“Her willingness was her magnificence. This we know and marvel at when we recall how You first came to us,” (Upon A Luminous Night, Christine Rogers, p.9). Mary’s willingness was echoed in her ‘yes’…her ‘yes’, says the poem further on, “to a thing she only partly understood” (p.9). This ‘yes’, which was encircled with mystery, with fear, not knowing what it all would mean or ask…still she proclaimed her ‘yes’ and never turned back.
No wonder she is the icon of our ‘yes’. This Advent season asks each one of us to utter with our lives this ‘yes’ once again…‘yes’ to the promise that God will be born in the humbleness of human flesh…our flesh, our lives, no matter how imperfect, how much struggling we are going through. But, (there is always a but!) it all pivots around our saying again ‘yes’, ‘yes’ to the Spirit who is hovering over our lives right now. Even if we do not sense the Spirit hovering, God is present ready to breathe new life, ready to become more in our lives.
Holding the reality of Mary’s ‘yes’, I want to turn to some of the images put forth in the readings for this third Sunday of Advent: ‘strengthen the hands that are feeble’, ‘make firm the knees that are weak’, ‘be strong, fear not’; ‘be patient’, ‘make your hearts firm’. While we may feel weak, not strong enough, fearful, our ‘yes’ can root us beneath these fears and weaknesses…remembering the Spirit is overshadowing and waits our ‘yes’. Mary had her doubts but she sensed and felt something more and after some pondering gave her assent in these words: ‘Let it be done to me according to your word.’
In the annual Pax Christi Advent and Christmas reflections Sr. Anne-Louise Nadeau, for this Sunday of Advent, focuses on what she calls the “tyranny of fear”. She writes: “The common element that appears to limit the fullness of life is fear. Fear blinds our eyes to seeing our own possibilities, our own shadow side, our own goodness, and the goodness of others. Fear closes up our ears to the truth and distorts our humanness” (p.18). It is striking how much we hear in the Advent scriptures ‘Fear not your God is coming’. At Mary’s Annunciation after the angel’s greeting, she is ‘greatly troubled at what was said’ and then she ‘pondered’, she went deeper, stretching to understand what this all could mean. She went deeper than her fears and found faith, enough faith to face and accept the message that would change her life. The angel’s response to Mary as she pulls back and ponders is ‘Do not be afraid’. Fear in and of itself is not bad; it can be an opening into the life of God, into deeper listening and understanding about our existential situation and that of our world. The Holy Spirit is always hovering; we are not alone. But we have to be ready to meet our fears with faith. God will not disappoint. Her willingness, even with her fear of what all this could mean, even with so much that she did not understand, became her magnificence.