I have been thinking a great deal about Mary during this Advent season. A woman who also must have felt uncertainty and dread in those months prior to the birth of Jesus, a woman who also spent Christmas among strangers in an unfamiliar place, a woman who also would experience motherhood as a sword that would pierce her heart.
Last week I received a note from a Presbyterian minister whom I had just met ~ I believe I've mentioned the extraordinary things people have written to me in the months since our son died ~ in which she said that she, too, knows what it is to live on what seems like another planet, one on which the rules of gravity differ from those we thought we understood. I suspect that Mary felt that weight as well.
And yet, she remained loyal to the gift of radiant light entrusted to her. Denise Levertov's poem Annunciation ascribes to her "courage unparalleled" in responding with dignified assent to the life to which God invited her.
Perhaps it is the paradox of Christmas that we are invited to both. To the extent to which we welcome and participate in the life of Christ, so we will enter into the weight of suffering that pervades our world. And perhaps the reverse is true as well: to the extent that we absorb that suffering, so we will encounter the astounding love of our Creator that makes God's donation of self to us possible, a gift offered in our own form, as one of us, through one of us.
This year, unable except on rare occasions to glimpse anything beyond my own grief, I can only speculate. But perhaps, if we wait, in the mysterious paradox of Christmas we find hope and confidence and joy as well.
And so. I wait.