Following Mary on her Advent Journey, December 21, 1999

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Domus Sanctae Mariae Guadalupensis, Rome
December 21, 1999
Songs 2:8-14; Ps 33; Lk 1:39-45

“Mary set out with haste” to visit her pregnant relative Elizabeth. Today the Church hastily follows her along her journey. Whereas for the past two days we have remained in Nazareth, meditating upon the reality of the incarnation of the Word in Mary’s womb, today we move closer to Bethlehem, to Ein Karim, to the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah, in whose home we will spend these last four days of preparation for Christmas. The Church in setting up this itinerary for us is doing more than having us traverse the physiological and historical events that preceded the birth of the Lord. She is explicitly inviting us, as we prepare to celebrate this glorious birth, to meditate upon Mary, and to see in her both our supreme model of preparation for this event as well as of the faith-filled, joyful response to it. And so with the Lord, let us climb within Mary’s womb and listen to the beat of her contemplative heart that was treasuring within this greatest of all mysteries.

How can we not marvel at Mary’s great readiness!? A mere 14 years or so prior, she had been prepared by God for this vocation through her sinless conception, but she must have responded straight from her earliest days to so great a grace. Nothing else would really describe her extraordinary faith in the Angel Gabriel’s news. She asked the simple question about how she — a consecrated virgin — could conceive, and having been told by Gabriel that God would be her divine Son’s Father, she responded immediately with her fiat, which forever will be our inspiration and our challenge. But that wasn’t all: her subsequent actions demonstrated this faith in abundance.

She went with haste to into Judah, for Gabriel had likewise revealed to her that her elderly relative Elizabeth had naturally conceived a Son. Perhaps Mary went in order to care for Elizabeth; perhaps she went because she thought that if there were anyone on earth she might be able to talk to who could believe what was going on inside of her, it would be Elizabeth who had likewise been singled out by the Lord. Whatever the reason, this teenage girl, Jesus’ and our Mother, went without delay, making a journey of slightly more than one hundred miles to Ein Karim, which is about five miles west of the Old City of Jerusalem. Did she tell Joachim and Anne why she wanted to make the journey? Did she tell Joseph? Did anyone accompany her for the minimal 4-5 day hike? We don’t know. But what we do know is that along the way she had to be meditating upon the encounter with Gabriel and the reality within her, a reality that still she could only believe since it would have been far too early for any internal or external physiological signs confirming that she was indeed pregant. But she was absolutely convinced in faith of the reality of the Archangel’s news. Her explosive first words to Elizabeth upon her arrival — which we will hear tomorrow in the Magnificat — demonstrate this to us. Such a synthetic proclamation of all the Old Testament prophecies and how they were fulfilled in her would only make sense as the result of such a profound meditation during the journey.

And so she became the first missionary, the first bearer of the Good News that would change all of human history, forming Jesus to be the itinerant preacher he would become even before he had developed the tiniest of feet. The lover of the human race started springing across the mountains of Galilee and Jerusalem, eventually leaping across the hills within Mary’s womb. During the springtime of the annunciation when winter was past, rains over and gone, the flowers appearing, the fig tree bearing fruit and the blooming vines giving forth fragrance, he who is the Vine was attached by an umbilical cord to his mother, and together, God’s beautiful One, His Only Begotten Son, and His Beloved Daughter, that Son’s mother, arose and came to Zechariah’s house. As soon as Elizabeth heard her young relative’s greeting, the other great figure of Advent, John the Baptist, leaped in her womb. Doubtless inspired by a revelation, Elizabeth said to a girl in whom there would have been no external signs of pregnancy, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” But she didn’t stop there. When a woman in a crowd later would shout to Jesus “Blessed is the womb that bore thee and the breasts that nursed thee!,” he replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!,” thereby singling out the real reason for his mother’s greatness, that she had conceived the Lord first in her heart by faith and then in her womb. So, too, Elizabeth finished her greeting by focusing on Mary’s great faith: “Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.” In fact all generations, including our own, including us here, have indeed for years called her Blessed fifty times or more per day with the very same words God inspired Elizabeth to say on our and His behalf.

And so today we praise Mary in a special way and we ask her to prepare us like never before for the outpouring of the grace God so ardently desires to give us. We keep her before our eyes as we approach the celebration of the birth of her Son, as we approach that year-long Jubilee celebration of that birth two millennia ago, and as we approach that very moment when the Holy Spirit will overshadow this priest in front of you who will conceive with his words and bear in his hands that chosen Son of Her Blessed Womb, and then in the greatest of all priestly gifts, give Him to you, so that you might nourish him inside with the same contemplative joy that she did. And so in the presence of the pregnant Virgin of Guadalupe, we turn to her and pray: O Mary,

After you welcomed our Lord within you / you brought him to your kin with haste,
where the Baptist leaped and his mother blessed / the Lord you carried at your waist.
After this Eucharist, we too will go / out to a world with Christ within.
Help us, Mary, to bring Him to others / so He can make them leap again.