Next Saturday, we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of observation. I’ve written about this day before, emphasizing that — despite its common use in pop culture — the day has nothing to do with Christ’s conception, but His mother Mary’s. She was conceived without sin, lacking the stain of Adam and Eve, pure.

We know Mary primarily as a woman of “yes.” It’s what she’s known for: Saying yes to bringing the Son of God into the world. We read about her from time to time in the New Testament, mostly in the early parts of the story, Jesus’ birth and formative years. She appears again at the foot of the cross. She is present after the Resurrection. Most of the time, she doesn’t speak. She chides her son only twice, once for running away, once to goad Him into action. The most telling line about her speaks to her introspection: “Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

It’s not a very complete picture. There’s quite a bit of information missing. This makes it difficult to know Mary better, something that women, especially, aspire to do, as she is one of the few role models we have in the Church. What I like about Mary is that she has the best qualities of any heroine: She is assertive and accepting. She says yes to God — a bold expression of unfathomable faith — and accepts that the road ahead will be difficult. Because how could it not be? She had to know, or at least to guess, that life for her beloved son would not be easy. She had to see the end coming.

I also like the use of the word “grace” when it comes to Mary. We speak of this grace in the “Hail Mary,” taken from Elizabeth’s greeting to her cousin in Luke Chapter 1. Grace can mean “elegance” or “beauty.” It can also mean “kindness” or “mercy.” I prefer to think of Mary as having the kind of grace referred to in the phrase “grace under pressure.” Her road was no walk in the park, either. Imagine explaining your pregnancy to your parents, to your fiancé. Imagine watching your child die a painful and ignominious death. These things require grace, along with a spine of steel and a faith that can not only move mountains, but make them dance. I long for this kind of grace.

Advent is a good time to think about Mary, to ponder her strength and sacrifice. God, capable of anything, instead of sending down His son fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus, decides to go the old-fashioned route, the humble route: His son comes as a baby, just like the rest of us. He is born of woman. And what a woman she must have been! I can only aspire to be like her, to ask her to shower a little of her grace on me. So that whatever God asks of me, I can answer as Mary did — yes. Always yes.

Advertisements