At the heart of Advent is Mary, our Blessed Mother. Her figure always appears early in this holy season, as we celebrate her Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8.
Our Advent liturgy follows the divine design for salvation history. We remember her birth as we await the birth of her Son, our Lord and Savior.
Jesus and Mary are united in the mystery of God’s plan for the world. And they are united in the mystery of his plan for your life and mine.
It is not a coincidence that when she was sent to the peoples of the New World in 1531, our Blessed Mother came at this time of year, when the Church remembers the new creation that began when she was conceived without the stain of original sin.
As we recall the story, Our Lady came to that hill at Tepeyac with beautiful birds singing. The moment was so beautiful it made St. Juan Diego wonder whether he had come upon the “paradise” that his elders had spoken of.
Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to him as a mother with child, announcing: “Know, littlest of my sons, that I am the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God by whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and earth.”
The Virgin Mary is the Mother of God and mother of the children of God. Our mother. We know that, but in these long months of the pandemic, we feel her maternal love even more deeply.
We continue to pray daily for her intercession to end the coronavirus, turning to her as “Mother of Healing and Hope.” That was the theme of our annual Guadalupe procession, which we held Dec. 6 in San Gabriel. Although our worship was limited and largely virtual this year because of the pandemic restrictions, it was a joyful and hopeful time.
Our prayer to our Blessed Mother in this Advent season continues. As we anticipate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we are praying a “digital novena,” a series of daily prayers and reflections that you can find on our website: lacatholics.org/guadalupe/.
Again, due to the pandemic restrictions, our celebration of the feast this year will be largely virtual. But it will be beautiful. We will have several artists singing songs to Our Lady, a Mariachi tribute, and we will pray the Rosary before celebrating the Holy Eucharist. I hope you will join me and tell others. Our livestream celebrations begin Dec. 11 at 8 p.m., and you can join us at lacatholics.org/guadalupe/.
One of the “messages” for us in this pandemic, I believe, is that we need to deepen our relationship with Mary our Blessed Mother.
Especially in this moment, we need to take to heart those words of healing and hope that she spoke to St. Juan Diego: “Do not fear any sickness or suffering. Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not in my shadow, under my protection? Am I not your health?”
Jesus told us from the Cross, “Behold, your mother.” Our relationship with Mary is essential. And it cannot remain only sentimental. All of us need to have a mature understanding of who Blessed Mary is and her place in our spiritual life.
Mary’s love for us is tender, it is a mother’s love. But like any good mother, she is also strong and ready to sacrifice and suffer to protect her children and help them to grow.
The Gospels show her on that first Christmas night delivering her Child in uncertainty and poverty. Soon after, we see her defending her Child as they flee persecution and become refugees in Egypt. And as her Son is dying on the Cross, we see her at his side, silently sharing in his suffering.
When we understand Mary’s place in salvation history, we recognize that Jesus takes our lives very seriously. The Book of Revelation shows our Blessed Mother engaged in spiritual combat with the “ancient serpent who is called the devil” as he wages “war on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.”
He entrusts us to his mother to continue his work of salvation, to teach us and to watch over us as we seek to follow his commands and bear witness to him in this journey of our lives.
As Jesus was formed in his humanity in the Virgin Mary’s blessed womb, he wants us to be formed in his likeness through her example of faith and her maternal intercession.
Pray for me this week, and I will pray for you.
And as we continue in this holy season, drawing nearer to our Lord’s birth, let us entrust ourselves more closely to our Blessed Mother, and ask her to be our healing and hope.