Essay

Advent

“Advent.” Schweizer Schule, vol. 41, Advent und Weihnachten in der Schule (Sonderheft), Nov. 1954, 459⁠-⁠460

Mary expects the child who is already there. She lives in the promise of Christmas, but she knows that everything is already fulfilled and has been so since the moment she said her “Yes.” Her expectancy is no emptiness waiting to be filled up at a later date, but is itself already part of the fullness of Christ that’s to be revealed at his birth. And she will be the first to know the grace of beholding him. Every man who expects something experiences a certain anxiety: Most of the time he doesn’t know whether he will pass the big test or measure up; he isn’t sure whether he has done the right thing to prepare a correct and appropriate outcome. Mary, by contrast, has the certainty that the child she is expecting is God himself. The Father sent the angel to announce this to her. And her consent gives her a share in what’s coming even before it happens; she has no need for care or worry. What’s coming is. It is God who is coming. He brings the fulfillment he himself is—⁠along with its consequence: the fact that those who are with him do actually pass the test and measure up.

The approaching arrival becomes more palpable for the Mother as the hour draws nearer. At the same time, she sees men more and more clearly in light of the coming Redemption. For her, everything the Son will eventually accomplish is now “enclosed” within her, and she therefore has the most intimate share in all that’s coming. It’s not this share, however, that she attends to. All she considers is the work the Son is going to do. She is merely a starting-point, focussed on surrender, expectantly awaiting God’s fulfillment. And it’s precisely in this expectancy that her co⁠-⁠operation lies.

When we celebrate Advent with her, our contemplative gaze turned towards her mystery, we should try to put everything else we know about Christianity and Church life in the background for a moment, so that we can re⁠-⁠enter this original cell of Christian existence and see the Lord as the one who comes, as the one who fulfills the promise. In his coming to be, he already is; in his coming, he already gives. To his Mother, he gives the certainty of her mission, a certainty containing the sure knowledge of the world’s Redemption. Nor does this gift come to a halt with her. It passes through her into the Church and finds its way to us. We have a share in it. When Mary meets familiar people in her usual surroundings, she sees them in light of the Redemption. They, too, are among those to whom she has the grace of bringing her Son. And the circle widens to include those she doesn’t know, the chance acquaintances, the far-off souls whom she will never see and are complete strangers to her. Yet because all of them stand in need of the same Redemption, they are all people whom she has something to give: her Son. By the same token, they are all people she rejoices in as recipients of her gift. Only rarely does her giving become a visible, tangible task. Almost always, the task remains one whose fulfillment lies entirely within her encompassing surrender to God. Her mission, then, implicitly contains something that was unforeseeable at the moment of her consent but becomes visible now: the inclusion of all others, the co⁠-⁠presence of all others in her expectation of the Redeemer—⁠even of those who have not perceived their inclusion or are unable to recognize it. The fulfillment is in God’s hands. Yet it also lies in her own vocation, her act of making herself available, her readiness, and her perseverance in her readiness. For the same reason, it also lies in her invitation to all of us: the invitation to accept our role and get involved, to share her sharing, so that everyone can take part—⁠with the same intensity of spirit⁠—in the celebration the Son prepares for his Mother, so that Christmas can become as real for everyone today as it was yesterday and always remains world without end.

All times, then, are gathered together into the time of Advent. The core of this event hiddenly contains the mystery of Mary and her act of yielding, accompanying, understanding, obeying, and loving. As addressees of her invitation, we are privileged to share her hope, which is based on her mission and, through her mission, in that of every individual sharer in the faith. There is surely no better preparation for Christmas than to know of our inclusion in the Mother’s prayer. And in her unafraid certainty that her Son’s grace will enable us live up to his expectation on the day he comes to us at last.