By Sarah Streitwieser
Advent is a season to be still and contemplative. Period. But why can I not follow this simple advice?
Advent busyness seems unavoidable. There are gifts to buy and wrap, travel arrangements to make, treats to bake, gatherings to attend, decorations to unearth from storage, plus the daily tasks of life and work to accomplish. While we may feel joy or gratitude with many of these obligations, most of us cannot avoid their requisite busyness.
I have long assumed my busyness to be a symptom of my concupiscence. I desired to be like Mary as I perceived her: entirely still. In this measure I categorically failed. Recently, new consideration of Biblical text has invited reexamination of my presuppositions. Mary seems the opposite of inactive; she is dynamic, always moving, full of life, and even busy.
From conception and throughout Jesus’s early life, we observe Mary moving. Just after the Annunciation she travels “in haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth in Judah (Luke 1:39). She stays, caring for her cousin in the late stages of pregnancy, and then returns home (Luke 1:56).
In the next scriptural account, Mary is nine months pregnant and traveling for the census to Bethlehem where she gives birth to Jesus (Luke 2:4). She travels to the temple for His Presentation (Luke 2:22) and flees to Egypt (Mat. 2:14). Eventually, the Holy Family returns to Nazareth (Mat. 2:23). Amidst all of this traveling, Mary hosts shepherds, entertains Magi, and establishes a home in a foreign country.
Mary is busy! In her busyness, she is like and unlike me. Unlike me, her work is never in vain; her endeavors are fruitful. Her busyness is not self-inflating, superfluous, or frantic. But perhaps just like me, her work is necessary. Her vocation as a wife and mother compel her to action.
Through all of her action she contemplates, carrying Jesus in her womb; her arms; her heart. He is her focus and purpose, though she is busy with many things. Mary shows us that contemplation can happen on our feet, and that praying and working sometimes coincide.
Mary help me embrace still moments when they are available. When obligations prevail, teach me how to carry Jesus close to my heart as I work. Let Him to be my purpose and my focus; Let love of Jesus (and love of my family) inform my busyness. This Advent, help me to be both active and contemplative, moving with you and centered on Jesus.