“To celebrate Advent means: to become Marian, to enter into that communion with Mary’s ‘Yes,’ which, ever anew, is room for God’s birth, for the ‘fullness of time,’” said Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Advent is a Marian time in many ways, from preparing for Jesus’ birth to celebrating feasts such as the Immaculate Conception.
In his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (The Most Holy Rosary), St. John Paul II wrote, “Among creatures, no one knows Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of his mystery better than his Mother.”
Mark Miravalle, Ph.D., theology and Mariology professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, pointed out that it’s inconceivable to celebrate Advent without the woman who makes it possible — the Mother.
“Our Lady in Advent goes to the whole root of what Advent is celebrating — the coming of Jesus,” Miravalle said. “To quote St. Teresa of Calcutta: ‘No Mary, no Jesus.’”
Even though we’re so familiar with Mary being Jesus’ mother, Miravalle calls it “a wonderment of nature that a creature gave birth to her Creator. There still should be awe in the fact.” He quoted St. John Paul II, explaining, “t was God himself, the Eternal Father, who entrusted himself to the Virgin of Nazareth, giving her his own Son in the mystery of the Incarnation.”
“So who better to grace us with the ability to say once again the ‘Yes’ in our hearts for the coming of this Savior in the season of Advent?” the professor added.
For Lisa Hendey, founder of CatholicMom.com, Advent is a time to be more fully inspired by Mary’s beautiful fiat — May it be done to me according to your word (Luke 1:36).
“Mary’s fiat and the occasions we celebrate during this season,” said Hendey, “remind us that the greatest gifts we can give are those that come with no price tag: the gift of faith by sharing the Gospel with others and the gift of love by seeing Christ in the faces of those we encounter.”
We align ourselves with Mary during Advent liturgies, too. In his apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus (For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary), Blessed Paul VI wrote, “[T]he Advent liturgy, by linking the awaiting of the Messiah and the awaiting of the glorious return of Christ with the admirable commemoration of his Mother, presents a happy balance in worship. … It also ensures that this season … should be considered as a time particularly suited to devotion to the Mother of the Lord.”
Prayerful preparation during Advent is key, Hendey said, as “the world around us is often whipped into a frenzy of busyness, consumption and commercialism.” Especially on Marian feast days, “at dinner or during another quiet moment of the day, read the day’s Gospel aloud and discuss the significance of the feast day as a family.”
Embrace a variety of cultural celebrations and traditions to unite your family with the universal Church, she added, and practice the joy of giving by choosing a Catholic charity to support all year long and donate gifts to families in need, in honor of Mary.
Pray daily through the intercession of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception for peace in our world, Hendey also suggested.
The Dec. 8 Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is one of the major Marian feasts of the year and a holy day of obligation.
“There can be no doubt that the feast of the pure and sinless Conception of the Virgin Mary, which is a fundamental preparation for the Lord’s coming into the world, harmonizes perfectly with many of the salient themes of Advent,” the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments tells us.
In Marialis Cultus, Blessed Paul VI called the Dec. 8 solemnity “a joint celebration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, of the basic preparation for the coming of the Savior and of the happy beginning of the Church without spot or wrinkle.”
Two days later, on Dec. 10, although not on the official United States liturgical calendar, is the feast of Our Lady of Loreto. This title comes from the Holy House of Loreto, believed to be the house from Nazareth where the Word became flesh.Tradition holds that the house was transported miraculously to Loreto, Italy. The Litany of Loreto (see EWTN.com) has been recited for centuries; it was officially approved by Pope Sixtus V in 1587. Each invocation remembers Mary as Mother, Virgin, Helper, Queen, etc. In fact, St. John Paul II added yet another title to the litany in 1995 — “Queen of Families.”
When St. John XXIII visited Loreto in 1962, surprisingly, the statue of Our Lady was photographed with a smile. As he said there: “This is the lesson that comes from Nazareth: Holy families’ blessed love and homely virtue blossom with the warmth of ardent hearts that are full of generosity and goodwill.” Advent is the perfect time to strive to emulate that in our families.
This season is also a perfect time to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12. In 1999, when St. John Paul II visited the Guadalupe shrine in Mexico, he made clear, “Our Lady of Guadalupe, intimately associated with the birth of the Church in America, was the radiant Star which illumined the proclamation of Christ the Savior to the children of these peoples, helping the first missionaries in their evangelization.”
Theatine Father Sergio Robles, the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Antonito, Colorado, explained how his parish came to have devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The first settlers coming from New Mexico were unexpectedly waylaid on their journey when their donkey suddenly stopped and refused to continue. Then the people found that a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe had fallen out from their packed goods. After finding the statue, they promised to build a church dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The church, the first Catholic edifice in the state, was founded in 1867.
Rosaries for the Season
Father Robles advises the faithful honor Our Lady of Guadalupe with prayerful devotion.
“Pray the Rosary as a family. It’s wonderful to pray in families — and come to the church, too,” the priest said.
“With the present attack on family life,” Miravalle counseled, “the Rosary is no longer an option, but a necessity of protection for the domestic church. Since Advent is supposed to be a ‘little Lent’ in some sense, one sacrifice or special prayer offering is praying the family Rosary with a special emphasis on the Joyful Mysteries.”
As Mary prepares every particular heart, “the family Rosary allows Our Lady to intercede for each member of the family for their greater benefits,” he added.
“Daily asking Our Lady to prepare the ‘stable’ of our hearts is a natural way we can incorporate her intercession in this season,” Miravalle concluded.
“When the family prays the Rosary, it prepares every ‘stable’ of each family member for the new coming of Jesus celebrated with the Nativity.”
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.