Saint Columbanus stained glass window in the crypt of the Abbey of Bobbio, Northern Italy. TREBBIA/CREATIVE COMMONS 3.0

Spiritual Life

This Advent, invite Jesus into your heart as Mary did

Our world is filled with agitation, with the busyness and distractions of work, entertainment and pleasures of every sort. They call out as Sirens to those trying to navigate the treacherous sea of life.

These days, it seems that the disquiet and discontent with Church, country and the pesky virus that shall not be named has raised the agitation to a fever pitch; so we find ourselves immersed in a world filled with distractions begging our attention and desperately trying to draw us away from the feet of Jesus and into the tyranny of busyness, anxiety and desperation.

Advent, from the Latin “ad venire” for “to come to,” invites us to cry out to God from the depths of our heart, “Veni! Come!” Thus, it pushes back against that temptation to be busy about many things, only to forget the better part of being still and knowing that Jesus is Lord and he is come and is coming still to dispel disruption and bring peace.

People of faith know that they need only ask in his name and it shall be granted, but perhaps not right away. So, Advent becomes also a time of patient waiting, of eager anticipation and of diligent preparation for the birth of the Word made flesh, who comes as he did at the dawn of creation to order chaos and bring life.

Imagine what may have taken place in the heart of Mary during the nine months of patient waiting, eager anticipation and diligent preparation for that day when her Son, the Word made Flesh, would be born. Imagine how she would have reflected throughout those months upon that moment of silent prayer in her room when Gabriel announced she would be mother; how she, filled with grace and the Holy Spirit, had allowed that Spirit to elicit her response: “Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum,” “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

In that moment, the seemingly impossible took place: The Virgin conceived, and a mere creature became mother of God become man. Imagine the immediate love Mary would have had for her Son and how it would have grown as he grew within her. What mother does not long for that moment in which she will finally hold and kiss her child for the first time? How much more would this be true for Mary, knowing who her child was truly?

Yet, in this knowing, she would have also known what was eventually to come. How Mary would have also longed to keep her sweet Child in the safety of her womb! What agony, what tension, what anxiety might have been in the heart of Mary had she not had those nine months of preparation for that day; nine months in which she nurtured the Christ physically while he nurtured her spiritually, the Prince of Peace hidden in the Queen of Heaven and Earth.

This is what the time of Advent affords us: a time to savor the quiet, intimate and hidden union with a God who dwells within us, bringing peace to our souls before we bring him into a world that wishes to take him from us and put him to death. What the world fails to understand is there is no need to grasp at, no need to take him – he offers himself freely and to all.

This is what so often goes forgotten amidst the busyness that surrounds Christmas these days. The greatest gift we receive is not one placed beneath an elegantly decorated tree but one that, two thousand years ago, was placed in a lowly manger. It is a gift that was only fully opened 33 years later by a lance, spilling its contents as a font of mercy for us, a font from which the faithful have continuously received since that moment, and still receive today, through the grace of the sacraments. How blessed are we.

Perhaps we might detach from the devices that lead to busyness and agitation to quiet our souls and allow ourselves to be truly prepared to celebrate the birth of the Son who blesses us with the grace of knowing him as both Lord and friend. As such, we cry out from the depths of our hearts this Advent, “Veni, veni, Emmanuel!”

We can do so from a place not of desperation, but of gratitude, seeking greater awe and wonderment for a God who gives himself as gift. Having this time of patient waiting, eager anticipation and diligent preparation, we can seek this gift in the sacraments, in daily devotions, and in that silent, hidden prayer in our rooms. There we receive the Word, the Prince of Peace, who comes to dwell within us and nurture our souls as he did for Mary.

Father Padraic Stack is associate pastor at St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha.