cultivate and nourish a relationship with her as our spiritual mother, since it is Mary who brought the Child into the world. Consequently, it is difficult -- perhaps impossible -- to know the Child as intimately as we ought if we neglect his tender Mother.
Who would dare bypass Mary yet enter the quiet place of the Child's birth and lift the newborn Babe from the manger? Is it not more appropriate to first greet Mary? Is it not best to first ask the Virgin, who gave her life for her Son, if we might touch and hold and kiss the Child?
However, though we might treat Mary with neglect, the sweet Virgin nevertheless takes us by the hand, guides us to the manger, and beckons us to pick up the Wonder-Child who is destined to redeem humankind. For our spiritual mother knows not selfishness. She invites us to take the Child in our arms, look into his eyes, and exchange our heart with his -- not for a moment, but for all eternity. We need only look into Mary's eyes in silence to understand.
Mary: Look at My Son
Ultimately, Advent calls us to trust in Christ, for we could not prepare for the coming of the Child if not for the gift of faith which can only be fully realized in trust. As Pope Benedict pointed out to the youth in Rome before the opening of the twenty-first World Youth Day, there is a certain amount of courage involved:
"What does the Lord want of me? Of course, this is always a great adventure, but life can be successful only if we have the courage to be adventurous, trusting that the Lord will never leave me alone, that the Lord will go with me and help me."
Is not this what Mary herself clearly demonstrated at the Annunciation? Is not her fiat the greatest example of a trustful and courageous faith? Hear the words of Blessed John Paul II:
"Mary uttered this fiat in faith. In faith she entrusted herself to God without reserve and 'devoted herself totally as the handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son.' And as the Fathers of the Church teach -- she conceived this Son in her mind before she conceived him in her womb: precisely in faith! Rightly therefore does Elizabeth praise Mary: 'And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord'" (Redemptoris Mater 13 § 4).
Advent calls us to preparation, to strengthen our faith with the help of the Holy Spirit, to enter into that quiet place with the Child -- there we find true meaning in our life. It is a place where all that we are is revealed; it is a place in which the Day Star rises in the East, driving out the darkness, replacing it with an ineffable light of Love which can never be forgotten nor extinguished.
Mary urges us to enter into Advent, into "the Way." As we gaze with the eyes of faith upon that mystery which is anticipated in Advent, looking ahead toward the Child who lay in the manger, Mary whispers: look at my Son. "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).
F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at catholicpathways.com
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Advent, Mary, Virgin Mary, Mother of God, the way, Christian discipleship, F. K. Bartels
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