By Most Reverend Robert P. Maginnis

Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia

When you walk through an art gallery, it is common to see couches opposite some paintings so people can sit and really “drink in” the beauty before them. The skill of “drinking in” a picture requires time and discipline. Works of art need more than a passing glance to be appreciated.

There are many figures that we could reflect on during this Advent season. This reflection will offer us time to “drink in” one of the main characters of the Christmas story – Mary. We will look at Mary, not with a passing glance but rather study the ways she lived the mysteries of her life.

Just as we “drink in” a work of art, we are also invited through Mary’s example to “drink in” the presence of God in our life. Scripture uses the word “pondering” twice and reminds us that Mary “pondered” certain events in her life. In Luke 1:29, she pondered the greeting the angel said to her. As a young virgin, what could this greeting mean? Who was she to be so favored by the Lord?

In Luke 2:51, she pondered the events of Jesus in the Temple. Jesus seemed unconcerned at their distress over losing Him. What was the “Father’s business” that Jesus had to attend to? How long would it be before He left her and Joseph and the security of His home at Nazareth?

While Scripture doesn’t mention it specifically, I am sure that Mary also pondered the miracle at Cana (John 2:1). Jesus said, “My time has not yet come.” When would His “time come?” And what was her role in encouraging Him to begin it? In Mark 3:31, Mary ponders the words, “Who is my mother?” Does doing the will of God forge stronger bonds than blood relationships?

Even in His death, she was forced to sit and ponder the mystery of this violent death. Why did it have to happen this way? Will the sword in my heart ever go away? What does “resurrection and life” mean when death is all around?

Pondering, in the biblical sense, means to “lean into” that which is not understood, to “sit under” an unexplained event, to “learn from” that which is painful. In her prayer life, Mary pondered, allowing herself to be vulnerable before God. She surrendered her control of time and exchanged it for waiting on God’s time.

Like Mary, let us take time, this Advent, to “ponder” those beliefs or realities in our lives that we struggle to understand so that we can grow though them.

“Let us walk together with her in prayer and accept the repeated invitation that the Advent liturgy addresses to us to remain in expectation – watchful and joyful expectation – for the Lord will not delay: He comes to set His people free from sin.”

– Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI, Dec. 11, 2005