How Mary Invites Us Into Silent Contemplation This Advent Season

It has become too much — the noise of the world. I see the hate spewed on media platforms, and feel the chaos that exists beyond the comforts of home. Between several months of stay at home orders, my kids arguing over the remote, and the chilly weather outside, even the walls of our home seem to be caving in on us. But we have made it. We are in the final stretch of the challenge that was the year of 2020…the Advent season is among us. 

The Church tells us this season is about waiting for Christ to come. Soon, he will be here, and our hearts will be overjoyed because God and his Word have become flesh. But this wait is daunting. Where is the silence and stillness of the wait? Surely it is not found digging myself out of my email inbox, waiting in line for curbside pickup, nor ensuring my children’s schedules are filled to the brim despite the social distance. But it is among this chaos I can turn toward our Mother Mary to find the silence and stillness, after all, she had a profound silence in the Gospels.

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At the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel came with abundant force and frightened Mary, letting her know that she was to give birth to the king as a mere unwed teenager. Angel Gabriel gave her the Good News and left as quickly as he came. Forceful fury followed by deafening silence. Surely, Mary felt overwhelmed by the news and how her life and the life of generations to follow were transformed in that moment. Perhaps this sudden shift from noise to silence is where we begin to feel uncomfortable. While we want the calmness and clarity the silence brings, silence can easily become overwhelming — its presence can be irritating and consume our thoughts and actions. For Mary, however, this distressing silence was a time to turn to God and pray. Faithfully.

Mary, still in shock by the news, visited Elizabeth, while an infant grew in her womb. Upon the meeting of the women, the infants in their wombs leapt in silent celebration. Jesus, growing in the silence of the womb, was going to fulfill the Old Law, and God’s love and mercy would soon be revealed to the world. Yet, the world beyond the womb was chaos. Romans ruled the area and Nazareth was full of poverty and violence. Mary feared for her life as she would have been regarded as an adulteress. For Mary, her solace was prayer and her pregnancy. It was within prayer she could hear the Holy Spirit working within her—both physically and spiritually. Each day, as Jesus grew in her womb, Mary grew in virtue. With each passing day, it became easier for Mary to find silence and stillness among the tumultuous world beyond her simple home, because each day, she found several moments to pause.

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When I have to share a space with silence, I often reflect on the moments Mary was silent in the Gospels. It is far easier to fill the space with meaningless noise of any sort — movement, complaints, or even small-talk conversation. But Mary never did that. Each of Mary’s words and actions were subtle yet deeply connected to God’s will. Because the world can be chaotic at times, I struggle to master the complete silence and stillness of our Mother. Instead, following her other examples, I find the silence and stillness in small moments.

Mary’s conversation with the Holy Spirit may have been when she was kneading bread, it may have been when washing dishes, or it may have been when she felt Jesus silently kicking in her womb. Mary’s pregnancy teaches us all we need to know about finding the silence and stillness of the wait the Church calls us to this season. That is, it can often be more fruitful to turn to the Spirit dwelling within us, just as Mary did. We are truly blessed to share in the same Spirit as Mary, the Spirit who is waiting for us to immerse ourselves into the stillness and silence just as she did.