Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Mary: The Perfect Symbol Of Advent

Published December 7, 2006

A mother bird chooses nesting material so carefully: bits of feathers, tiny twigs, soft grasses that will comfort the baby birds. Every human mother-to-be goes through nesting behavior too, as she gathers a crib, the clothing and the toys.

To make the new nest, the bird has to empty the old one of anything that is worn, just as a mother preparing a room will clear it of anything the baby doesn’t need.

Advent is a reminder of the baby that will come into our lives Christmas Day, and the four weeks bid us to prepare a place in our hearts for him.

But first we must empty ourselves of whatever is useless and worn out.

Mary is the symbol of Advent because she had to empty herself of worries, fears and doubts to prepare her heart to become God’s mother. She uttered the prayer that is the essence of trust: “Be it done to me according to Thy word.”

Some of us must empty ourselves of the feeling that we can’t do enough for God. We have turned prayers into heavy mechanical ropes, binding us to an angry old man in the sky, whom we don’t exactly trust.

We may go through all the religious routines but don’t feel that God really hears us.

Advent reminds us that Christ came into the world as a small and helpless baby, and He later said we had to become like children to enter heaven.

We too must admit our helplessness before God, and trust that He is our loving father and will hear our cries.

Advent also can be a time to empty the heart of worries and fears. We live in a world of violence, with war and crimes screaming from headlines.

Worriers believe that if they fret long enough, they can control these evils, but prayer is the opposite of worry. In prayer, we surrender our hearts to God: “I can’t do this on my own: Help me!”

“Advent is the season of the secret growth of Christ, of Divine Love growing in silence,” writes Caryll Houselander in “The Reed of God,” an exquisite book about Mary.

Jesus grew in silence in Mary’s womb for nine months. During pregnancy, the food she ate nourished the baby in her womb. When he was born, her breasts gave him nourishment to keep him alive.

“Every beat of her heart gave Him his heart to love with, His heart to be broken by love,” Houselander says.

Mary was not arbitrarily chosen by God at the moment of the Annunciation but rather was part of a plan put in motion since the beginning of time.

Like Mary, we too are part of God’s plan. As the Prophet Jeremiah says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you” (1:5).

Mary may have pondered what role she was actually playing, and many of us may also wonder: What is God calling us to do?

Advent bids us to patience. The four weeks hold a promise, just as every human life does.

The promise of Christianity is this: We are God’s beloved. Even those who are stuck in jobs they hate, those having trouble in their marriages, and those who still haven’t met the person of their dreams.

We are all taking part in God’s plan. We are called to shine forth Christ’s love in every dark corner of the world.

Mary lived a hidden life. For nine months, she sang, prayed, walked, laughed, ate and felt the swelling of life within her. At times, she may have felt weary, ill and apprehensive: the same things all mothers-to-be feel.

And then came the birth, with the painful laboring to bring forth life. And then the moment when she looked into the baby’s eyes and knew this was no ordinary child.

Jesus Christ was kept safe in Mary’s womb and then protected in her arms. Without her, we never would have had the miracle of the Incarnation and the miracle of the Resurrection.

In her own quiet way, this humble girl helped bring about the world’s salvation.

Like every baby born, Jesus had to learn to walk, talk and to say his prayers. Mary helped Him with all these things, with the joy all mothers know.

She is our mother too, and during Advent, she will help us empty our lives of whatever is keeping God away. She will help us prepare a chalice in our hearts to receive God’s love.

She will teach us how to pray.

“Dear Mary, show me how to hold the Christ Child safely too, and to cherish Him in my heart, and let me give birth to Him in the world. Teach me to say: ‘Be it done to me according to Thy word.’”


Lorraine Murray’s latest book is “How Shall We Celebrate?” — a collection of meditations on Advent, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and other special days of the year. Readers may e-mail her at: