Only women who have carried babies within themselves have known the relationship which develops between a mother and her child. It is a relationship both wondrous and beautiful, even though the propaganda mills have done their best to convince women that having babies is too great a sacrifice for them to be asked to make. Our interest in the subject stems from the contemplation of those days which preceded the birth of the Messias, which liturgically are now, when we are, as it were, remembering Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem.
At the time of her Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel revealed to Mary that her elderly cousin, (St.) Elizabeth was, despite her old age, miraculously pregnant with him whom the world would know as John the Baptist. The Virgin Mary did not ask for a sign, as Zachary did, but Mary received one all the same, not only because God wished to favor His Mother so, but also to conform to the precedent of His own making, to give a sign to substantiate His revelation or prophecy. But most importantly, He desired that Mary would go to Elizabeth in order to purify her child of Original Sin. St. Luke tells us that Mary hastened from Nazareth in Galilee to the abode of Zachary and Elizabeth in Judea, where she stayed, we presume, until the John was born, three months later, and named and circumcised eight days later (Cf. Luke 1:39). (We celebrate the Annunciation on the 25th of March, the birth of John the Baptist on June 24).
It is good for us to ponder that during the months Mary was with her cousin and Zachary, Jesus, the Word, and John were in constant proximity. We may be sure that Christ bestowed bounteous graces and secret understandings to the Precursor, holy, mystical things, and protected his soul with freedom from all concupiscence.
Mary returned to Nazareth upon the birth of John in June of that year, Joseph being her escort. Sometime during the following months, she and Joseph were married, he having been informed of his espoused wife's miraculous conception and instructed to take her as his own.
During those six months, Mary communed with her Child as mothers can understand better than others. We need not remark that the difference between an ordinary mother and her child and Mary and hers is immeasurable. Ordinary mothers can communicate only partially with their children, because they are infants, a word which, in its Latin root, means 'unspeaking.' The mental capacity of such infants is most limited and their power of communication all but nil--but not completely so.
Our present meditation is on the state of things in which the holy Virgin Mary contained within herself the Word made Flesh, the Son of God. What divine grace flowed from Him, what virtue, and what revelation! He Whom the whole world could not contain shut Himself up in her virginal womb, He, Who was the Wisdom and Power and Replica of the Father, enclosed Himself within her. What glory was hers, what exaltation had been granted her!
Most beautifully does Blessed Mary of Agreda describe the Incarnation:
"At the pronouncing of this 'fiat,' so sweet to the hearing of God and so fortunate for us, in one instant four things happened. First, the most holy body of Christ was formed from three drops of blood furnished by the heart of most holy Mary. Secondly, the most holy soul of the same Lord was created, just as the other souls. Thirdly, the soul and the body united in order to compose his perfect humanity. Fourthly, the Divinity united Itself in the Person of the Word with the humanity, which together became one composite being in hypostatical union; and thus was formed Christ true God and Man, our Lord and Redeemer. This happened in springtime on the twenty-fifth of March, at break or dawning of the day, in the same hour, in which our first father Adam was made and in the year of the creation of the world 5199, which agrees also with the count of the Roman Church in her Martyrology under the guidance of the Holy Ghost. This reckoning is the true and certain one, as was told me, when I inquired at command of my superiors. Conformable to this the world was created in the creation. And as the works of the Most High are perfect and complete (Deut. 32:4), the plants and trees come forth from the hands of his Majesty bearing fruit and they would have borne them continually without intermission, if sin had not changed the whole nature." (The City of God, The Incarnation, Pp. 110, 111)
In response to her divine maternity, this maiden, this queen, poured forth her being in faith and love and adoration such as we cannot conceive or speak. Ordinary women delight in bearing the fruit of their husbands' love. Mary, supernaturally abject and sanctified, inspired and illuminated, gave herself to the adoration of her infinite Creator and Lord, and implored Him to teach her all that she must know and do to serve and mother Him Within the depths of her soul, she adored and thanked Him in a language that is unutterable, enabled by the Holy Ghost, Who had made her His Spouse.
He it was Who gave her the charity wherewith she might make fitting loving protestations to Him. It is in this communing of Mary with her divine Son that we understand the title of her Immaculate Heart.
