Last Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Advent, one of the alternative opening prayers for the Catholic Mass included these words: “Your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when the Virgin Mary placed her life at the service of Your plan”. I was taken by this concept of Mary “at the service of” God’s plan of salvation, that is, she was at the service of the plan to redeem you and me. Her famous response to the Archangel Gabriel “Let it be done unto me according to your word” (Lk 1:38), was a wide open acceptance of God’s will – not only for the next year or two but – for the rest of her life… And what a life!
One of the Preface prayers at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer (Preface of Advent II) was even more striking: “The virgin mother bore Him in her womb with love beyond all telling”. So we see in Mary this beautiful harmony of “service” and “love” –both “beyond all telling”. She was a teenager when she conceived Christ and she was on a trajectory of growing in service and love throughout her entire life. “Full of grace” before conceiving Christ, living a life of intensifying holiness, in the constant presence of God Most High made oh so tiny (in her womb).
We will never ever understand Mary unless we understand this: that she loved her unborn child with “love beyond all telling” during her first trimester, then even more so during her second trimester, and then to the breaking point during her third trimester! Her love of her son –God’s only begotten Son – simply continued to grow and deepen, grow and intensify, grow and re-define what love is and could be.
It is “love beyond all telling” because no human mind can fathom it! Think of Mary’s closeness to her baby when you think of these words from John’s Gospel: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth…And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace…” (Jn 1:14,16).
So Mary received grace from her baby and grew in her love for her baby and her God, and Jesus received His humanity from His mother and grew in His humanness and His solidarity with humanity. Each received from the other and grew in the gift received, mother and child.
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