We all know Advent is a time of preparation. A time to reflect on the gift of life, the gift of faith, and the great hope of salvation that came into the world more than 2,000 years ago. Given the events that transpired recently in Newtown, Connecticut, I couldn’t help but put myself in the shoes of those citizens and all those who are dealing with loss, wondering if the meaning of Advent was now, somehow, different for them now.
We all experience loss at some point in our lives and on different levels, but each time it happens, we naturally begin asking the questions we just can’t answer on our own. Why, Lord? Why me? Why now? Why this heavy cross?
After some contemplation, it seemed clear that the suffering people are going through makes the true meaning of Advent and Christmas only all the more real and evident, and it was because of the deep connection Mary has with those who suffer, and the helplessness of the Babe, Jesus.
Few words can bring consolation to a grieving heart and being present for someone hurting so greatly is much more powerful than words. Listening and loving mean more than anything to someone who is bereaved. Mary was a prime example of, not only how to endure suffering, but how to help those who suffer.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19).
Mary was a woman of few words, at least that’s what we can glean from sacred Scripture. She suffered greatly during her life, but most terribly when her innocent Son died on the cross. And taking note of her grace under fire and the way she sought her consolation in God is a lamp to the feet of anyone trying to get through the painful experience of loss.
But experiencing loss also makes you feel completely helpless and that’s a feeling most people find very difficult to deal with. You want to help, you want to fix the problem, you want to do something to make the situation better. In times when you feel completely helpless, you can look to the infant Jesus lying in the manger and find great consolation and hope.
God revealed Himself to us as a totally helpless child who was dependent upon others for every need He had. Food, shelter, education, even life itself for Him was all dependent upon someone else. In His helplessness, He shows the us how much He loves us; what great lengths He went to to be with us. Therefore, in times of suffering, there is not doubt that Christ is with us and Mary understands us.
If you are experiencing loss this Advent season or trying to make sense out of your own suffering, I encourage you to contemplate the manger scene. Look carefully at Mary’s graceful dignity which will be revealed most powerfully when she stands at the foot of the cross. Sit beside the manger and look at the tiny hands and tiny feet that will someday be be pierced by nails. I know you will find the consolation you seek.