Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Advent Reflections: Pregnant With Anticipation

Mary brought me back to my spiritual walk. Even when I was far removed from Christianity, the one thing I never lost a connection with was that lovely, brave, humble woman, without whose fiat – “be it done unto me according to your word” – the God-man could not have come into the world.

I have a deep connection to the Sacred Feminine, and to Mary in particular. It happens when you’re raised Catholic, and perhaps even more so when you lack a positive motherly presence in your own life. My religious upbringing made me fearful of God, unsure about Jesus, and clueless about the Holy Spirit – but Mary was the steady constant, the soothing maternal presence I could always turn to in difficult times. Although I’ve cultivated a healthier relationship with the Trinity in my adult life, Mary’s role hasn’t changed. Perhaps it’s even grown stronger over the years.

My house is filled with Marian images, from Orthodox icons to popular Catholic images like Our Lady of Guadalupe to a small army of statues and figurines. Of all the likenesses of Mary I own, I think my favorites are the few that portray her with a swollen belly, pregnant with the Incarnate Word. 

Fr. Bill McNichols, Mother of the Incarnate Word;
hand-painted figurine from Colombia;
Christmas card design from Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey.
~ An icon depicts Mary pregnant and reading a book, perhaps scripture  both immersed in the Word and carrying the Word within her. It also implies a connection between Mary and Sophia, Holy Wisdom, in the Old Testament. 

~ A statue, hand-painted in Colombia, shows Mary, head slightly dipped, lost in placid contemplation, as she bunches up her cloak above the bulge in her midsection. 

~ A painting reveals Mary consoling Eve. Tangled in the snares of the serpent, Eve, looking forlorn, bows her head before Mary, who holds Eve's hand against her ripe belly. The New Eve stands on the verge of bringing into the world the New Adam, the Redeemer, who will at last right our wrongs. 

Not only do the images speak directly to the miraculous power of the female body and its ability to grow and sustain life – indeed, to Creation itself – but they also hold a great sense of anticipation. We know that something wonderful, life-changing, prophecy-fulfilling, is about to happen to the world. But it’s not here just yet. We must patiently wait, as we do in this Advent season, looking forward with great expectation to the hope of wonderful things to come.

Advent is, it’s fair to say, Mary’s time. We look to the Blessed Virgin, the spiritual mother of all believers, as she leads us toward Christmas, the day when hope is born anew.

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