Saturday, 8 December 2012

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

In this feast it seems that all the quiet beauty of Advent bursts forth into exuberance and exaltation. In Mary we see all the beauty of Advent concentrated. She is the one in whom the waiting of Israel is most fully and most purely manifested; she is the last of the remnant of Israel for whom God shows his mercy and fulfils his promises; she is the faithful one who believed that the promise made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled; she is the lowly handmade, the obedient servant the quiet contemplative. She indeed is the most prepared to receive the Lord.

It seems that there is no better time to celebrate this feast than during these Advent days. It is the celebration of the beauty of her who is ready to receive the Lord. It is like admiring the palace where the King will enter, the room to which the bridegroom will come, the garden where the great encounter will take place.

I think of the painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where God stretches out his hand to Adam to call him to new life. How beautifully humanity is created. Now God is again stretching out his arm to her who waits for his touch by which humanity is re-created ever more beautifully. The celebration of this feast is the anticipation of the great event of Christmas. It makes me feel like a child on the evening before a wedding, full of joy and anticipation. I have already seen the bridal gown. I have already smelled the flowers. I have already heard the wedding song. There is no longer any doubt. Tomorrow it will surely happen; everything is ready to be fulfilled.

This feast day gives Advent its true character. It is indeed primarily a season of joy. It is not, like Lent, primarily a time of penance. No, there is too much anticipation for that. All-overriding is the experience of joy.

Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Diary

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