Of silence was her heart that heard
These words are from a classic narrative poem by John Lynch. "Wrapped in silence" is a beautiful phrase to describe Mary but it could also apply to the entire season of Advent.
Mary was a woman wrapped in silence. Her life was a contemplative response to the action of God in her soul. Our Advent is also meant to be wrapped in silence, enabling us to respond to God's love with openness.
Jesus, in the womb of Mary, was also wrapped in silence. His divinity was clothed in human flesh, given to him from the genetic material of his mother Mary. As an unborn child, Jesus lay in the silence of Mary's womb, awaiting the moment of his birth.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Nicodemus that we must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3). How are we born again? Nicodemus understands Jesus literally at first, and thinks that we must return to our mother's womb. But Jesus tells him that we must be born in the Spirit in order to see the kingdom of God.
How can we be born in the Spirit?
Like Jesus entered the womb of Mary, we can imagine ourselves spiritually entering the womb of God. As Mary lent Jesus her flesh, God lends us his divinity, allowing us to become like Him. We enter the womb of God to be spiritually fed and sanctified. Like a mother feeds her child, God feeds us the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ in the Eucharist. God also feeds us graces through His Word, our prayer and the other sacraments.
We grow in holiness when, like little children, we live in loving dependence on God, in the silent womb of his loving care.
We can leave the womb of sanctification if we choose. We can eat the forbidden fruits of sin, and pretend that we are adults, that we know what is best. But only God feeds us eternal food. And it is only this food that will satisfy our souls.
This Advent I have decided to enter the silent womb of God and, like Mary, to wrap myself in silence so that I can grow closer to Jesus. I am doing this by taking a break from blogging and all social media for the season of Advent.
If you want to join me in an Advent wrapped in silence, here are some ideas:
1. Amp up the Grace: Nothing helps us listen to God more than the sacraments. They increase our union with the Trinity who dwells in us through baptism. Try adding an extra Mass into your schedule. Go to confession before Christmas. Pray an hour of adoration every week before the Eucharist. Even if you do just one of these things, it will be a precious addition to your Advent season.
2. Take Time for Spiritual Reading: Set aside time during your day or week to read a good spiritual book. Need some suggestions? Advent Grace is a wonderful book of daily Gospel meditations for Advent, written by my sisters at the Daughters of St. Paul. A Woman Wrapped in Silence, the narrative poem quoted at the beginning of this post, and The Reed of God are also beautiful Advent books.
3. Take a Break: Integrate a technology break into your day or week, or heck try the entire season of Advent! (e.g. Facebook fast during Advent, no technology on Sundays or in the evenings, put aside cell phone when you come home from work, one night a week talk or pray with the family rather than watch TV). Some ideas for online time well spent: Listen to Father Barron's weekly homilies for Advent. Keep up with Father Pontifex's Advent Youtube videos.
4. Do What Energizes You: Do more of the things that make you feel happy to be alive this Advent. Maybe it's art, writing, reading, sports, service or cooking. Pay attention to the activities that leave you feeling energized and the ones that don't. You may be surprised that the activities that involve pouring yourself out for others, while physically tiring, can be the most energizing. When we actively discern the activities we engage in, we have more psychological space to make good decisions about prayer and our relationship with God.
5. Moments of Silence: We may think that we need to cocoon ourselves from the world in order to have a contemplative Advent, but the truth is that we can find God in our everyday activities, we just need to make the effort! During your day, try to continually fix your gaze on Jesus. If, moment by moment, we make an effort to unify ourselves to the presence of God, (who is right within us through baptism!), our lives will be transformed. And Advent will truly be a season wrapped in the silent peace of God.
See you on the other side of this sacred season!