The Advent of a Mother’s Heart

She watches and waits, a secret that is hers alone rests within.  Someone is coming, that someone has already arrived.  Her focus goes inward: to growth, to new life, to pain, yes, and to sadness, and above all to indescribable joy.  The beauty lies in the blending of the good and the bad: loneliness and connection, sorrow and comfort, moments of impenetrable darkness followed by bright blinding light.

So it must have been for Mary, traveling with the burden of a full womb across distances great and far, to reach the land of her forebears.  Our Blessed Mother experienced the first Advent as a physical manifestation of the thousands of years the Jews awaited their Messiah.  During these moments of waiting for our Savior’s birth, it’s clear to me that God knew what He was doing when He gave us the gift of Mary.

“Jesus is the sun, and Mary is the dawn that announces His rising.” – Pope Francis

Advent is not unlike the heart of a mother.  A pregnant mother may tremble in the darkness, knowing her time has come.  And yet, and yet, there is a pinprick of light, of hope.  The time she awaits is at hand while on the other side of it, though she cannot fathom the depths nor the distance between here and there, the darkness will be like a distant memory.  What was it like… before?

The liturgical time of Advent is not only holy and profound, it is necessary.  What is light if there was never any darkness to fear?  What is joy if there was never any sorrow?  So too must a mother wait in darkness, never knowing how her life will be changed with the arrival of her child.  Nine long months, sometimes much longer if the child is adopted, can seem an interminable length of time.  Yet a mother knows that the waiting is necessary.

As Catholics, we celebrate the time of Advent by rejecting the cacophony of the “holiday season.”  We retreat inward, as a mother does, preparing our hearts and our homes for the arrival of A Very Important Guest.  There is time enough to rejoice when He arrives!  Now is a time of solemn wonder and awe.

Advent can be celebrated as many different ways as there are families who observe it.  For our family, these celebrations include a Jesse Tree, an Advent wreath, decorating our home for Christmas slowly and with reverent intention, and a simplifying of our outside obligations.  We spend more time together and less time running around, more time reading and less time doing.  Each Sunday we spend some time preparing our home: on the second Sunday of Advent we we buy a Christmas tree, the next we add lights, and on the final Sunday of Advent we add ornaments.  All with the purpose of receiving Christ as His people, ready and willing.

And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on all ages will call me blessed.  The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”  – Luke 1: 46-49

Advent is a time of darkness, of candles and whispered hymns.   O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.  The world is waiting with bated breath. People look East and sing today, Love the Lord is on his way!  The anticipation builds as the days draw nearer to Christmas.  Even our smallest child knows that something wonderful is approaching.  As a mother, the anticipation of what, of whom, we shall receive on Christmas Day resonates within the chambers of my heart.

But no matter if you are mother or father, single, married, or ordained, I invite you to spend Advent preparing to receive Jesus the way Mary did, by offering the gift He longs to receive above all : your heart.

image: The Annunciation, a 13th Century mosaic by Pietro Cavallini in S. Maria in Trastevere, Rome/Shutterstock 

Micaela Darr


Micaela lives with her husband and 4 children in Southern California. She homeschools during the day, and stays up way too late at night reading and writing, sometimes simultaneously.  She and her brood are still adjusting to life in California after 2 years in South Korea, so she blames most of her problems on jet lag.  You can read more from her at her blog, California to Korea (and back again).

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  • chaco

    Oh Micaela ! Praise God for a sister who shines light on the “Secret Recipe ” for Ultimate Joy; “We receive by giving”. And what greater Joy is there than giving Joy to a child ?[ Try to recall how it feels to make a little one laugh.] And what greater Joy can be transmitted to our Hearts when the Child Jesus smiles back at us for offerring Him our Hearts ? Sweet-Sweet Recipe. Thanks Sis.

  • anna

    Hi Micaela,
    I thought it would be the perfect time of day to jump on the computer and look for some more advent ideas since that will be here soon. I thought it was really neat to come across this sight and find that you and your family celebrate advent very similar to the way we do it. We decorate our tree very slowly too with white lights one week, the next our colorful lights and finally we decorate the tree. We also slowly decorate the house until it is complete covered in everything Christmassy. I love it! God bless you! Have a beautiful and holy Advent and a very merry Christmas.

  • Anne Cardozo Costa

    This is a beautiful reminder and wonderful way to begin Advent. Thanks

  • CG

    “it’s clear to me that God knew what He was doing when He gave us the gift of Mary.”
    Yes indeed!

    As St. Louis Marie de Montfort put it: “If Mary, who is the tree of life, is well cultivated in our soul by fidelity to the practices of this devotion, she will in due course bear fruit, and her fruit is none other than Jesus Christ. I see many devoted souls seeking Jesus Christ by one road or another; and often, when they have labored much throughout the night…to them we can say, “You have labored much but gained little.””

    Ave Maria!

  • Aileen

    This was beautiful. Thank you.

  • Thanks, Aileen. Have a blessed Advent.

  • CG, what a beautiful quote! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Thank you, Anne. I hope your Advent is full of joy.

  • Anna, isn’t it fun to share ideas about our faith? It’s one of my most favorite things. God bless you!

  • Chaco, thank you for your kind comment. I will be meditating on the child Jesus smiling at me, thanks to you. Have a blessed and holy Advent.

  • Camila

    Beautiful post Micaela! I recently meditated on this, advent, and what it means. It is my favorite season. Something about the waiting is special when you know the gift is so precious, I posted my thoughts on our little family blog….but your post touched my heart because I am 7 months pregnant and the anticipation is doubled! 🙂 Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Thank you, Camila! What a wonderful way to experience Advent: as Mary did! I’ll pray for your upcoming birth. Have a blessed Advent!