Star of Bethlehem piercing the night sky over His manger. Christmas is the wonderful and joyous expression of God’s holy Word to humanity. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes:
In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe.
Jesus is the Father’s only Word, and with it He speaks all we need to know about Him, about His love for the world, and about our salvation.
Our Guide for the Advent Journey
Advent is the time of preparing ourselves to receive God’s divine self-expression that has transformed the world. As we enter this four-week journey, let us turn to the woman who conceived, developed, and bore the Word of God in her body and soul.
Mary can train us to enter into that profound dialogue between Word and listener and teach us to let go of the obstacles to grace that we hold fast to in our inner lives. Because of her union with the Word of God, she can untie the worst difficulties of mind and heart, if only we will turn to her in our need this Advent season.
And never forget that Mary’s circumstances in those last days of her pregnancy were less than comfortable or secure: being pregnant, she was forced with Joseph to travel for the census; they found no welcome in any home; she was obliged to give birth in a place of animals.
If anyone knows our deepest concerns about life and family, Mary does. She has experienced them all. She has the capacity to smooth out all the knotted strings of our problems. Surely this Advent, the woman who gave expression to God’s human speech, will hear our prayers.
O Mary, Mary, Undoer of knots and mother of the Word Incarnate, pray for us who have recourse to thee!
By Peter Darcy