On December 18, we celebrate the feast day of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, reminding us that we, too, expectantly wait for the grace and joy of Our Lord and Savior, born on Christmas day. We remember that Jesus was “pre-born” at the moment of the Incarnation, that the Word became flesh when Our Blessed Mother assented to God’s plan, as she spoke to the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation. That feast, on March 25, predates today’s feast by nearly nine months.
We can try to imagine what those nine months were like for The Blessed Virgin, knowing that the Lord grew within her, was one with her. We can only begin to understand the patience she had to possess, looking forward to both the glory and joy of the divine birth. We experience these same feelings—albeit to a lesser extent, no doubt—during this Advent season of preparation. We examine our lives, and look forward to the saving grace of our Lord, as mediated by Our Blessed Mother. While the Lord’s plan was first enacted at the moment Mary was conceived without sin, and made manifest to the Blessed Virgin at the Annunciation, it was made evident to the world at the moment of the Nativity. Prior to that, Mary had seen and heard what others had not, and she had only one more week to anticipate the arrival of her son, Our Lord, the Redeemer of the World!
Our Blessed Mother was the original tabernacle, in which the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Saint Augustine wrote that Mary conceived the Word in her heart before she conceived the Word in her flesh—that as she anticipated the birth of Jesus, her faith grew simultaneously. The second Vatican Council declared that during the time of her pregnancy, the heart of the Incarnate Word beat gently below her immaculate heart: two immaculate hearts, beating silently and prayerfully as one.
We can imagine Mary’s nine-month journey as one of wonder and anticipation, but given the circumstances she found herself in, we also know of her difficult journey, the doubts of Saint Joseph, the anxiety that she must have experienced during that time. But Our Blessed Mother demonstrated not only patience, but also forbearance and deep trust in the Lord. She knew the road would not be easy—in fact, that her joy would almost certainly be linked to suffering throughout her life—but in hope and confidence placed her life in the Lord’s hands. As she prepared for the birth of Jesus, Mary emptied herself, allowing her body and soul to be filled with the grace and spirit of the Lord. During Advent, we pray for a similar experience, that we might approach the birth of Our Savior with hope and confidence.