Just before the moment of the Incarnation, nine months before the first Christmas, holy Mary spoke her fiat: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Yet, the preparation for this moment when “the angel Gabriel was sent … to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph” began long before (1:26-27). The preparation for the fiat of this most faithful Virgin began “at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, [and she] was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin” within the womb of St. Anne (Ineffabilis Deus, Pius IX).
The Holy Mother of God’s preparation for the Incarnation, her preparation for the first Christmas, continued throughout her childhood as by the grace of God she perfectly submitted her will to God’s will for her life. Mary’s lifetime of preparation disposed this young pregnant mother, this Ark of the Covenant, to undergo the 90-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem alongside Joseph on the back of a donkey. Her total dependence on God and trust in Joseph strengthened her to endure the birth of the vulnerable and divine child in a smelly, dirty cave warmed only by an ox and an ass. Perhaps the rugged conditions of that first Christmas helped prepare the Sorrowful Mother for the prophecy of Simeon, “and you yourself a sword will pierce” (Lk 2:35). The lifelong preparation of the mother of our Savior endowed her with the grace to endure the agony of the passion and death of her beloved baby boy. Her total reliance on God empowered the Mother of the Church to stand at the foot of the cross and witness him breathe his last. Ultimately, all of this prepared the mother of Christ to witness his wondrous resurrection and ascension into heaven.
Mary, Queen of all Saints, offers all members of the communion of saints, the perfect example of how to prepare the way of the Lord. Hopefully, this Advent has been one of preparation for Christ being born anew in your heart this Christmas. Whether it has or has not, may these next few days be spent preparing for the real work of Christmas as described by Howard Thurman, “When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among others, to make music in the heart.”
Fr. Brennan, vocation director at St. Norbert Abbey, De Pere, earned master of divinity and theology degrees from Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.