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As we continue the Christmas season with this second Sunday of Christmas, we focus particularly on the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. If we like the shepherds seek out the Christ child, we always find Him with Mary His mother, and with Saint Joseph. Mary held this child, and looked into His eyes again and again for thirty three years. She was the first to experience the fulfillment of the words we heard in the first reading and the psalm: “The Lord let His face shine upon you.” Indeed, in Jesus, the Lord has “looked kindly upon” Mary and upon all of us, giving us His peace. This is precisely what we experience during the Christmas season: God’s face shining upon us. In fact, this mystery is ours throughout the whole year, for in the sacraments of the Church, especially regular Confession and the Eucharist in the Mass each week, we encounter the face of Christ looking kindly upon us.
Our Blessed Mother Mary is the perfect example of discipleship. Even Saint Joseph, himself a righteous man, must have learned something from Mary’s faith, who shows us today how to become holy: by letting God’s face shine upon us, and by pondering these things in her heart. God is working externally, looking upon her kindly. She is working internally, pondering these things in her heart. There is a resonance between the two actions, but the first step is that receptivity that is perfectly shown in Mary’s “Fiat,” her “let it be,” her great “yes!”
So too for us to become saints, we must start with that “Yes” that openness to God, letting Him into our daily lives and into the depths of our hearts. We must let His face shine upon us, let Him look kindly upon us (even when our feelings deceive us that it isn’t so kindly). But even that is not enough, we must like Mary “keep all these things, pondering them in our hearts.” We must allow our hearts to echo what God is doing, to resonate with his love and peace.
Ultimately this is done in prayer. We have to be people who are close to God in prayer throughout our lives. And this means personal prayer lives as well as communal prayer lives. We can’t do this alone, but we can’t rely solely on the faith of others either. Just like we need two legs to stand on our own, we also won’t stand up spiritually without personal prayer and communal prayer. The books offered as a Christmas gift were one example of fostering personal prayer.
But it’s also a great idea to try to join Mary in her prayer. There are two ways you can join your personal prayer to Mary’s work of “guarding all these things, keeping them in her heart.” (those things being the mysteries of her Son). First and foremost, the greatest Marian form of prayer is the Rosary. Do not underestimate its power. The Rosary, particularly if done in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, is absolute spiritual dynamite, but doesn’t feel that way. It quiets the heart and lets us look at Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. If we do this regularly, we will resonate with God’s will and carry it out like Mary did, finding happiness and peace.
Another, perhaps less daunting option, is the Angelus. I’ve talked about this prayer before, on December 8th. This prayer is a simple way to contemplate the mysteries of Christ’s Incarnation with three Hail Mary’s. It takes about two, maybe three minutes. But it is a great way to ponder in your heart exactly what Mary would ponder for years: the gift of Jesus in the flesh. It also remembers Mary’s great yes, and invites us to participate in that yes as well, so that the Lord can continue to come into our world through us. If you need help learning this prayer, just ask me.
Finally, the greatest way to pray with Mary is here in the Mass. We don’t speak of her at every Mass, but she is always here, as is the entire Body of Christ. Mary carried Jesus in her own person, and soon we will do the same. It is our turn now, and so we can ask Mary to help us to do so as worthily as she did. Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, guide us and teach us to contemplate the gift of your Son, to stay close to Him, and to treasure Him in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Amen.