On the Advent journey to Christmas, the Fourth Sunday belongs to Mary. This is because Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus, necessarily involves the motherhood of Mary. However, the story of that birth is reserved for Midnight Mass, while today's gospel tells us how Mary prepared for that wonderful starting with the Annunciation; that alone would probably shock anyone but Mary listens to the message, questions how it could come about and then accepts the will of God’s, allowing God to determine how she would be a mother.
If through the centuries Mary has captured the imagination of the world, it is in large measure because she faced the mystery of God and said, "Let what you have said be done unto me”. Even her greatest privilege as mother of the Saviour presupposes this radical trust and generosity. It's easy to ignore the mystery of God until the very end of life; it is also easy to live in fear of that mystery.
However, human life will never be really successful until we learn to embrace God's mystery with trust and confidence. Mary shows us how to do that and what wonderful results will follow. Although we know very little about the "historical" Mary, her symbolic presence is real and powerful. In her case, symbolic truth presupposes an historical person but it reveals the universal and perennial significance of that person. It is a truth that transcends such limitations as age, race and gender as it reveals the meaning of Mary, Virgin, symbol of hope and of course Mother. From the early middle ages Mary has been depicted in white and blue; the blue robe signifying heavenly grace but also hope and servitude (the handmaid of the Lord) and white representing her purity and her holiness. In her role of Mother Mary symbolises compassion, nurturing but also fruitfulness and the willingness to suffer for her child. Mary is also for us Mother, willing to listen, support and intercede for us.
These are some of the ideas we can take with us as we celebrate this last Sunday before Christmas.
Have joyous and blessed Christmas.
Fr Michael Manning, O.Carm.