Lindsey Weishar: Let Mary lead us through Advent to the humble stable

Images of Our Lady of Guadalupe brought from homes for a blessing surround a display at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria on Dec. 11, the eve of her feast. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

My Vocation is Love / By Lindsey Weishar

I think Advent may be one of my favorite times of the liturgical year. It’s a season infused with mystery, anticipation.

The readings from Isaiah that we’ve encountered in the past weeks sound otherworldly — “the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb” (Is. 11:6), “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, / the ears of the deaf be cleared; / Then will the lame leap like a stag, / then the tongue of the mute will sing” (Is. 35:5-6a). In the midst of so much richness, I need a guide to help me see all the treasures this compact season has to offer.

This Advent, Mary has presented herself as such a guide. How wonderful that during Advent come two great Marian feasts: the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Lately, I’ve been drawn especially to Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast this year shared a day with the Third Sunday of Advent.

IMAGES, MESSAGES FROM GUADALUPE

Having recently heard a talk by Dr. Mike Scherschligt, author and executive director of the Holy Family School of Faith, I’ve come to realize just how powerful the Our Lady of Guadalupe image is, and that it was a sign the native peoples of Mexico could readily read and understand. A few new details I’ve recently learned about the image are that Mary is showing her power over the Aztec sun god (symbolized by the sun rays) by eclipsing him and the moon god (symbolized by the moon she’s standing upon). And yet, as Dr. Scherschligt pointed out, she’s not God because her hands are folded in humility.

One of my favorite details is her dress. It is patterned with flowers, and over her womb is the four-petaled jasmine flower, a sign to the Aztec peoples of the most powerful god. The image shows that Mary will bring this most powerful God into the world. As always, she points us to her son.

As I reflect on Our Lady of Guadalupe, my mind goes immediately to Juan Diego, the man she appeared to in 1531. I imagine his awe, his endearment to her motherly address to him — “Jaunito, the smallest of my children” — and his uncertainty of going before the bishop to convey Mary’s message. He even begged Mary to send someone else: “I am . . . a thin rope, a little wooden step-ladder, a tail, a leaf, one of the little, unimportant people.”

And yet, I love that she sent him and pursued him, even on the day he tried to take a different route, so as not to see her, when he was searching for a priest for his dying uncle.

Her words to him on that day were ones of comfort:

Listen and understand well, my son, smallest of all, that you have no cause to be frightened and worried, let your heart be troubled no longer, have no fear of that sickness, nor of any other sickness or sorrow. Is this not your mother here next to you? Am I not your health? Are you not safe here within my loving bosom?

I think these are words Mary wants to speak to each of us this Advent. And like she did with Juan Diego, she wants to gently lead us toward her son.

CARRY MARY’S IMAGE WITH US

Advent is a time for gathering roses. What a beautiful detail that Our Lady asked Juan to collect roses in the most unlikely of times and places — from rocky ground in the winter. It reminds me of our own hearts, of our continual need to approach God in the posture of Our Lady of Guadalupe — with humility and love. Advent is the time for reviving this love, which, in the bustle of holiday preparation and fatigue has perhaps grown cool. The call to “prepare him room” is louder, both in the readings for this season and in the silence the season calls us to.

And like, Juan, perhaps what Mary best teaches in this Advent season is the profundity of trust that comes with carrying our roses. Juan thought that the roses would be the sign that moved the bishop’s heart, but instead it was what the roses revealed — Mary’s image.

May we carry Our Blessed Mother’s image with us during this Advent season. She will lead us to humble places, and at the end of this season of anticipation, to the humblest place of all — to a stable where the Bread of Life is born. May the mangers of our own hearts be open to receive him!

Lindsey Weishar

LINDSEY WEISHAR is a poet, freelance writer, and native of Champaign who has a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is executive assistant to the president at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. Write to her at lweisharwriting@gmail.com.

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