What is it that we are looking for in this time of Advent and preparation for Christmas?
If we are looking for some new revelation that will fill in all the gaps in our understanding, or for a mystical experience lifting us up to the highest heavens…. we are likely to be disappointed.
The Scriptures and the Liturgy of the season make a good suggestion: seek the face of Christ (Psalm 27:8), the Lord who will be born in Bethlehem. It was there that, for the first time, the world could look on the face of its Lord, who had made himself a defenceless infant for our sake. Yet when we think about this, we may feel that we are looking into something beyond our understanding, and an example that is just too holy for us to imitate.
But at this point I think it is good to remember the famous paintings and images of the Nativity scene, in which Christ is never alone but always pictured with the Blessed Virgin Mary. As Catholics we believe that Jesus and his Mother have always been closely united, and those first hours in Bethlehem were a very special time of union between them.
It was Mary who was the very first to see the long-awaited ‘face of God’ in Jesus. She experienced the fulfilment of all the great desires of mankind to truly know and touch God. Yes, the child in her arms would still have been a great Mystery to her as he is for us, but if anyone ever had any understanding of who Christ was and of how he loves us, surely it was her. And, we believe that Our Lady is still showing Jesus to the world, as now from heaven she prays and intercedes that he may be known and loved more and more by each soul.
As we start to meditate on the Nativity, we are in a similar position to Mary at the time, pondering in our hearts (Luke 2:19) the majesty and the awesome Love before our eyes. We need to turn to her and ask her to help us to see Jesus as she saw him, and to know the presence of God which she surely uniquely sensed. If we see with Our Lady’s eyes we see with eyes of love, and the mystery of Bethlehem becomes a mystery of the Lord who wanted our salvation so much that he came down to us and entered the world in a filthy, forgotten cave.
That is the saving God whom Mary will introduce us to, if we just ask her to help us find our way to him. The Lord has made her Mother of all Christians, and she is the sort of mother who never forgets one of her children’s needs!