Faith & Life


By JOAN PATTEN, AO     12/5/2023

“In the Church’s liturgy, Advent is a Marian season. It is the season in which Mary made room in her womb for the world’s Redeemer and bore the expectation and hope of humanity. To celebrate Advent means: to become Marian, to enter into that communion with Mary’s Yes which, ever anew, is room for God’s birth, for the ‘fullness of time’.”

This lovely excerpt is from “Mary: The Church at the Source” by Pope Benedict XVI and Hans von Balthasar offers us a guide as we journey through this Advent season. As we advance through December, we pause to honor Our Lady several times and ask for her intercession.

On Dec. 8, we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother St. Ann. We thank God for preserving Our Lady from the stain of original sin from the moment of her conception. This special privilege made her a worthy dwelling place for Jesus to enter into the human race and gives us a hopeful example of what God’s grace is meant to magnify in each of us.

On Dec. 12, we celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, rejoicing that Our Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego and assured him of her motherly protection and assistance. As Patroness of the Diocese of Orange, we are drawn to Our Lady of Guadalupe and seek her guidance so we, too may be faithful disciples of her Son, Jesus.

On the fourth Sunday of Advent, we encounter the Annunciation of Mary in the Gospel reading. Here, the Gospel invites us to receive the fruit of Mary’s “Yes” and imitate her trust in God’s love and plans for our good. As her children, we can turn to Mary and ask her to teach us how to pray and listen to the Lord speaking to each of us in our hearts.

We see the presence of Our Lady throughout the Church’s prayers, especially in the Liturgy of the Hours. The daytime prayer antiphons remind us that Mary is the Mother of Our Savior and lead us to meditate on the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to her.

The Office of Readings gives us a variety of beautiful reflections from the saints and Church Fathers who point out Mary’s humble presence at the center of the drama of Christ’s coming into this world.

In the Office of Readings on Dec. 20, St. Bernard of Clairvaux offers a vivid mediation of all of Heaven and Earth awaiting Mary’s reply at the moment of the Annunciation. Although Mary was free from original sin, she still had free will and the ability to say “no” to God. However, we can imagine that after the Angel Gabriel relayed God’s mission and message to Our Lady, she paused to consider everything in her heart.

In the moment of silence before the Angel Gabriel, the tension of the moment is highlighted by St. Bernard in his mediation. He says, “We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.”

The mediation ends with the triumph of Mary’s fiat, that is, her surrender to God in declaring, “May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1:38)

There was never a “no” in Mary’s heart.

Let the Church’s liturgy and Our Lady guide you closer to her Son this Advent. Let us ask Mary to teach us how to pray and trust in the Lord’s love as she did, even when she did not understand. We will reflect Mary’s love and peace when we seek the Lord’s healing and direction through prayer and the sacraments. Only then will we be able to respond like her in freedom and joy.