Waiting In Wonder
I love seeing pregnant women this time of year. Their careful tenderness, knowing smiles, and swelling bellies point my heart to Our Lady, to that first blessed Advent. I marvel as I ponder that first coming of Jesus, an imperceptible spark of life in Mary’s very womb. For days and weeks and months He was wholly hidden, entirely enclosed, a slowly-growing secret waiting to burst forth. His young, humble Mother carried Him lovingly as He grew, knowing just by faith of His presence within her. Praying, cleaning, cooking, eating, she waited. I imagine that those mystifying words of the angel Gabriel echoed again and again in her mind and heart. Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord was the music that welled up within her. Let it be done unto me according to your word. I like to think that that response was ever on her lips, a whispered refrain as she lived her quiet, waiting days. Those days crept by, and soon the first hint of Him appeared as the folds of Mary’s garment began to betray her secret. There must have been, too, that thrilling instant of Jesus’ first kick, of Mary’s first visceral perception of that Baby nestled within her, of her delighted laughter at such a joy, such a mind-boggling, heart-bursting, world-changing joy.
Like Mary, we are in a season of waiting. We are waiting for that joy of Christmas, watching the days and weeks pass as more flames illuminate our Advent wreath, longing for that empty crib to contain its awaited Guest, making room in our hearts for Him to come anew, to indeed make us new. In these days when the air is growing colder, the long strokes of sunset are coming sooner, and the whole world, it seems, is suffering together, we may feel our hunger for Jesus’ coming more than ever. While this season does bring with it great hope and light and promise, we still find ourselves facing that shadowy unknown, the weight of suffering, that great ache that fills all our hearts this side of heaven.
As I ponder this yearning for salvation, both for myself and for our needy world, I like to imagine Mary’s posture throughout those nine months of waiting. It was, I believe, one of wonder. Even in the brief exchange between Mary and the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, we can glimpse this disposition of wonder in spades. In imitating Mary, we can learn to cultivate that same disposition. If we find ourselves “greatly troubled” by what we hear or see around us, as Mary herself first was by Gabriel’s words, let us follow her lead and “ponder” what troubles us, not reject or recoil from it or rebel against it out of fear. If we experience God inviting us into a plan that perplexes us, let us echo Mary’s faith-filled question, “How can this be?” rather than proposing a plan of our own that leaves us in control. If God proclaims to us truths that contradict our human reason and understanding, let us join Mary in giving Him permission to act in us “according to [His] word,” not according to our own preferences or expectations or comfort.
Though we hear little of what the rest of those nine months were like as Mary waited, I imagine her great sense of wonder only grew in her as Jesus did. She must have continued to ponder and marvel and welcome God’s designs as she felt Jesus take shape within her, as she looked ahead to the future with curious hope. She must have taken notice of His every little movement as He slept and squirmed in her womb. She must have imagined what He’d look like—the shade of His eyes, the scrunch of His nose, the curve of His smile. She must have anticipated the feel of Him in her arms, the soft, warm weight of His swaddled Body close to her heart. Perhaps she wondered what His first word would be. What beauty there is contained in the Incarnation: in the midst of an event that would soon transform the course of human history, there was an unknown mother waiting in wonder for her Baby to be born.
Perhaps that’s the secret of waiting for Jesus aright—not to ignore what troubles or confuses us, not to avoid suffering, but to let those pains be eclipsed by a growing sense of wonder as Jesus grows in us, as we learn to attune our hearts to His gentle movements, as we dream with great hope of how our lives might change when He comes to us again at Christmas.
So, let us follow the lead of our Mother Mary, brimming as she was with faithful wonder. Let us let Jesus increase in us, taking the place of the fears and worries that weigh us down. And let us wait in wonder to see what God will do.
Sr. Clara, CFR Novice