Merry Christmas to all, wherever you are!
When my husband and I were preparing for our confirmation in the Catholic Church (Easter 2010), I was just learning how to pray the rosary. I made praying the rosary daily my Lenten sacrifice, and I have done my best to continue that practice ever since. In addition to preparation for our spiritual conversion, I had also just barely found out I was pregnant, somewhat unexpectedly, and only 9 months after our first son was born. I was overwhelmed.
Meditating on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary gave me more consolation than I can tell you:
I pondered the 7-months pregnant, elderly Elizabeth greeting her teenaged cousin Mary with such joy and tenderness as befitted the king and queen who came to visit. After an extended life of infertility, she was only carrying the greatest prophet (John the Baptist) in her womb, who was unfit to remove the sandals of the babe in Mary's womb, and her husband had been struck mute. But she bore no envy towards her cousin. And if I know anything about the end of pregnancy, she probably felt a hundred other reasons to grumble. But there was still no bitterness in her greeting. I asked her to be my patron saint for our confirmation, to seek God's grace for me to bear the physical and psychological pain of the pregnancy I had just begun.
I imagined Mary and Joseph's poverty of spirit, as well as the physical poverty of the entire Holy Family, at the moment when the God of the universe was born as an infant. At the moment when she might have suffered terribly, Mary loved God with her body and soul and was delivered from death. And she held the baby God. She reminds me that the weakness that doubles me over with pain and grief, offered to God with love and humility, returns to me in glory. I asked her to teach me the way of physical and spiritual poverty, as my husband and I prepared to leave the potential for a full-time salary behind and commit to 5 more years of school.
I wondered at Mary's presenting her son to God, dutifully returning to that Father what came from him but was also truly hers, her flesh and blood. I sought to give all that I have - even my very flesh and blood - to the God who gave His so willingly to me.
I remember these mysteries, and that precious season in my life, to such great effect during Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, and beyond. The season is rich in blessing for those who seek the Christ child. May he be born to us again today as we welcome him to our world!