It is certainly very fitting, as we prepare for the coming of Christ in Christmas throughout Advent, that we also celebrate as a parish and as Catholics the Blessed Virgin Mary. During the first week of Advent this year, we celebrated the Immaculate Conception on the 8th of December. In the second week of Advent, on the 12th of December, we celebrated Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe). In both feasts, we celebrate she who is “blessed among women,”1 since God chose a lowly young virgin to bear his only Son to the world by the Holy Spirit. It is in Mary that we see true preparation for the coming of Christ.
First, it begins with the simple fact that no one can earn God’s grace. And, thus, in the Immaculate Conception – the conception of Mary without original sin, conceived in the state of grace, unlike the rest of humankind – we find God’s infinite Mercy to save, without any merit of hers. As the Church teaches us, Our Lady is an icon of the Church and of each disciple of Christ. Thus, we find that just as Mary is saved by grace, we too are saved by God’s perfectly free gift through baptism. It is in uniting ourselves with Mary, by recognizing our need for God, our utter inability to earn God’s love and mercy, that we receive fully the sanctifying grace the Father offers through his Son.
Secondly, in beautifully celebrating Las Mañanitas and the Mass for the feast of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, we find Christ again showing us the power of God through a young woman who conquered evil by the Cross with her Son. In 1531, Our Lady appeared to a poor man named Juan Diego. There, she imprinted an image of herself on his tilma. The image converted millions of indigenous peoples in the Americas to Christ. While there are miraculous details about the image in the tilma that even the people of the time would not recognize – such as microscopic and scientifically accurate, reflected images of people in the eyes of the Virgin – the image itself presented in abundant symbolism a woman who had conquered evil and the whole cosmos by the power of the Cross and the Son with whom she was pregnant in the image.
The truth is that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” as St. James tells us in his epistle.2 With Mary in her total “Yes” to Christ, by humbling ourselves before God, and recognizing our perfect need for him, we are able to receive him more fully, who is King of the Universe. Contrary to a world that demands the worship of self-image and to acquire an unending “more,” it is through simple silence and humble prayer that we meet the Prince of Peace who comes to give us life more abundantly, who comes to give us rest, and who meets us where we are. There, we can rejoice with Mary, our mother, to proclaim “the greatness of the Lord, […] who has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”3 And by God’s grace, we can overcome the world. Our Lady’s simplicity and humility are the virtues for which God increased his grace towards she who was undeservedly “Full of Grace.”4 What a blessing it is in celebrating and imitating our Lady during these days of Advent, so as to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
1 Luke 1:42
2 James 4:6 (NRSVCE)
3 Luke 1:46-48
4 Luke 1:28