There are, my calendar tells me, only four days until Christmas. It seems appropriate, then, that on December 18, the Church celebrates Mary as Our Lady of Expectation.  I’m celebrating her all week.  It’s a title that speaks to my to-do list, to my Advent silence, to my longing for Christmas joy.

She must have been pregnant-to-bursting, and she wasn’t at home or even in a familiar place.  The Baby was coming, of that she was certain, and soon.  She must have been excited.  Was there any fear in her?  Did she wonder how it would all work out?  Was she just wanting the baby out?

This pregnancy was an answer to ages of prayer, to the begging of the Jews for their Messiah.  Mary knew this, and it must have been one of the many things she held in her heart, pondering.  In the discomfort of late pregnancy, in the anticipation of the end of gestation, in the joy of looming parenthood, she must have also thought about the other prophesies about the Messiah.

His wasn’t to be an easy life, though we don’t know the details of the hidden years in Nazareth.  As a mother who knew there would be challenges, how could she be any less excited to finally meet the Baby who had been kicking her ribs, smooshing her bladder, rolling and stretching inside her?

Did she look at her husband, dear Joseph, and picture him as a daddy?  Could she hear the laughter to come, the roughing around and the gentle teaching, the correction and the prayer?  What was her hope for her family life?  What were her prayers in those last days before the first Christmas?

As I look to Our Lady of Expectation, I see so many ways in which I can follow her.  She looks uncomfortable, and yet she looks peaceful.  She shows me how to bear with the hardships of my daily life, whether they’re large or small, warranted or unexpected, grief-stricken or joy-filled.  She invites me into her crowded lap, and she hugs me.

Maybe, if I’m lucky, I feel the Baby kick.

She has, once again, led me right to Him.

More about Our Lady of Expectation, if you’re so inclined:

My mother-in-law is a source of great inspiration to me, and in this week’s column on Mary’s title, Queen of Martyrs, I was inspired by her response to some of the biggest griefs I can imagine, burying three grandsons.  But before you go thinking it’s a depressing piece, remember that my topic is Mary and that she is never depressing.  🙂  Here’s a snippet, and then you can go read the rest:

I suppose it’s selfish of me to want to rob my children of the good that can come from pain.  Though it continues to bring tears to my eyes and is not something that I can talk about for long, my experience with the third of my mother-in-law’s grandsons changed my life for the better.  My sister-in-law told me recently that burying two sons has been a blessing in her life, that she has marveled at how her pain has touched and transformed people, but I know she wouldn’t have chosen burying them over watching them grow into men.

I don’t think I have much of a maternal instinct, but it’s certain that protecting my children — whether from bodily harm or mental anguish — is part of the mothering mentality.

How much more, then, must Mary have felt this desire as she held the Messiah in her arms?  She was familiar with the prophecies, and she must have known that He would suffer greatly to bring about the salvation of the world.  Maybe the details weren’t available to her, but the certainty must have been.

All the joy of His infancy, the wonder of watching Him learn to walk and talk, the pleasure of seeing His wisdom blossom into young adulthood must have been tempered with the knowledge of His future, one that held torture and triumph.  Was not knowing the details a blessing for Mary?

As I consider Mary as Queen of Martyrs, I first have to see her pain for what it was.  It wasn’t fair, but that makes it even more beautiful.  Mary said “Yes” to the most difficult motherhood possible, one that would involve raising the Messiah and watching Him walk away and then carry a cross to His death.  Her memorable moments included first childhood moments, plus witnessing miracles.  She watched Him during His Passion, unable to do more than pray.

But did she need to do more?