And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)
Advent is that special season when we long for Jesus to take on form in us. Mary’s mission is to care that this really happens. She is the “masterpiece” of God’s creation, she is the “mirror of hope”, she is the “Advent dawn” that leads us securely to the true light of the world, Jesus Christ. During the days of Advent we always celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (on 8th December). She shows us, and gives witness to, what grace can do in someone’s life. When we look at her, we can understand what the Lord also wants to achieve in us – the fully redeemed Christian person. She is a sign of the Lord’s light; we can be signs of light as well. She is a sign of the Lord’s peace; we too can spread peace, and dispel unrest and anxiety. Mary is a sign of the Lord’s victory; we too can be “success stories” of grace, and not necessarily some kind of “failure”. Mary, the Dawn, gives witness in her life to the three elements that nourish our Advent hope: Longing for the Lord, trusting in the Lord, and working with the Lord. Let’s look at each in turn. They can be an inspiration and help to us…Hope means longing for the Lord. Together with the people of Israel, who were crushed under the yoke of Roman occupation, Mary longed for the Saviour, the Messiah. His coming would change everything. Mary’s longing reflects the unquenchable thirst of all humankind crying out for salvation and for liberation from everything that holds us back from sharing in God’s divine life. Even when the Saviour was born and came into the world, Mary’s longing didn’t end. She longed for him to be fully recognized by his own people, she longed for people to comprehend who he really was – God had become a human being – Immanuel, God-is-with-us. Indeed, she longed for the Lord. Advent hope also means trusting in the Lord. If we really trust in someone, and it is a matter of vital importance to us, then different things have to happen – at least three. First of all, the person to whom we give our trust has to be in a position and have the possibilities to help us. Secondly, we need to be assured that this person only wants our well-being. And thirdly, we need to be confident that this person will stick by us no matter what. Mary’s beautiful “Magnificat” – her song of gratitude and liberation – is a powerful testimony to how these three things ensured that she could completely trust in the Lord and in his promises. She sings: “the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name” (Luke 1:49). She believes that the Lord is “mighty”; he has endless possibilities to help and save. She trusts in the one who “has performed mighty deeds with his arm” (Luke 1:51). Then Mary gives witness to God’s love and mercy, that she has experienced in her life: “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful” (Luke 1:54). The mercy of the Lord, the knowledge that he wants nothing else than our well-being, becomes another foundation for her tireless and all-encompassing trust in him. Will God, however, really stick by her no matter what? Mary’s song proclaims the faithfulness of God: “The Lord has come to the aid of Abraham and his descendants forever” (Luke 1:55). He would never leave her side, just as he never left Abraham’s side, or any of his descendants. He is the faithful God. When God wants to achieve something in us and for us, nothing will get in the way until he has fulfilled his purpose. That’s why Mary trusted. Finally, Advent hope is nourished by our working with the Lord. How was this in the life and times of Mary of Nazareth? Think back to the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee. After noticing that the wine for the feast had run out, and after turning to her Son for help, Mary simply turned to the servants and said: “Do whatever he tells you!” (John 2:5). This is her only command, her only motherly request. She speaks from her own experience and life-concept: Whatever the Lord asked of her, she was ready with her unconditional “yes”. She spoke her “yes” to the crosses in her life, to her own suffering; she said her “yes” to the unique mission that God gave her. This shows a key element in Mary’s character: She left the initiative with Jesus, she just wanted to be open to his will and wishes. She was completely “Godward”, placing the Lord always in the centre of everything. What she did and achieved, she did and achieved together with him. She worked with the Lord. It is not without good reason that Mary has always held such an important and essential place in Christian thought and life, especially in the special season of Advent. She is the one who bore God the Son, and she is the model of the Lord’s disciple, who truly lived a Christian life of hope – indeed, she is the Dawn of Hope.