The Reed of God: Advent
Mary is a key figure of Advent. As a Dominican, I pray the rosary every day. But there is still something wonderful about encountering Mary anew during the season of Advent. There is the young woman who encounters the angel and says yes to God, not because of knowledge (she first asks how what will happen to her is even possible) but through faith. And then there is the appearance of Mary at Guadalupe, and the celebration of the ordinary man who became the one who performed something extraordinary.
I am reminded that every day, at every moment, I should be seeking the presence of God. And it is the two Marian feast days in Advent that remind me that God comes at any time, in unexpected ways, and that the Blessed Mother is the vehicle of that grace. “If we have truly given our humanity to be changed into Christ, it is essential that we do not disturb this time of growth.”
And a time of growth it is. For Mary those thousands of years ago, it was the literal growth of the baby Christ-child within her. But for us, this coming of Jesus we are preparing for is a time where Jesus grows in us too. We are the ones to open our hearts and make them ready for the coming of Jesus as well. The season of Advent in the Church is also the season of the advent of Jesus in our hearts.
But the fast-paced world in which we live does not always allow things the time to grow. We want what we want now. We do not like to wait. With the arrival of technology our jobs can make demands on us right away, right now. When we order something from away, no longer to we need to wait very long for its arrival. Even so, we still find impatience creeping in when something we want (not need) is taking so long to arrive. But to grow, to experience real growth, we must be patient and wait, for growth can be slow.
Houselander identifies the challenges that arise in waiting on God. “Everyone knows how terrible it is to come into contact with those people who have an undisciplined missionary urge, who, having received some grace, are continually trying to force the same grace on others, to compel them not only to be converted but to be converted in the same way and with precisely the same results as themselves.” This is obvious. You must like the Mass the way I like it. Extraordinary Form. Praise and Worship. No music. Forget that Jesus is present every time Mass is celebrated. Forget that the author or the human heart knows the human heart better, and knows precisely how to enter it, when invited. We are invited to grow in faith, not forced. “More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) God can, of course. And often, the feeble mind of the human cannot.
The undisciplined missionary is not motivated by something bad. Who would not want to share the tremendous insights? The undisciplined missionary is simply not willing to be disciplined enough to understand the deeply personal nature of God’s call to each of us. Advent is the time to look inward, not in psychological navel-gazing, but rather in the quest and search for the person of Jesus within us. “This is precisely the attitude we must have to Christ, the Life within us, in the Advent of our contemplation.”
What did it mean for Jesus to become fully human? “By His own will Christ was dependent on Mary during Advent: He was absolutely helpless; He could go nowhere but where she chose to take Him; He could not speak; her breathing was His breath; His heart beat in the beating of her heart.” It was the humble Jesus, the God-man, who surrendered to this full humanness in order to raise the sinful human to something great.
It continues today. Jesus continues to be humble, pouring out his love on us in a way that leaves us to accept him however we might. “To-day Christ is dependent upon men. In the Host He is literally put into a man’s hands. A man must carry Him to the dying, must take Him into the prisons, workhouses, and hospitals, must carry Him in a tiny pyx over the heart onto the field of battle, must give Him to little children and “lay Him by” in His “leaflight” house of gold.”
This is not a dependance of helplessness, but rather one of love. During the season of Advent, we wait patiently for the loving presence of Jesus to overwhelm us. And when Jesus comes into our lives, how amazing do we become!
What do I mean? Houselander cites the example of Mary’s journey to see Elizabeth. How amazing is it that the pregnant Mary was generous enough to help her kinswoman Elizabeth. “Many women, if they were expecting a child, would refuse to hurry over the hills on a visit of pure kindness. They would say they had a duty to themselves and to their unborn child which came before anything or anyone else.”
But the presence of Christ in her womb was the inspiration that had lead Mary throughout her life. She brought the best she could to Elizabeth. She brought Jesus. And the child of Elizabeth, John the Baptist, leapt for joy! Amazing!
And yet Caryll Houselander reminds us that just as he was growing in Mary, so too Jesus is growing in us. And for this growth to happen, we imitate the child Jesus. As he trusted in the Blessed Mother and made himself dependent, so we trust in Him to help us to grow to spiritual fullness. And trusting in God means seeing His presence in all we do. It means seeing his presence in our work. It means seeing that raising a family is the way in which we can make Christ present to the world by imitating the Holy Family in our house. The work we do as a job is, at its best, a way to show forth the creative action of the Holy Spirit. “In the seasons of our Advent – waking, working, eating, sleeping, being – each breath is a breathing of Christ into the world.”
Other Commentaries on The Reed of God
It can be helpful to have the book to read. To purchase books I recommend the Pauline sisters.