[This column appeared in the Catholic Standard & Times on 18 December 2008]
Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus: who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of humans.— Phil. 2:6-8
I came early to the vigil Mass on the first Sunday of Advent this year. Kneeling to pray, I was distracted by stirrings at the front of the church: the jangling of a chain and murmuring voices. I looked up to see a tall young man preparing the censer, his low voice barely rippling the stillness, sweeping me into the memory of an Advent 15 years past.
That first Sunday of Advent found me early to the vigil Mass as well. It had been a chaotic week as I juggled teaching and preparing a paper for a conference overseas, all overlaid with the exhaustion of pregnancy. Within the church, the candles were lit, the light soft and gentle. I could just stop, like a breath suspended in time.
In that incredible stillness, I was suddenly distracted. The stirrings were gentle, but unmistakable. What I had rationally known for almost five months, but never quite believed, was suddenly made manifest — I carried a child within me, the same child whose movements drew my eye this year, at this Mass. I remembered the joy of cradling him in my arms for the first time, tinged with the loss of that hidden, mysterious time we shared when my entire being enfolded him.
I wonder how Mary felt after Jesus’ birth. She held God within her, knew His movements intimately, only to surrender Him to a cold, uncertain and unwelcoming world. Her willingness to be filled with the Holy Spirit was equally a willingness to be emptied of God’s Son — a foreshadowing of Christ’s own emptying so eloquently described by Paul in his letter to the Philippians.
Pondering the Magnificat, I sense that Mary was aware of this paradox, of the necessary tension between emptiness and fullness, between richness and poverty of spirit, and of the challenges embracing such a way poses. She proclaims: He has routed the arrogant of heart … He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty. Mary held the riches of the universe within her, and labored hard to surrender them to us....
I invite you to read the rest of the posted meditation here.