Within the virginal bosom of Mary, the human mind of the Eternal Son was fully cognizant of all that was happening to Him, of the growing of His Body in all its parts. His mind was united to that of the Second Person, Who comes forth as eternal Wisdom of the Divine Intelligence. In the Godhead, there is one Mind, one Intelligence, possessed by the Three Persons. In the God Man there is the human mind united hypostatically to the Divine Mind. The all-inclusive knowledge of God is possessed by the Infant, Who will be named Jesus the Christ. The Christ Child knows all things in the Beatific Vision which, even in the depths of His passion will never be interrupted. In the womb of Mary, He is already Savior and Priest, the Revealer and Incarnate Truth.
Mary as His Mother becomes the intercessor of Israel and of the world. She voices the age old request of the Chosen People: "Veni ad salvandos nos." "Come to save us." She prays for her people to the God within her, as she prays that her Son make her worthy of the glorious vocation that has been pressed upon her.
We do not know to what extent our heavenly Queen comprehended the Old Testament prophecies that the Lord's Anointed One must suffer for the sins of the people. What we do know is that to the extent it was possible for almighty God to make one worthy to be His living tabernacle and constant worshipper, Mother and handmaid, He made His Mystical Rose. Immaculately conceived and gifted with freedom from all concupiscence and sin, she was impeccable, and the most beautiful of all His creatures, not excluding the lordly seraphim. Yet, her supreme gifts did not effect her other than to make her the more humble and self-effacing. How could she not be overwhelmed by the tremendous mystery of which she was an essential part, for it was from her body that the Infant Son took His Flesh. He was as Adam said of Eve, "bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23). The Infinite God in all His immensity and incomprehensibility entered into the womb of the Virgin Mother, and found His Temple there, "swept and adorned."
The Liturgy of Christmas invites us to dwell upon this incomparable mystery.
The regret that we have each year is that the days of Christmas pass too quickly. We want to stay and admire and marvel. The mystery of the Incarnation cannot be grasped, but its mystery and splendor hold us fixed.
A Protestant once said to me: "Mary is of no importance; she was simply an instrument, the portal by which God entered into the world. God could have chosen any woman for the same purpose." One is shocked at such astonishing spiritual insensibility to the divine holiness, as if condignity did not demand that the Lord's Mother be adorned with every spiritual and physical gift. "If God so clothes the grasses of the fields," how much more her, His consummate masterpiece. She is the Lily of the Valley and the House of Gold! The whole tradition of the Church is unanimous in declaring that it would be unthinkable for the infinite God not to fashion His Own Mother to surpass all other creatures in human and divine graces and virtues and attributes. Indeed, she must be as similar to God as a creature can be.
How delightful it is to imagine the sweet and ethereal communications between the Mother and the Child. He could and surely did fill her soul with incomparable joy and most heavenly insight. And she, for her part, poured out her heart in adoration, love, and abnegation, imploring the infinite God within her to pity her insignificance and poverty of soul.
What great grace was she granted to fulfill her glorious role, what beauty of soul and perfection of expression was granted her that she might serve as His Mother, adorer, and courtier! It is proper during these days of Advent to implore our Mother Mary to grant us something of her poverty of spirit, that we may worthily receive Him in Holy Communion on Christmas Day, and say the right words to Him, when He comes as our Guest and spiritual Nutrition.
I express my sincerest gratitude to everyone who has continued to pray for me.
As has happened before, I was subjected to a barrage of tests on my most recent visit to St. Mary's Hospital and they found nothing abnormal except my CLL. It seems that all my internal organs are in good shape, sound kidneys, sound liver, sound pancreas, sound heart, sound mind (though further testing seems warranted). I am what Dr. Browning once described me as being: "clinically healthy." It comforts me greatly to envision the day when some mortician will remark to his fellow craftsman: "This is one of the healthiest corpses we have in here in some time."
My present advisor, Dr. Brastock, has changed my program of herbal supplements somewhat, but we are still hopeful of gratifying results in the months ahead. I continue to beg prayers for God's mercy. Implore His Supreme Majesty and His Queen to guide us in our decisions and patience.
May I be worthy of so much charitable consideration. I thank also those who have sent me cards and letters and contributions of money, quite a few the last few days. With everyone who anticipates with me the joyful coming of the loving Babe of Bethlehem, I unite in the praise of the Triune God, Who has shown such great mercy to us.