A long, long time ago, in answering a question from a reader about why we Catholics make such fusses about things I wrote of Advent and the Incarnation:
God kisses the earth, and nothing has been the same since…But no, maybe that’s not quite it, maybe God doesn’t just kiss the earth, for a kiss cannot last.
Rather, God comes, as bridegroom – the real bridegroom who weds himself to us, divinity to humanity -and shares with us that most intimate privilege of marriage, the joining of two into one, the mutual dependence, the mutual commitment. What God has brought together, no man may separate. We are One. But every marriage, even the best, needs constant attention, constant giving…constancy. Call the repetitious seasons of Advent, then, year after year, a renewal of our wedding vows, complete with honeymoon…
Pope Benedict XVI – what a writer; what a teacher! – ended his very well-received time with the young people at World Youth Day ’08 by praying the Angelus with them. It’s a prayer of remembrance, gratitude and supplication and in it Benedict identifies the “moment of engagement” that preceded the wedding, in this lovely talk:
From the close of the Randwick (Australia) Mass, the Pope’s introduction to the Angelus:
Dear Young Friends,
In the beautiful prayer that we are about to recite, we reflect on Mary as a young woman, receiving the Lord’s summons to dedicate her life to him in a very particular way, a way that would involve the generous gift of herself, her womanhood, her motherhood. Imagine how she must have felt. She was filled with apprehension, utterly overwhelmed at the prospect that lay before her.
The angel understood her anxiety and immediately sought to reassure her. “Do not be afraid, Mary …. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:30, 35). It was the Spirit who gave her the strength and courage to respond to the Lord’s call. It was the Spirit who helped her to understand the great mystery that was to be accomplished through her. It was the Spirit who enfolded her with his love and enabled her to conceive the Son of God in her womb.
In fairy tales, the story ends there, and all “live happily ever after”. In real life it is not so simple. For Mary there were many struggles ahead, as she lived out the consequences of the “yes” that she had given to the Lord. Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her heart. When Jesus was twelve years old, she experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when, for three days, the child went missing. And after his public ministry, she suffered the agony of witnessing his crucifixion and death. Throughout her trials she remained faithful to her promise, sustained by the Spirit of fortitude. And she was gloriously rewarded.
Dear young people, we too must remain faithful to the “yes” that we have given to the Lord’s offer of friendship. We know that he will never abandon us. We know that he will always sustain us through the gifts of the Spirit. Mary accepted the Lord’s “proposal” in our name. So let us turn to her and ask her to guide us as we struggle to remain faithful to the life-giving relationship that God has established with each one of us. She is our example and our inspiration, she intercedes for us with her Son, and with a mother’s love she shields us from harm.
I don’t know if we’ve ever had a more readable and listenable pope.
The next time you happen to hear a church ringing the Angelus bells, (I know, it’s rarer all the time) take a moment to remember and give thanks for Mary’s “yes!” And if you’re so inclined, let us pray…