By Jose Ma J Fernandez
The season of Advent is a period of waiting and preparing for the coming of the promised Redeemer, the Christ. In a period spanning only four weeks, Advent tells us of the long period of waiting that Man had to undergo before the fullness of time became a reality. If we reckon this period of waiting in terms of the generations based on the genealogy of Christ starting all the way from the first parents Adam and Eve, the wait took about 4,000 years. A seemingly long wait, but a mere blink of the eye when we consider that God lives in an eternal present and beyond the ken of time as we know it.
In Genesis 3:15, the promise of Redemption – but with the role of an all important person, a Woman – is suggested: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”
In a very special way, the story of Advent and Christmas is also a story of Mary, the Mother of Jesus the Christ and Spouse of the Holy Spirit. It is a story of the Woman who was already in the mind of the Triune God before all time, chosen and molded by the Creator for the special role she was to play as the Mother of the Perfect God and Perfect Man, the Son of God who took human flesh in order to restore Man once again in the favor of the Trinity.
The Liturgy of Advent reveals Mary in an excellent manner, and features a number of exemplary women of the Old Testament who could be considered as types of Mary. And yet, even if these women like Judith and Esther could be held high as wonderful examples of brave womanhood, they were nothing compared to Mary in the excellence of her humanity. She is, after all, the one Full of Grace, the Chosen One who drew her bountiful excellence from the perfection of her son Jesus’ humanity.
The Liturgy even goes to the extent of praising the “Happy Fault” (Felix Culpa) that made possible the assumption by the Second Person of human form while fully retaining his divine essence by way of the Mystery of the Incarnation. This act of becoming man by Jesus paved the way for the adoption of the human race as sons of the Father, sealed by the Blood of Christ – shed to make up for Original Sin and thereby opening the Gates of Heaven that had been shut to Man since his creation.
At the culmination of Advent, we find the Angel Gabriel tasked by the Trinity with the most important task of all time – to ask the very young Blessed Virgin Mary if she would cooperate with the Divine Plan. All Heaven must have paused to watch the diminutive Mary as she paused just briefly before uttering the happiest answer of all, “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord… let it be done to me according to thy word.” This fiat of Mary, surrendering and obeying God’s Will without question, more than made up for the disobedience of Eve and her spouse in the Garden of Eden. It is not surprising that the early Church Fathers, with St Ireneaeus among them, saw Mother Mary as the Second Eve. He said:
“The Lord, coming into his own creation in visible form, was sustained by his own creation which he himself sustains in being. His obedience on the tree of the cross reversed the disobedience at the tree in Eden; the good news of the truth announced by an angel to Mary, a virgin subject to a husband, undid the evil lie that seduced Eve, a virgin espoused to a husband.” “As Eve was seduced by the word of an angel and so fled from God after disobeying his word, Mary in her turn was given the good news by the word of an angel, and bore God in obedience to his word. As Eve was seduced into disobedience to God, so Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; thus the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve.”
One of the important things to remember is that God chose Mary way before Mary chose God. But the Godhead still allowed the whole divine economy of salvation to rest on the reply of the little Virgin of Nazareth, Mary, whose humility and innocence never allowed her to swell with pride on being chosen as the special vehicle through which Christ the Lord became Man.
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