Fourth Sunday of Advent
This reflection entitled “Mary’s Troubles” was inspired by an Advent poem by U. A. Fanthorpe. The poem called “BC–AD” is printed below.
“Mary’s Troubles” imagines what this unique woman had to go through during the nine months from the Annunciation by Gabriel of that First Christmas when, as St John says, “God the Son [His ‘Word’] was made Flesh in her Womb and lived among us, – but the World rejected Him”. It’s about what happened when God and Man met face-to-face, the Eternal and the Temporal, the Divine and the Human came together, which had never happened (at least in that way) until then. So let us look at some of the difficulties the Mother of God had to face, during those nine months: from saying “Yes” to God’s Plan, to when she gave birth to God the Son on Christmas Day.
Pregnancy is hard enough for any single girl. But Mary had to understand what an angel had said, that her Son would have no human father, but God Himself; that His conception would be miraculous; and, that He (in God’s Plan) would be a King who would ‘rule over His people everlastingly’. Many who heard such rumours would think that she was either lying or had gone mad.
First, there would be the problem of explaining to her family and contemporaries, and not least to St Joseph, her faithful fiancé, what the Angel had revealed to her about her future life and his. It even took a further angelic visit to convince St Joseph – who was ‘an upright man and wanted to spare her disgrace,’ that his part in God’s plan of Salvation was to act as foster-father to God’s incarnate Son; as well as being Mary’s husband in every other way: to protect and provide for her; and to take her to the Census 70 miles away at Bethlehem whilst nine months pregnant; arguing with a busy innkeeper to let them use his stable for a birthplace, beside finding a local midwife. However, to assist Mary, God had carefully surrounded her with many people whom He prepared to support her.
Enduring trials and temptations is a vital component of God’s Plan for working towards our perfection. He allows those whom He calls to be His agents, and who say “Yes/Amen” to His call, like Mary, to be tried and tempted so that they too may be ‘made perfect through suffering.’ But God also provides unfailing supporters, both human and Divine, to those like Mary who have agreed to work as His agents, so that they shall not fail. Here is a short list of some whom He prepared to support Mary the Mother of God Incarnate whom He called to bear such a heavy burden: Saint Joseph her fiancé; St Joachim and Anna her parents; Saint Elizabeth her cousin and Zachariah; Simeon and Anna, the Shepherds and the Magi – to each of whom God gave a different supportive task in the early days of the Incarnation.
Later came the Apostles whom Jesus chose to support Him in His ministry, including St John, whose love for Jesus found him standing with Mary at the foot of the Cross with Mary Magdalen and other women witnesses of His Resurrection, like Joseph of Arimathea.
Few of these good people realised at the time what they were really witnessing (and contributing to). Saint John the beloved disciple understood, better than anyone else that the whole World was in the process of being ‘turned upside-down’ by its Creator, but even John took many years to contemplate what it meant, before committing it to writing in his Gospel.
“BC–AD” by U. A. Fanthorpe
This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future’s
uninvented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
happened. Only dull peace
sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
could find nothing better to do
than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
when a few farm workers and three
members of an obscure Persian sect
walked haphazard by starlight straight
into the kingdom of heaven.
Fr. Francis Gardom