Sunday, December 2, 2012

Happy the Barren

In Jesus God initiated a new beginning in the midst of a barren and hopeless humanity. This beginning is not the result of mankind’s own history, but a gift from above… in this way, Mary, the barren, blessed one, becomes a sign of grace, the sign of what is truly fruitful and salvific: the ready openness which submits to God’s will.

Daughter Zion, 48

Reflection  - Well, a happy Advent season to you all! It is Advent that is, in our liturgies and hopefully in our homes and hearts, not the secularized version of the Christmas season, and not the annual war-on-Christmas-and-subsequent-protests-by-Christians season either.

No, it is Advent, and we have to strive rather to keep our focus on this. This quote from Ratzinger is a good little Advent beginning for us: Humanity without God is barren and hopeless. How’s that for an Advent thought for the day?

But humanity is not without God. This is the Good News. Jesus has come, and Jesus is coming again. Very good news!

And Jesus is coming today, to you and to me, to everyone. Very, very good news! Advent calls us to stand in the reality of our hopeless barren condition, but in a stance of utter expectancy and hope. And Mary is the great teacher of this. When Ratzinger calls Mary ‘barren’ it is because he has just been analyzing the whole line of barren women in the Bible, and presenting Mary as the fulfillment of this biblical theme. Technically of course, she is not so much barren as virginal, but the idea is the same.

And the idea is that it is God who makes our life fruitful, God who brings life and opens up a future for us, God who fills what is empty in each of us and opens what is closed in each of us.

Advent calls us to this emptiness, to a certain silence of mind and heart, to a certain entry into the reality of our poverty, our utter need for God. This is why, as tired as we get of having to do this every year, we do need to reclaim Advent from the shrieking hype and clamorous noise of the ‘Christmas’ season which begins some time in November and ends December 25.

What is lost is not just a pretty liturgical season with some nice songs and a wreath or a Jesse tree. We lose the whole reality of God entering our darkness with his light, entering our despair with his promise, entering our dead-end humanity with his new beginning.

Perhaps Mary is enough to help us get there. She is the one who shows us what a human being looks like who is open enough to God to receive Him, needy enough of God to welcome Him fully when He comes, empty enough of self to be filled with the life of the world.

We have an icon of Mary in our chapel called ‘She who is wider than the heavens’. Mary is so empty, so needy, so hungry, so poor, that she opens up to receive the one who all the heavens and all the earth cannot contain. And because the mystery of Mary is so beautiful, so radiant, so gracious and joyful, she helps us have the courage to touch our own poverty and emptiness, our own profound need and our hopeless condition, knowing that the God who filled Mary wants to fill us, and that Jesus has come, is coming today and will come at the end of time to fill the heavens and earth with his radiant glory.
Happy Advent to you – happy silence, happy poverty, happy emptiness, happy darkness, happy hunger. Happy the barren one, filled by God. Happy those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, for on them a light has dawned. Happy are those who hunger, for they shall be filled.

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