“Mondays with Mary – ‘Mary’s Nine-Month Advent’

Last year in the blog post, “Mondays with Mary” – The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I wrote the following –

“Trying to understand what the Blessed Virgin Mary was feeling one week before giving birth to Jesus is difficult since nothing about her thoughts are revealed to us in the Sacred Scriptures. At this point, it’s purely a speculative assessment. We know what Luke 2 tells us, however, we don’t know much more than this revelation. Was it difficult on Mary to be away from her family and her mother during this time? Even though the birth of Jesus was miraculous, as was his conception, what was Mary feeling? Did she know what was to occur?”

As is always the goal with these blog posts on Our Lady, I try to help you see the bigger picture with Mary’s role in Salvation History, the importance she plays in the life of Christ, and the importance of Marian theology in the life of the Church.

For today, I turn our attention to the words of the great 20th century Swiss Theologian and Catholic Priest, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, who in his book, Mary for Today, focuses on “Mary’s Nine-Month Advent.” What Von Balthasar writes in this section plays in the same arena as what I sought to articulate last year in the blog from above. Mary’s Expectation and Mary’s Advent are in correlation with one another since her expectation comes in the final days of her advent.

Writing about the Blessed Virgin, Von Balthasar states,

“Mary’s nine-month Advent was not without pain…What Mary underwent during her Advent were above all mental and spiritual sufferings: every pregnancy that is lived in a genuinely human way includes a certain intercession, a certain suffering on behalf of the child on the way that is given to him as his birth as an invisible present of grace to take on the journey through life. It is a selfless hope, a commending to God or – if one does not know God – to the invisible powers that guide the fate of men and women. With what concern must Mary have prayed for the child growing within her and worried about it in advance! Did she have a premonition that the Messiah would have to suffer? We do not know.

Mary with Child - light

But some overpowering fate must await him. Simeon in the temple would confirm this to her: ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against..’ For woman, pregnancy does not proceed without some element of fear: for Mary not without some presentiment of the Cross. From the outset she had a share in it that could not be defined.

We do not know to what extent physical hardships were linked with these mental and spiritual sufferings; but it is quite possible that they lasted until shortly before the birth, which in the end took place as a miracle, as the sudden beginning of what is final and definitive. At the birth every pain was dissolved in pure light. How her womb opened and closed again we do not know, and it is superfluous to speculate about an event which for God was a child’s game, something much less important than the original overshadowing by the Holy Spirit.

Someone who accepts this first miracle as valid – and as a believer one has to, otherwise Jesus would have had two fathers – should not toss and turn over accepting the second miracle, the Virgin Birth. For Jews it is truly astonishing that that they should have been able firmly to translate into Greek with the work ‘virgin’ the old Hebrew prophecy ‘Behold, a young woman shall conceive’ (Is 7:14, where the term could already mean ‘virgin’). And thus only is it fitting that from the virginal son onward virginal fruitfulness should become a specific ‘vocation’ for men and women in the Church (1 Cor 7).”

So as we get more and more closer to the Incarnation on December 25, let us turn our gaze to Mary’s final days of her advent and ask her to lead us closer to her infant son, Jesus Christ. For it is always Mary, our Mother and Virgin, our Advocating Queen, who desires to bring us closer to Jesus, now and forever. Amen.

To learn more about Hans Urs Von Balthasar or to purchase his writings, please view his page on the Ignatius Press website.

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘Mary and Pentecost’ with Romano Guardini and Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Throughout the Gospels and the life of Jesus Christ, in those very significant events, we witness the Blessed Virgin Mary playing an integral role. From the Annunciation of Our Lord to the Wedding Feast at Cana to the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and even in the feast of Pentecost, after Our Lord had ascended into Heaven, we see the strength of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she faithfully and obediently accepts all that God has designed for her life.

As the Church is born and unfolds on the Pentecost Sunday, Mary in the life of the Church begins to take shape. She is the fundamental figure in the life of the early Church.

For this year’s “Mondays with Mary” focusing on Pentecost, I turn our attention to two great 20th century theologians – Romano Guardini and Hans Urs Von Balthasar. This excerpt comes from the book, Mary For Today, by Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

“Here we should trust ourselves to the wisdom of Romano Guardini:

There must have been something divinely great when by the light of the Spirit everything became clear to her who “kept all these things in her heart”: the context and interconnection of Jesus’ existence were revealed. Throughout the years of Jesus’ public life she had to maintain her confidence in heroic faith: now she received the answer, resplendent, and solving everything.

It is easy to think that she must always have understood the Lord, better than anyone else. Humanly speaking – to the extent that in this context one can talk of the human – without a doubt this was so. Historically no one else was able like her to provide information about him. But on the other side it is not without purpose that the Gospel says that she “did not understand the saying which he spoke to them”. Probably she could just not have borne a real, complete understanding. The way of genuine experience of life lived in faith and love is greater than the anticipation of things which in God’s guidance have their place only later.

To recognize that the child, the boy, the youth, the man who lived in her company was the Son of God in the sense that became manifest after Pentecost would probably have put her in an intolerable situation. That security without which existence as a mother is not possible would have disappeared. Now however God’s mystery can be revealed, to the extent that this is possible on earth.

She does not any longer need any protection against what is too great for human understanding. She is able to carry together in her mind the two statements, ‘He is the Son of the eternal Father’ and ‘He is your son’, without breaking down or merely becoming confused. Indeed, is this unity she recognizes the ineffable content of her vocation.

This description by Guardini of the effect of the Spirit on Mary at Pentecost, when, as innumerable medieval representations of the event portray her, she becomes the center and focus of the Spirit-enlightened Church, does her perfection no harm but rather enables it to be seen as something genuinely human. What is unique about her is the Spirit of Pentecost basically does nothing other than to present to her the content of her own experience as her memory had retained it: a memory that contains all the central dogmas of revelation in their complete unity and interwovenness.”

As we conclude this Easter Season, let us, like Mary, keep the memory strong in our minds of the message of Jesus Christ and our duty in being missionaries to the world we encounter each day. As we stand against those who dislike Jesus Christ and His Church, let us ask Mary for her motherly intercession to always guide us in our words and actions.