From when I was very young, Advent was a special, sacred time for me – more so than other times in the liturgical calendar. Perhaps because it was so ceremonial, or maybe because it was at night, something about it seemed so mysterious.
It was a time marked by silence, contemplation. Looking back on it, I’d call the Advent of my childhood a time of mystical anticipation.
This idea of mystical anticipation is what appeals to me most. I’ve always been drawn to mystery; and the Immaculate Conception is perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of our faith.
As I got older, I observed Advent less. Maybe I’d buy a calendar, but I wouldn’t have the wreath or say the prayers at dinner. However, one aspect of Advent always stayed with me, and I’d say it had to do with this idea of mystical anticipation.
During this season, I find myself often thinking about Mary, what her life must have been like for those four weeks. She was in the final stages of pregnancy, and although I have never been so blessed, I can imagine that it is a time of mystical anticipation for her as well. Her pregnancy, at this stage, is a physical manifestation of the words the angel Gabriel spoke to her: “With God, all things are possible.”
Indeed, Immaculate Conception is the impossible made possible.
I used to have a friend who was enthralled with women in late pregnancy. He declared that these women seemed enveloped in their own universe; a calm focus emanated from them, and they were lit up by a radiance from within.
I could understand how that would be true. The late stages of pregnancy are an example of this mystical anticipation. Expecting a new life is certainly cause for radiance within. Expecting a new life who is the Son of God would indeed give Mary a rare and beautiful luminosity.
As I think back to when I was young, lighting candles and reciting prayers, I realize that on some level, I too was lit up from within. During Advent we are all, to some extent, enveloped in a calm sense of focus, awaiting the birth of our savior. Because we all “wait in joyful hope,” we share this mystical anticipation with Mary.
This is what I find most compelling and remarkable about Advent: We are all given the gift of sharing the same joyful hope that Mary felt. We are all expecting. We are invited to partake in the mystical anticipation of the coming of our Lord.
I can think of no better gift.