The People of Advent: Our Blessed Lady

[Tegel Prison; Berlin; Advent 1944]

The People of Advent: Our Blessed Lady

modern pietaShe is the most comforting figure of Advent. That the message of the angel found  her heart ready, and the Word became flesh, and in the holy room of her motherly heart the earth grew far beyond its limitations into the human-divine sphere—these are the holiest comforts of Advent. What use to us is the thought and lived experience of our affliction, if no bridge is built to the other shore? How can the terror of chaos and confusion help us, if no light flares up to equal and overcome the darkness? What use to us is this shivering from cold and hardship, in which the world is freezing to death the more it loses and deadens itself deep down inside, if we do not at the same time experience that grace which is mightier than the danger and the lostness?

The poets, and the creators of myths, and mankind’s other legend and story-tellers have always spoken of mothers. Sometimes they meant the earth, at other times nature. They wanted to tap into the mysterious, regenerative wellsprings of the universe with this word, and to invoke the outpouring secret of life. In all of this there was—and is—hunger, and presentiment, and longing, and an Advent waiting for this blessed woman.

That God would become a mother’s son and that a woman could walk upon this earth, her body consecrated as a holy temple and tabernacle for God, is truly the earth’s culmination and fulfillment of its expectation.

The comfort of Advent shines forth in so many various way from this hidden figure of the blessed and waiting Mary. Oh, that this was granted to the earth, to bring forth such fruit! That the world was permitted to enter into the presence of God through sheltering warmth, as well as the helpful and reliable patronage of her motherly heart!

The gray horizons must light up. Only the foreground is screaming so loudly and penetratingly. Farther back, where it has to do with things that really count, the situation is already changing. The woman has conceived the Child, sheltered Him under her heart, and has given birth to her Son. The world has come under a different law. All these are not merely one-time historical events upon which our salvation rests. They are simultaneously the model figures and the events that announce to us the new order of things, of life, of our existence.

We have to remember today that the blessed woman of Nazareth is one of these illuminating figures. At a deeper level of being, even our times and our destiny bear the blessing and the mystery of God. The most important thing is to wait, to be able to wait, until the hour comes.

[Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons and Prison Writings]


I notice that Delp describes Mary as “the holy temple and tabernacle for God.” One makes the case that Mary is the new temple or the living Ark of the Covenant. In her, God obtains a dwelling place in the world made of flesh. Moreover, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI points out in his essay “Hail Full of Grace” that it is in Mary’s Yes given with the flesh that God finds a dwelling place in the world. Without Mary’s fiat, the 2nd Person of the Trinity does not become Incarnate. Yet, Mary’s Yes is fully graced. Benedict writes: “The dogma of Mary’s freedom from original sin is at bottom meant solely to show that it is not human being who sets the redemption in motion by her own power, rather her Yes is contained wholly within the primacy and priority of divine love, which already embraces her before she is born.” All is grace. Yet grace does not cancel freedom; it creates it.”

Mary’s cooperation with the divine plan of redemption is one out of love. As Delp alludes in his meditation, Mary’s cooperation [to conceive, to shelter, and to give birth to Christ] flows from her “motherly heart.” Her heart represents an abiding love. Even prior to the physical changes within Mary, it was in her heart that Mary helped to realize the plan of redemption.

pieta-1854This abiding love has its first expression in her answer to the angel Gabriel, in her self-surrendering answer to God’s abiding will to save. Mary’s Yes is not only her consent to be physical mother of Jesus. In all genuine motherhood, the destiny of the mother and the child are intertwined. Her son’s joys and sufferings will also be her joys and sufferings. Mary’s Yes abides all her life long and culminates in the foot of the Cross in the midst of her Son’s suffering, which she receives in her “motherly heart.”

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