Discernment in the Spirit of Advent – Union with Mary
As we enter the last few days of Advent, the spotlight shines on Mary, the privileged daughter of God who was first to receive the Son at His coming into this world. Among the Gospels read at Mass this week, we hear the story of the Annunciation to Mary, her Visitation to her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, and Our Lady’s hymn of God’s glory, the Magnificat. Each year the Church invites us to ponder these events with the Virgin Mother, to allow ourselves to be formed in greater openness to Christ’s coming, in union with Our Lady, His first disciple.
There is so much richness to be drawn out of these passages and applied to our lives, entire books have been written on the subject! Today, however, I would like to focus on one point from the account of the Annunciation, which is heard at Mass on December 20th.
“Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” (Lk 1:38)
Before uttering her fiat, her “let it be done unto me” in response to the Angel Gabriel’s message, Mary speaks an ecce, “behold.” She presents herself to the Lord in humility and openness, a prelude to allowing His mighty will to be accomplished in her life. This disposition is an apt model for us as we approach Christmas, certainly, but also as we discern the Lord’s calling in each of our lives.
In the words of Our Lady at the Annunciation, we discover that God wants more than just to accomplish His works in our lives; He desires our humble gift of self first of all. There is an ever present temptation in any period of discernment to jump straight into fiat/”let it be done” because, well, we want to be done and know the final outcome already! In so doing, it is as though we tell someone they can borrow our car, without giving them the keys. The Ecce is the key – with it we say, “here I am Lord, everything is yours.” On the foundation of this transparency and docility, we can add our fiat in freedom, “let it be done unto me, accomplish your will in me.”
These final days approaching the solemnity of the Nativity are a beautiful time to draw near to Mary and ask her to teach us how to speak our own ecce to the Lord. As a good mother, she is ready to help us, if only we ask! Consider offering three “Hail Marys” for the intention of knowing your vocation and being open to accept it. It is a simple practice, easy to slip into our busy days even in the hubbub of Christmas preparations and celebrations.
Mary, Mother of Vocations, pray for us!