December 5, 2014


Advent is the season of hope, Mary is the star

Advent is the season of hope, a time of eager anticipation or longing for Christ. During this blessed season, we have a chance to connect with our deepest desires. Above all else, whether we recognize it or not, we human beings long to be united with God, the source and summit of all our aspirations, the joy of our desiring.

This inner longing, which we try to hide or suppress most of the year with no great success, bubbles to the surface during Advent. The hymns we sing, the prayers we say, the readings proclaimed to us in the liturgy, all evoke our heart’s deepest desires like no other time of year. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” we sing, “and ransom captive Israel.” Free us from the slavery of sin and fill us with the light of your presence!

If Advent is the season of hope, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the star. Star of Hope, she is called. Ave maris stella (“Hail, star of the sea”). Light our way to the heavenly homeland that is our deepest destiny, our true hope. Show us the way to your son, Jesus, the joy of all our desiring.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his encyclical, “Spe Salvi” (“Saved in Hope”), tells us that Mary’s “yes” to the father’s will “opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh and pitched his tent among us” (#49, cf. Jn 1:14). Mary’s life was “thoroughly imbued with the sacred Scriptures of Israel, which spoke of hope, of the promise made to Abraham and his descendants (#50).” The intense inner longing that every man or woman feels, Mary knew intimately. She was waiting for the Lord (although she had no idea he would come the way he did), and her “yes” to him opened the door to God and to us. It dispelled our darkness and lighted the way to hope.

Indianapolis Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein writes about hope in his memoirs, Surprised by Grace. Archbishop Buechlein writes, “There is no lasting hope anywhere else [except in God]. If we place our hope in material things, in political systems, in charismatic leaders or in our own abilities, we will always be disappointed. God alone justifies absolute confidence and trust. To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope.”

Archbishop Buechlein continues, “Because we hope in God, we can live well. Hope does not remove life’s difficulties; it allows us to endure them. Hope does not prevent us from sinning, from turning away from God. But supernatural hope allows us to see beyond our own sinfulness to the mercy of God. It allows us to seek forgiveness and to begin again.”

With this wonderful gift of hope comes an awesome responsibility, the archbishop writes. “As best we can, we must reject the darkness of sin and death, and live in the light. And we must be evangelizers—people who proclaim and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to share our hope with others.” This is the true meaning of Advent—sharing our hope with others.

Pope Francis has been speaking about God’s mercy since he was elected. There is no hope without mercy, no chance of experiencing our desire for God unless he forgives us our sins.

Mary, who was without sin, gives us hope. She affirms that each one of us has been created by a God who loves each one of us individually, and who invites us to share his life fully. We are not the random result of some evolutionary accident. We are the family of God, and we have a future filled with hope.

Mary’s hope is not naïve. She stood beneath the cross. As Pope Benedict says, Mary “saw the growing power of hostility and rejection which built up around Jesus until the hour of the cross, when you had to look upon the savior of the world, the heir of David, the Son of God dying like a failure, exposed to mockery, between criminals (#50).” Mary’s hope is not superficial. It goes to the heart of our longing to break free from the insidious power of sin and death.

In Mary, hope never died. Deep down, she listened again and again to the words of the angel, “Do not be afraid, Mary!” (Lk 1:30). How many times has the Lord said the same thing to us, his disciples? “Be joyful. I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).

Advent is the season of hope, and Mary is its star. Let’s look to Mary, Star of Hope. She will show us the way.

—Daniel Conway

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