by Brooke Yessa
The past several weeks and months have got me thinking a lot about pregnancy. No, I myself am not pregnant, nor am I married. However, my dear friend Meghan is 8 months pregnant. Pregnancy is remarkable; there is a newly created LIFE tucked securly within the mother’s womb, hidden and slowly growing. As the baby grows, the parents also grow. There’s plenty of preparation exteriorly and interiorly as they anticipate raising a child, of creating a home for this new life which the Holy Spirit has brought into existence through them. Besides pregnancy, I have also contemplated Our Blessed Mother a whole lot these past few months in hopes to know her and imitate her more. So basically, you could say I’ve been in the Advent spirit for some time now.
“Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of Divine Love growing in silence. It is the season of humility, silence, and growth.” (Caryll Houselander)
To reflect on this season, let’s take a few steps back from the birth of Christ to the beginning of it all – the Annunciation. Imagine Mary, a young, faithful girl just living her normal life in the small town of Nazareth (and I mean small, historians say at maximum 400 people lived there). Day in, day out, just like us she had duties before her, family and friends to share life with… She lived a simple, humble life. Did she ever wander what God’s purpose was for her? Did she ever feel far away from God, searching tirelessly for him? My thoughts are of course she did, just as we do. I bet she pondered many things silently in her heart well before the Angel Gabriel appeared to her.
In the midst of an entirely average day – a brief and startling encounter with a heavenly being brought a major detour into her life. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like. Here is Mary, a simple young girl doing her thing when out of nowhere a brilliantly shining, strong messenger of God stands before her. If I were her, I’d likely have fallen over; shell-shocked. Mary waits patiently for the angel to speak. “What is going on?” she must be thinking. I bet that she didn’t expect to see an angel that day. Funny how God seems to surprise us – brings an “Angel Gabriel moment” into our lives– an unexpected plot change in our story; an opportunity to trust him amidst our lack of understanding.
Upon his startling appearance, the angel Gabriel tells Mary only a few things. As recorded in Luke, this encounter could not have lasted more than a few minutes. After those few minutes – POOF! the angel is gone. Can you imagine the uncertainty?
Mary looks down and places her hands on her stomach. No baby bump…
She ponders in the silence of her heart. Did this really happen? She sits there holding her flat stomach, heart racing, speechless… There is a seed, a light, our Savior inside of her, and no one but she and God know. There is incredible humility in this. The Incarnation didn’t happen with crowds of people and shining lights; it occurred in a cave to Mary alone. She surrenders everything to God with no expectation of recognition from anyone. She could have easily feared the gravity of her new mission and what would be asked of her, but rather she trusted God infinitely more.
I don’t look pregnant, nor do I feel anything. God is within my womb? How can this be? Why now? Why me? What does this mean for my life? What does this mean for Joseph? I’ll bet there were innumerable questions that streamed through Mary’s heart… All she could do was trust that the words spoken to her were true. She was left in the dark, only to hope in God and trust He would fulfill the plans He has for her, the plans He has for the world. She gave her full yes, her full joyful consent even though she had many unanswered questions. She pondered.
“There is only one cure for fear – trust in God. That is why the beginning of Christ’s being formed in us consists in echoing our Lady’s fiat; it is a surrender, a handing over of everything to God” (Caryll Houselander)
Consider how in many statues of Our Lady, she is pregnant. Does she look pregnant? Honestly, I’ve only ever seen one statue of Mary clearly displaying a baby bump. However, we know she is pregnant; we have faith though our eyes cannot see. Next time you see a statue of Mary with Jesus in the womb, ponder this great trust and expectant hope Mary has in the portrayed statue. The world may not have seen the divine, but Mary did, and she praised God for it even if no one else could see. Ask her to help you have that same trust, to wait on the Lord’s timing, and allow Him time to grow in our hearts. This time of silent growth and waiting is the most crucial time.
“There must be a period of gestation before anything can flower. Advent is not only a time of growth but also of darkness and hiding and waiting.” (Caryll Houselander)
Mary’s Angel Gabriel moment was the beginning of the journey we are in right now. Similar to Mary, Christ is growing within each of us and wants to be brought to others through us.
“We must carry Him in our hearts to wherever He wants to go, and there are many places to which He may never go unless we take Him to them.” (Caryll Houselander)
We may not see Him at work in our lives (flat stomach) nor may we feel Him, but we must trust Him amidst the uncertainty and His hidden purpose.
Like a seed planted in the ground – it’s hidden under the dark, murky earth but given time and nourishment it will begin to grow and eventually pierce through the earth and one day bloom brilliantly.
We need these times of hidden growth for God to take root in our lives.
With Mary, may we trust God amidst the uncertainty of our circumstances in this season of waiting upon His coming. If Mary, the Mother of our Savior was left to ponder many questions, we are priveleged to as well. Do we want that “Angel Gabriel moment”? The moment when God calls us on an unexpected journey of surrender and trust to His Divine will? What will we say? Will we say YES as Mary did, even though we do not know the whys, hows, and whens? Be vigilant, be ready, continue to ponder, continue to search. God will come, and He is closer than you think.
If you would like to continue this growth God has begun in you, take advantage of a wonderful upcoming event, SEEK – the national FOCUS conference (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). Join me and 10,000 other young people in Nasville, TN January 1-5th as we encounter Christ and radically live as His disciples in this world. Check out www.seek2015.com for more details and to register!
If you would like some good Advent reading or to ponder Our Lady I recommend picking up: The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander or Walking with Mary by Dr. Edward Sri.
“Waiting times are growing times and learning times. As you quiet your heart, you enter His peace. As you sense your weakness, you receive His strength. As you lay down your will, you hear His calling.”
– Roy Lessin
Brooke Yessa is a Catholic missionary with FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. She serves on the campus of IUPUI with St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. Brooke is originally from Wisconsin and thus enjoys beer and cheese. Besides her love of bringing the Gospel to others she spends much of her time being active, crafting, and bragging about her two adorable nieces.