November 2020 Allocutio
As we approach Advent
Fr. Paul Churchill
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone” (Is 9:1).
These are the first words given us in the readings from the Christmas Liturgy. Those who live in the lands of the North might think they have something to do with shortening days and the cold. But they are equally true on the equator or in the summer down under. This year we could all be forgiven for linking them to Covid 19 and its shadow, with a ray of light breaking out due to the hopefully awaited vaccines.
But the eternal word of God is addressed to the darkness of the human condition. We are lost in a world where God is not given due recognition and respect, where fear and anxiety rule, thus causing people to be suspicious and to build barriers against each other, a world in which each individual can feel alone and be unsure of his place.
From these we get many obvious forms of darkness: ignorance, intolerance, inequality, prejudice, religious persecution, breakdown in family life, sensual selfishness (to quote Catherine of Siena), and complete disregard at so many levels for the Creator’s gift of life. You will be able to add your own shadows to this list.
But we must never get pulled down into the darkness despite current temptations. We are the people of light. God wants us to radiate light in the darkness. The first Christmas reading is about light beginning to break out in the darkness since God is visiting us like the dawn from on high.
And in that dawn sky a bright star shines. It is the Morning Star as her Litany says. Mary is signalling to us that redemption is coming. Indeed, she is the very first of the redeemed, with not even a slight stain, simply full of grace.
She heralds what is coming. She herself is the very first of a new people. She is not just an upgrade on what went before. She is in fact the end product, already fully complete in her conception. Lest we had any doubt Jesus later emphasised it with her Assumption. Mary is creation as God had designed it to become from the start before it went astray in Adam and Eve.
We in the Legion of Mary, in a most special way, are being asked by her to stay close to her who is fully redeemed so that we can more effectively bring her Son’s redemption into true effect in our own lives and then, with her, help radiate that redemption in our world.
“The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light.” Those words refer to Christ who took on our nature and showed us our full potential and nobility. But with that he holds Mary up to us as the model of the redeemed creature and says to us all “This is what you can all become.” So, let us look upon her grace and dignity, her beauty and holiness, and see our future selves mirrored in her.
But if Christ can say, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer and so enter his glory,” then Mary too models this dynamic of redemption. As our mother she would ask us to accept God’s will and always follow his ways in peace. “Trust him totally and in peace as I did. Accept your crosses and pains while trusting him. Observe my charity and imitate it. And do whatever he tells you even if at the time it does not seem to make sense!”
The world of the redeemed is the world of trusting God’s word and observing it and not turning aside as Adam and Eve did. These are dark times and the risk is that they could overpower us. But with Mary let us trust God totally and keep faithful to his ways as she did. Remember those words: “He who is mighty has done great things for me.” God is doing great things for us all since nothing, not even my worst side nor the powers of darkness, is impossible for God.
As we move into Advent and onto Christmas let us reflect on what he has done in Mary. Our redemption is assured. Mary is the guarantor of that. Let us lift our hearts and have a light touch in our step and indeed become people with Mary who carry the joy of redemption to others. May we all become people who infect others with joy and hope. But remember, we must keep close to her and indeed to her Son whom she bears to us so that this can come about.
“The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light!” May it not just be Christmas trees or decorations that light up this Christmas. Let it be you and me who, bringing Jesus and Mary with us, radiate the redemption of God, a redemption so well at work in us that, even if they cannot put their fingers on it, the inner child in them all will jump with joy.