Mary, Advent of Christ
Is it mere coincidence that the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception during Advent? Not if the Holy Spirit has anything to do with it (hint: He does). Moreover, is it mere coincidence that God should send Mary to the geographic center of the Americas to establish a beachhead in the pagan New World, in the West, on a day on which the Immaculate Conception would be first celebrated in the East (December 9) – as if to unite both Old and New World by this mystery? I’ll leave this latter question for another post.
The point to ponder here is the connection between the mystery of Mary, as the Immaculate Conception, and how this title reveals such an intimate and inseparable union with the Holy Spirit that wherever she is found within the theater of redemption, her Son is right behind her . . . and in a most powerful way. In other words, Mary is always the Advent of Christ and the Church wants us to contemplate, better understand and appropriate into our spiritual lives this mystery within this holy season, which prepares us for Christ’s coming anew this (and every) Christmas. Who better to help us begin our reflection than Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, who preached this message so beautifully?
As there would have been no Advent of Christ in the flesh in His first coming without Mary, so there can be no coming of Christ in spirit among the Gentiles without Mary’s again preparing the way. As she was the instrument for the fulfillment of the hope of Israel, so she is the instrument for the fulfillment of the hope of the pagans.
“Her role is to prepare for Jesus. This she did physically by giving Him a body that could conquer death, by giving Him hands with which He could bless children and feet with which He could seek out the lost sheep. But as she prepared His body, so she now prepares souls for His coming. As she was in Israel before Christ was born, so she is in China, Japan, and Oceania before Christ is born. She precedes Jesus–not ontologically but physically–in Israel, as His Mother, and spiritually, among the Gentiles, as the one who readies His tabernacle among men” (The World’s First Love, Chapter 16 “The Madonna of the World” pp 186-187).
This is why wherever Mary appears in history, as she did so powerfully on Tepeyac Hill in 1531, conversions not only come quickly, but also abound in the millions. Within a culture characterized by bloody human sacrifice, Mary accomplished the impossible; for in the eight years which followed her appearances and the miraculous image of Guadalupe, approximately nine million conversions took place converting the pagan Aztec nation. This is estimated to be a Pentecost a day (3,000 conversions) for eight years.
Let us prepare this Advent by inviting Mary into our hearts in a complete and loving way, where she prepares our souls for the coming of the One who gives it new Life, Light and Love. And as one must stoop to enter into the cave in which Jesus is born into the world, so must we stoop in humility to prepare the caves of our souls for Jesus to be born anew in them.
Discover more about Venerable Sheen’s profound and inspiring insights into the mystery of Mary in my new book The Woman: The Mystery of Mary as Mediatrix in the Teaching of Fulton J. Sheen now available at Leonine Publishers and Amazon.com.
“The Woman reveals the profound role Mary is called to play in the mystery of salvation. It also reveals the brilliant theological insight of Venerable Fulton Sheen. But Peter Howard’s work also demonstrates, and imitates, the missionary hearts of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Archbishop Sheen. In this book, their hearts, formed for the salvation of souls, speak to ours. The Woman is a wonderful resource for Mariology in the era of the New Evangelization.”
~ Most Rev. James D. Conley,
Bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska
“We tend to think of Archbishop Sheen as the appealing television preacher, the best-selling writer, the Catholic celebrity with ecumenical appeal. Of his greatness there is no question. But we have overlooked the amazing depth of his spiritual and theological insight. Peter Howard takes us there in a way that will come as a surprise to many: through Sheen’s writings on the figure in whom all the Church’s sublime mystics converge: the Mother of God.”
~ Dale Ahlquist,
President and Founder of the American Chesterton Society
“The Woman is an extraordinary work that more fully opened my eyes to the gift that Fulton Sheen is to the Church and to the depth of insight available to us through reflection on Mary’s participation in our redemption. Dr. Howard has provided both a scholarly and accessible treatment that will draw the reader’s heart ever more deeply into the heart of the Church.
~ Dan Burke,
President and Founder of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and
Executive Director of EWTN’s National Catholic Register
To invite Dr. Howard to speak at your parish or event, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art: Immaculate Conception Portrait, Esteban Murillo, Restored Traditions, used with permission. Cover picture of Dr. Howard’s book “The Woman” used with permission.