Mary, Star of the Sea
Advent is always a reminder of things past, present, and future. We look back to the promises God made to Israel, fulfilled so marvelously at the birth of Christ: “The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.” In looking back, we find hope. At the same time, we prepare now to celebrate Christmas, the Nativity of our Lord and Savior. By so readying ourselves for this feast, we grow in love. Finally, we look to the future when Christ will come again, when every tear will be wiped away (cf. Rev. 21:4), when the judgment in mercy leads to the fullness of the Kingdom of God. In remembering God’s plan, we grow in faith.
Other than Christ himself, there is no greater exemplar of faith, hope, and love than his mother, Mary. On her word hung the entire plan of salvation. God would not violate our freedom even to save us, so necessary is freedom as the foundation of love. God extended the extraordinary, loving gesture and now all of creation awaited Mary’s free response. Confused, but full of grace, Mary spoke for all of humanity with those faith-filled and humble words: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be it done to me according to Thy word” (Luke 1:38).
Mary’s response was not made on the fly. Everything in her young life had been a preparation for this moment; and everything after the Annunciation would constitute fidelity to this response, renewing her fiat with deep and abiding hope even to the cross. We never know when and how God will speak to us. Our entire lives must be a readying for and a response to the Divine initiative of love.
When I think about Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church, it is helpful for me to think of my own mother. I remember going to my first wedding as a young child. My Aunt Sue was getting married and my mother was in the wedding party. She looked so beautiful in the elegant yellow gown she wore! If I were to have dressed myself for the wedding, I am sure I would have been her polar opposite. I had no idea as a child what to wear to a wedding. I didn’t even know what a wedding was really!
Years later, when I graduated from college, I spent hours writing thank you notes and addressing envelopes. Somewhere in this process, my mother noticed I was using cheap cards instead of the fine stationery embossed with the college seal that she had bought special for the occasion. She quickly–and much to my dismay!–tore up all the cards I had written. There was no way she was going to let her college graduate look unrefined.
The Second Coming of Christ is often described in terms of a wedding. It will be a great feast, a celebration! Jesus used the imagery to describe the disappointment, anger, and hurt felt by the king when guests didn’t show up for his son’s wedding. Rather than cancel the celebration, people from off the street were invited to attend. But even then, the king found a guest who hadn’t bothered to dress for the occasion and he threw him out (Matt. 22:1-14). Two lessons here: if you’re invited, it’s rude not to attend; and if you attend, you had better dress properly. Decorum is important.
I would be worried about the Final Wedding Feast if it weren’t for Mary, our Blessed Mother. Throughout Church history the saints have taught us to turn to her. “To Jesus, through Mary,” said St. Louis de Montfort in his True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin (¶ 124 (2)). Likewise, St. Maximilian Kolbe reminded us: “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.” She is the Star of the Sea who, without being our destination, nonetheless guides us safely home. Like the Star of Bethlehem, she leads us to Christ. Just as she did at Cana, Mary simply advises us, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). It is the same advice the Father was heard to give on Mt. Tabor: “This is My beloved Son. Listen to him” (Luke 9:35). Mary, full of grace, listened and responded with her life-long fiat. Assumed into Heaven, body and soul, she knows exactly how we ought to dress for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. She knows our dignity as Christians and wants us to shine!
As we head into this fourth week of Advent, let’s turn to Mary. There is simply no greater way to prepare for Christ’s coming than to join the one whom God prepared to be the Mother of His Son.