This article is excerpted from When The Time Was Fulfilled.

Mary is the most comforting of all the Advent figures. Advent’s holiest consolation is that the angel’s annunciation met with a ready heart in Mary. The Word became flesh, and in the holy place of a motherly heart the earth gave birth to a world of God-humanity. What good does it do us to sense and feel our misery unless a bridge is thrown over to the other shore? What help is it to be terrified at our lostness and confusion unless a light flashes up that is a match for darkness and always is its master? What good does it do us to shiver in the coldness and hardness in which the world freezes as it goes deeper astray in itself and kills itself, unless we also come to know of the grace that is mightier than the peril of oblivion?

Gérard David, The Annunciation (detail)

Poets and myth-makers and other tellers of stories and fairy tales have often spoken of mothers. Sometimes they meant the earth; other times, nature. By this word they tried to disclose the mysterious creative fount of all things, to conjure up the welling mystery of life. In all this there was hunger and anticipation and longing and Advent-waiting for this blessed woman.

That God became a mother’s son; that there could be a woman walking the earth whose womb was consecrated to be the holy temple and tabernacle of God – that is actually earth’s perfection and the fulfillment of its expectations.

Gérard David, The Annunciation

So many kinds of Advent consolation stream from the mysterious figure of the blessed, expectant Mary. The grey horizons must grow light. It is only the immediate scene that shouts so loudly and insistently. Beyond the present tumult there exists a different realm, one that is now in our midst. The woman has conceived the Child, sheltered him beneath her heart, and given birth to the Son. The world has come under a different law. Christmas is not only a historic event that happened once, on which our salvation rests. Christmas is the promise of a new order of things, of life, of our existence.

We must remember that the blessed woman of Nazareth, like John the Baptist and the angel of annunciation, is an illuminating figure of life, of our existence. Deep down in her being, our days and our destinies bear the blessing and mystery of God. The blessed woman waits, and we must wait too until her hour has come. We must be patient and wait with readiness for the moment when it pleases the Lord to appear anew in our night too.