Mary of Nazareth is the uniting factor between God and the human race.
The medieval lyricists - such as Friar William Herebert (d 1333) - had exquisite ways of expressing the link between God and His servant, the Lady Mary of Nazareth.
Later poets - such as Robert Southwell (d 1594) and John Donne (1573-1631) - had their own ways of describing Mary of Nazareth.
In the nineteenth century, Robert Stephen Hawker (1804-1875 ) and the Pre-Raphaelite painter-poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) followed this great tradition.
Rossetti calls Mary of Nazareth a daughter born to God, mother of Christ from stall to rood (meaning cross).
The twentieth century American writer of poetry and prose, Cornelia Otis Skinner, wrote a poignant little verse after a visit to Italy;
TO THE SISTINE MADONNA
Mary, most serenely fair
Hear an unbeliever's prayer
Nurtured in an austere creed,
Sweetest Lady, she has need
Of the solace of thy grace:
See the tears that stain her face
As she kneels to beg your love,
You whom no one told her of.
What was Mary doing spiritually during those last few weeks leading up to the birth of Christ?
She must have simply been doing what all pregnant women do in their final stages of pregnancy, meditating upon the miracle of human growth taking place within them.
In this case this was even more of a miracle because she was a virgin and her baby was the Son of God.
The metaphysical poet Mother Mary Frances calls Mary - during the time of the Advent of her Son - the Queen of Craftsmen.
She itemises the elements of construction of the human body of Jesus reaching completion within His Mother's womb.
Note the time imagery inherent in the allusion to the crystal hammers moving to the beat of Mary's heart as well as the metaphor describing the heart of the developing infant Jesus as a clock.
This latter image incorporates the movement of God the Eternal into the temporal sphere of humanity.
QUEEN OF CRAFTSMEN
Blow by exquisite blow
The crystal hammers of her love
Fasten the careful joinings of His bones
Prophets have sung this craft: how men may number
These bones, but never break an one of them
What blueprint guides you, Queen of architects
To trace sure paths for wandering veins
That run Redemption's wine?
Who dipped your brush, young artist, so to tint
The eyes and lips of God? Where did you learn
To spin such silk of hair, and expertly
Pull sinew, wine this Heart to tick our mercy?
Thrones, Powers fall down, worshipping your crafts
Whom we, for want of better word, shall call
Most beautiful of all the sons of men.
Worker in motherhood, take our splintery songs
Who witness What you make, in litanies:
O, Queen of craftsmen, pray for us who wait.
The Advent period began with the Annunciation.
What was Mary doing when the angel appeared to her?
Mary was aware of the prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah, and was well versed in the sacred writings.
That this is in fact the case becomes evident to us when we compare Mary's own ode of praise to God, the Magnificat, with the words of Hannah, the mother of Samuel.
After weaning her son, Hannah presented him to Eli in the temple and dedicated him to God.
What was Our Lady doing when the angel Gabriel appeared to her as God's messenger?
The Renaissance poets show her pondering over the words of a book.
But she might have been clearing up for all we know.
What we can be sure of is that when she spoke the word: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done unto me according to Thy Word," a radiance came over her as God overshadowed her and the mystery of the Incarnation took place.
Upon the miracle of the Incarnation, Mary's heart flooded over with joy at the thought of the imminent arrival of the Christ Child.
We know He would not be born in her home in Nazareth and that His early childhood would be spent in exile in Egypt.
However, was it likely that Mary of Nazareth expected her Son to be born in a stable?
Her husband Joseph was a carpenter.
Surely in Nazareth he must have built a cot for the Child with the finest wood he could afford and of course she wove and fashioned small blankets for it.
It may not have been costly but we can be sure it was as pleasant and comfortable as possible.
What was it like for Mary, that period of anticipation?
We know that she did not become absorbed in her own preparations to the exclusion of the needs of others.
In her poem "The Visitation" Sister Liguori OP wrote about Mary's concern for her aged pregnant cousin Elizabeth.
She told how when Mary entered Elizabeth's house, Elizabeth's own son John, the future John the Baptist, Christ's cousin and the one who would be His first messenger, leaped in His mother's womb.
Mary hastened over the hills
And never a word spoke she,
But the flowers knew, and they curtsied low
To the Mother of God, to be.
Mary stepped softly through the town
Guarding her gladdened eyes
But the palm trees nodded knowingly,
And the wind hummed lullabies.
Mary tapped gently at the door
And spoke in a low sweet voice
But when she entered an unborn babe
Knew her and leaped to rejoice.
Leapt for joy
It was when Elizabeth's child leapt in her womb for joy that Mary launched into her Magnificat and joyfully proclaimed:
"My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour;
because He has looked upon the humility of His handmaid
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed
for the Almighty has done great things for me,
Holy is His Name
and His faithful love extends age after age to those who fear Him.
He has used the power of His Arm
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly
He has filled the hungry with good things, sent the rich away empty
He has come to the help of Israel His servant, mindful of His faithful love
- according to the promise He made to our ancestors -
of His Mercy to Abraham and to his descendents for ever."
(Luke Chapter 1, verses 46 to 55)
The Magnificat in all its joy and spontaneity demonstrates to us the boundless joy of Mary of Nazareth at the distinction lavished upon her by the Most High.
The clear knowledge of the scriptures it reveals endorses the fact that Mary had all the sincerity, goodness and intelligence necessary to make her an excellent educator to the growing Infant Jesus after her Advent period had come to its conclusion.
How did Mary interact with Joseph during this period of Advent?
At the onset of her pregnancy, their friendship became fraught with dark patches for this man was devastated by the unanswered questions.
Great relief flooded the hearts of both Mary and Joseph when the angel reassured him during a dream.
Joseph from then on took care of her and of God's Son until his own death took place.
Joseph was a prayerful and thoughtful person.
The poem of Sister Maris Stella speaks of the eloquence of Christ, the Word of God, juxtaposed with the silence of His foster father Joseph.
SAINT JOSEPH AND THE WORD
Saint Joseph was the most silent saint of all
No one has written down one word of his
for our edification. Not one small
word of his was saved unless it is
the Word that was the sum of all his life,
the precious Word he saved for everyone
that it might speak the cross, and not the knife,
long, long after he was dead and gone
and gathered to his fathers, and never again
could he spirit the Child and the young girl, His mother,
out of the dangerous city. From all men
of all times he was chosen and no other -
not one from among the prophets - but this rarely heard
and wordless man, to save God's mighty Word.
There is much more poetry relevant to the Advent times, not the least of which is contained in the Isaian and Zecharian prophecies in the Old Testament and which bears quiet study and personal reflection.
Mary during the first Advent might not have known yet, as we do with the wisdom of hindsight, that there would be no room in the Bethlehem inn for her Holy Child to be birthed.
In obedience to the temporal powers of the day and filled with confidence in the power of God she dragged her weary pregnant girl's body from Nazareth to Bethlehem, knowing all would be well in the end.
For us and those we love all too will be well if we can but remember not only during Advent but throughout all our lives to pattern our behaviour towards our Redeemer on the silent but beautiful example shown to us by the Lady Mary of Nazareth, and on that of her husband Joseph.
*Why not listen to the beautiful song about Joseph;
Dr Luky Whittle
With thanks to youtube