Waiting

In these weeks of Advent the Church has been employing all her artistry, all her richest symbolism, to stimulate us towards understanding what God is offering. Every tiny particle of Scripture the Church chooses carries its own message. If we use these riches, we long for “the gift of God”, we long to see Jesus. But this stimulation of desire is only a means and not an end. What matters is to make space for God by embracing His will.

In Advent the most beautiful exemplar goes ahead of us: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” I am yours absolutely, do your will in me and through me. I turn over to you all my ambitions even of the most religious and spiritual kind. Do your will in darkness or in pain if necessary; I do not ask to understand. I commit myself to you completely.

However Mary spent her days, we are told the only things that matter and those things—surrender, holding fast to God’s promises, expecting fulfillment—must be true of all who belong to Christ. The contemplative life has this Marian attitude or mode of being writ large into it.

The dynamism of this perspective comes from living out of the hand of God, and not our own resources. Otherwise, it is not a dramatic way; faith keeps us in the here and now—in this moment and no other; in this situation and no other. Here is my Jesus, here in this moment, this duty, this set of circumstances. What a test of faith is the daily round of duties, the pressure of seeming trivialities, in the dull, wearying pain, lacking all glamour and grandeur. Especially when, as Mary in her lifetime, we are among those who fall below the radar of the worthwhile, where nobody notices, no stories or articles are written, no photos appear, and we ourselves seem utterly forgotten and swept along by events.

The essentials for Mary were offering herself absolutely, hearing the word and living it in all its challenges, and the final consummation of perfect faith and surrender. In her long Advent of faith, Mary allowed herself to be transformed by love into what she was called to be.

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