MARY’S MODEL: Preparing for the Coming of the Lord

Advent wreath

By Fr. Joseph Lionel, M.A., Ph.D., STD (Cand)

The Advent season in the Liturgical Year invites us to prepare for the coming of the Lord.  The theology of Advent is dependent on the theology of Christmas, because what you wait for determines the way you wait.  The term Advent comes from the combination of two Latin words venio (come) and ad (to);  hence it means “to come” referring – at least in the early Church – not so much as preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ but to the very coming of Christ.  Therefore the eschatological undertone with the expectation of the second coming is celebrated in the preparation for the annual celebration of the birth of Christ.  In our preparation, Mary, the Mother of God, is a great model for us as she prepared to receive the eternal Word in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit.

When the angel Gabriel announced the good news of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, Mary, the perplexed virgin of Nazareth asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Lk 1:34).  The angel’s response to her was, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God” (Lk 1:35).  I would like to draw your attention to these words of the angel in the preparation to receive Jesus, the Word incarnate.

In the Old Testament, the expression “cloud overshadowing” (Ex 16:10, 19:9, 16-17, 24:15, 16, I Kings 8:10, 11, Ps 99:7) refers to divine manifestations.  It is also important to notice in Scripture that cloud covered only the sanctuary and not people (Ex 24:16, 40:38, Num 9:17, Deut 31:15).  Moses himself was outside the sanctuary when the glory of the Lord covered it (Ex 40:34-35).  For the first time Mary, a human person, was overshadowed by “the power of the Most High (Lk 1:35) and became the sanctuary of the Divine Logos.  In the Transfiguration, the cloud overshadows not only Jesus but also Moses, Elijah, and the initial cell of the Church represented by the disciples Peter, John and James (Mt 17:5, Mk 9:7, Lk 9:34).  These events already point towards Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in the form of tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-4).  The Spirit who made Mary to receive the Word and prepared the apostles to recognize the presence of the Word Incarnate during the Transfiguration, now descends upon all those who were gathered in the room and with Mary and the apostles.  The Church filled with the Holy Spirit, the power from on High, is now ready to recognize the presence of Jesus the eternal Word in Her sacramental life, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist.  The Spirit leading the Church to experience the divine presence is not merely a self-fulfilling event, but it has a purpose of mission.  It is the mission to invite more people to experience the divine presence.  The power of the Spirit that is dwelling in us gives us the urge for mission. The Spirit that fills every individual believer initially at Baptism and Confirmation, and continues throughout the Christian life is not meant to be received in a static receiving mode but it calls for active acceptance of the gifts of the Spirit.  It is the Spirit of action and dynamic energy.  Therefore during this Advent season let us be filled with the Holy Spirit as Mary, so that the life we share in Christ through our Baptism and nurtured at the Eucharist may become fruitfull.