Second Sunday of Advent: Importance of Marian devotion to prepare for Christmas
In this short period of preparation therefore, the saints and theologians point towards Our Lady as the one who is to be the guide of those seeking to prepare properly for the birth of Christ. For it is Mary who brings Christ into the world. She is the mother of Life, of Truth, of salvation, and it is she who is able to best prepare her faithful children for how to imitate and worship her Son.
In his commentary, Dom Gueranger points to the words of St. Jerome whose words are used Matins for this Sunday. The saint writes: “The Branch which cometh forth from the root of Jesse, is the Blessed Virgin Mary, who had contact with no shrub or plant; and that the Flower is the Lord Jesus, who says in the Canticle of Canticles: ‘I am the Flower of the field, and the Lily of the valley’.”
These words, written centuries prior and still used by the Church, beautifully depict Mary as the fruitful branch, who brings forth the Flower who is Christ. Her faithfulness to God leads to the birth of the Son of God.
“In every age of the Christian Church, this wonderful Branch and its divine Flower have been objects of enthusiastic veneration,” adds St. Jerome. His theme is taken up then by St. Bernard in his second sermon for Advent. Christ is the flower “on whom the angels desire to look; the flower whose perfume shall revive the dead; the flower, as He Himself declares, of the field, not of the garden.”
“This flower grew and flourished in the field independent of all human culture, unsown by the hand of man, untilled by the spade, or fattened by moisture. So did the womb of Mary blossom. As a rich pasture it brought forth the flower of eternal beauty, whose freshness shall never fade nor see corruption, who glory is to everlasting. O sublime virgin rod.” – St. Bernard.
With these phrases born not from empty prose, but from pure love of God and of Mary, the Church points Her children to Marian devotion as a guide for this season. For more than mere veneration, as St. Jerome notes, Advent-tide is a period in which to imitate and model oneself upon the faithful and humble Branch, upon the spotless Mother of God.
“Thou art He that was to come, O Jesus! We look for no other,” attests Dom Gueranger. This phrase, while not directed to Mary, nevertheless sums up the spirit with which Mary responded to the angel at the Annunciation. Her heart was fully open to the workings of God in her and with her. In like manner, the Church calls Her children to imitate this spirit. Such a humble, faith-filled and God-centred soul – as exemplified by Mary – is that which is proposed for imitation during this time.
Turning to Mary during this Advent is one sure way to be able to heed the words of the saints, and thus allow oneself to be formed by the virgin Mother as preparation for Christmas. She is the Branch who brought forth the Flower of the field, the Flower whose perfume revives the dead. Indeed, as the Co-Redemptrix, Mary joins Christ in His salvific action of liberating the dead from their slavery to sin. What more perfect guide, what more perfect model to imitate during this time, than the mother of God?
“Stir up, O Lord, our hearts to prepare the ways of thy only-begotten Son: that by his coming we may be enabled to serve thee with pure minds.” Thus reads the collect of today’s Mass, and it is in turning to Mary, she who prepared most of all for His coming and was the one who brought Him into the world, that the Church can best prepare the ways of Christ.
This pure and spotless virgin mother has been the object of tender devotion throughout the Church’s history, and she continues to be so in those churches and homes who are desirous of following the Church’s Tradition. Indeed, the period of Advent, is truly one imbued with the central themes of Mariology and Marian devotion: namely, Mary’s role as the Mother of God and the Co-Redemptrix.
St. Bernard closes his homily with these tender words, which encapsulate Advent’s particular dedication to Mary.
“O blessed finder of grace, O mother of life, mother of salvation, maw wee through thee have access to thy Son, that through thee we may be receive by Him Who through thee was given to us. May thy integrity and purity excuse before Him the stain of our corruption; may thy humility, so pleasing before God, obtain the pardon of our vanity. May thy abundant charity cover the multitude of our iniquity, and thy glorious fruitfulness supply our indigence of merits.
Our lady, our Mediatrix, our Advocate, reconcile us to they Son, comment us to thy Son, present us to thy Son. By the grace thou hast found, by the prerogative thou didst merit, by the mercy thou didst bring forth, obtain o blessed one, that He Who vouchsafed to become partaker of our infirmity and misery, may through thy intercession, make us partakers of His Blessedness and glory – Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, Who is God blessed above all forevermore.”