In my senior year of high school, I took over leading an optional lunchtime Rosary on Fridays in the school chapel. The usual attendees included a handful of students and one or two teachers who would join if they were not doing lunch-hour supervision. After one Rosary, as we left the school chapel, one of the teachers approached me and said, “I feel like when I pray the Rosary I’m going through the life of Jesus – like I get to enter into it and know it better than before.” I am not sure why I remember this – perhaps because it was a moment when a teacher shared something personal – but this is precisely what we are all called to do, not only in the Rosary but also during each liturgical season. Advent is a great time to consider the first two Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, and early December is perfect for meditating on the meaning of the first for our lives: the Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary, and the conception of Jesus.
There are significant similarities between the way Jesus came to Mary and the way He comes to us today. In his Gospel, Luke teaches us how Mary is the most perfect example of being a disciple, and we are invited to imitate her in faith. St. Bernard of Clairvaux describes Advent as a time to reflect on the three different ways in which Jesus comes to us: “In His first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming He comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming He will be seen in glory and majesty.” The first coming is that of Jesus to and through Mary, the final coming will be at the end of time, but the middle coming is His entrance into our lives through Baptism and His ongoing presence in our lives that follows.
Though the middle coming is a time of “spirit and power,” Christ waits for our invitation to enter our lives. He comes to us in a manner similar to how He came to Mary: first by an annunciation requiring our “yes,” then as a slow growth within us by the power the Holy Spirit overshadowing and guiding us. The first such annunciation in each person’s life is unique; it is the particular event which first makes us aware of the Good News of Jesus. After this first encounter, we must foster a relationship with God, which, like all relationships, requires time and dedication. We are called to nurture this presence in our lives through prayer and love.
Luke’s Gospel, where the Annunciation to Mary is recorded, places more emphasis than other Gospels on the role of the Holy Spirit. While Christ was with us in the flesh, His words and actions were guided by the Holy Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles – also written by St. Luke – describes the disciples receiving the same Holy Spirit. It is only after this event that they are able to live as Jesus did, always acting and praying by the Spirit.
During this penitential season, let us examine our lives in light of the middle coming of the Lord to determine if we have allowed any shadow of this world to choke our relationship with God. Let us ask the Holy Spirit for the strength to pray with Mary: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
-Fr. Chrysostom Mijinke, O.P.