Reflections of Mary
This season before Christmas is a time for reflection. We recall how, trusting in the promises of God, his people longed for the coming of the Messiah, a king from the house of David who would save his people (e.g., 2 Samuel 7:11 et seq., Jeremiah 23:5-8). This year, the Second Sunday of Advent falls on the day we normally would celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception, which will be observed tomorrow instead. This invites us to consider them together and view the Blessed Virgin in light of salvation history.
Not only is Christ spoken of and his coming foretold throughout the Old Testament, so too do these ancient scriptures show “the role of the Mother of the Savior in the economy of salvation” (Lumen Gentium, 55). Preserved from Original Sin from the moment of her conception, Mary is a new creation – a new Eve – and she is already prophetically foreshadowed in the first pages of Genesis, in God’s promise of victory over the serpent which was given to Adam and Eve (Id.; Genesis 3:15). In fact, as Pope Pius IX relates in Ineffabilis Deus, the document formally proclaiming the Immaculate Conception, “From the very beginning, and before time began, the eternal Father chose and prepared for his only-begotten Son, a Mother in whom the Son of God would become incarnate and from whom, in the blessed fullness of time, he would be born into this world.”
When the angel appears, “Mary is aware of the messianic dimension of the message she receives and of the ‘yes’ she gives in response,” notes Blessed John Paul II. She realized in Gabriel’s greeting that what the prophets had said about “the Daughter of Zion” and the Lord coming to dwell in her midst was being applied to her (Zechariah 2:14, 9:9-17; Zephaniah 3:13-20; Isaiah 62:11-12).
His message left no room for doubt – she would be mother of the “Son of the Most High,” who would sit on the throne of David, and of his kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:30-33). She was the offshoot from the stump of Jesse, the faithful remnant of Israel, and while remaining a virgin, from her would blossom the Messiah, the fruit of salvation – Emmanuel, God-with-us (Isaiah 11:1-16, 7:14; Jeremiah 33:14-17). In her purity, a living Ark of the Covenant, Mary would be a proper dwelling place for the Holy One.
Mary receives this astounding message, not with pride, but with humility and charity. She goes to help her relative Elizabeth, greeting her with the Magnificat, a scriptural-rich song of praise and thanksgiving not only for what God did for her, but for all he has done throughout history, culminating in the greatest thing of all, the Lord’s perfect gift to us – himself.
A fruitful way to reflect upon this Good News of Jesus Christ and Mary’s role in his work of salvation is by praying the Rosary. Here one prays with Mary while meditating on the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of Jesus’ life and victory over death.
To reflect means not only to ponder and think about, but also to mirror, and so, during Advent, we prepare room in our hearts for Jesus, who wishes to transform our lives into a reflection of his own. This is what Mary is – full of grace, she reflects her Son. In her radiance, we see him, the Light of the world. A mirror of God’s love, truth, justice, and wisdom, as the immaculate virgin mother, Mary is also a mirror of the Church, the pure and virginal Bride of Christ (Lumen Gentium, 63-68).
The story of Jesus’ conception and birth and Immaculate Mary’s role in salvation brings us to the mystery of faith – both hers and our own. Do we mirror the faith of the handmaid of the Lord, our Mother in the order of grace? As we continue in Advent, may we reflect upon and to strive to manifest this.