Our Lady of Expectation: The Last Days of Advent

Our Lady of Expectation: The Last Days of Advent
By Fr. James Sullivan, O.P.

This brass statuette surmounts the lectern in the Dominican House of Studies, Washington DC. Our Lady is shown pregnant and in a posture of prayer; she is also shown as the Seat of Wisdom.
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.

In our chapel at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC there is a beautiful golden lectern standing right in the middle of the 120 choir stalls. At the top of this lectern is a statue of the Blessed Mother. From beneath this statue, Scripture is frequently proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Hours. It is a common-enough statue of the Blessed Virgin in many ways. She wears a crown to signify that she is the Queen of heaven and earth—the Queen of saints and of angels. She wears a long gown to show that the Lord had clothed her completely in sinlessness—even from the first moment of her conception. And her hands are raised in prayer just as they would have been many times throughout her life. But in another way this is a very uncommon statue of Our Lady because it portrays her as being pregnant. It is rare to see an image of Mary depicting her during her pregnancy. Those nine months though were the reason she was saved from any stain of sin, so that she could be the Mother of God. In that short time she was filled with the Word of Life. Within her, she carried the Savior of the world. She carried God himself.

Each day at the House of Studies all of the friars pass by this Pregnant Virgin, Our Lady of Expectation, every time they enter the chapel for prayer. Whether the community is praying the Rosary or celebrating the Mass, whether they are chanting the Psalms or are silent in meditative prayer, Our Lady remains in the middle of them, pregnant, and full of expectation.

After six years of passing by her myself there are two lessons that Our Lady taught me. The first is that each one of us is called to be as close to Christ as a pregnant mother is to her child within her. This physical union of two lives is really one which defies explanation. The mother nourishing the child with her very own life. The baby relying completely and solely on his mother. This is how close Christ desires us to be to him. Christ nourishes us with his own Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He calls us to depend on him alone for all the things in our life.

But this statue also offers us another lesson, and that is, how we are to have this intimate union with Christ. Basically, it is to start where he started. Christ calls each one of us to be the sons and daughters of his own Mother. Because He shares everything he has with us, he wants us to mature within Mary’s maternal protection and care, relying on her just as he did. To be united to Christ means to be united to Mary as well.

Our Lady of Expectation brings this Advent to a close with the gentle invitation to come closer to her, to draw closer to her Son. We are prepared to celebrate Christmas with renewed minds and hearts, with our own hands lifted in prayer as we thank the Lord for all that he has done for us!

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