As we enter the Season of Advent, our attention is drawn to the coming of Emmanuel – Jesus Christ. We see his first coming in the Incarnation which in turn will prepare us for His second coming, where He will judge the living and the dead. Just as Mary welcomed Jesus with great hope, the Church does the same. The first half of Advent, through her liturgy, prayers, readings and antiphons, the Church anticipates the eschatological return of Jesus Christ on the Last Day as Supreme Judge.
Within the Advent season, we see two Marian feasts that display the important role that Mary plays in Salvation History, the role of preceding Christ – the Immaculate Conception on December 8 and Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12. As the sunrise follows the dawn so too does the Blessed Virgin prepare the Church, and all of humanity, for the coming of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. As the Star of the Sea, which shines with great brilliance, Mary not only guides us through the night of Advent, but through the waves and storms of life helping us to reach the port of Heaven.
Pope St. John Paul II summarizes this with great articulation when he says,
“It is a fact that when “the fullness of time” was definitively drawing near-the saving advent of Emmanuel- she who was from eternity destined to be his Mother already existed on earth. The fact that she “preceded” the coming of Christ is reflected every year in the liturgy of Advent. Therefore, if to that ancient historical expectation of the Savior we compare these years which are bringing us closer to the end of the second Millennium after Christ and to the beginning of the third, it becomes fully comprehensible that in this present period we wish to turn in a special way to her, the one who in the “night” of the Advent expectation began to shine like a true “Morning Star” (Stella Matutina). For just as this star, together with the “dawn,” precedes the rising of the sun, so Mary from the time of her Immaculate Conception preceded the coming of the Savior, the rising of the “Sun of Justice” in the history of the human race” (Redemptoris Mater #3).
As we enter this Advent season, let us go “to Jesus through Mary”, which follows the identical path of Our Lord who came through Mary His Mother. Let us invoke the Marian antiphon, commonly recited following Compline (night prayers or solemn vespers), known as the Alma Redemptoris Mater. It is in this song of honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary that we as sinners seek the intercession of Mary, our perpetual Ever-Virgin, Mother of the Redeemer, Open Gate to Heaven, and the Star of the Sea –
Loving mother of the Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea, assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again. To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator, yet remained a virgin after as before. You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting, have pity on us poor sinners.