we cannot openly welcome the Savior who knocks at the door to our hearts and who thirsts to enter within the secret chamber of our souls, that we may "have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10). Mary's "yes" is first spoken, our "yes" follows her example.
Furthermore, we can see how our lives are to model Mary's way of life and follow the path she herself has trodden, by examining the progressive stages that are a normal part of the Christian life of faith in and love for the Son of God:
Through the sacrament of Baptism, we begin our journey, as if passing through a doorway in which we are "conceived" into a new creation: we are freed from original sin by the saving merits of Jesus Christ, given the gift of the Holy Spirit, incorporated into the Church, and made a member of the divine family. In living a life of holiness as true Christian disciples, aided by the Holy Spirit, we grow in grace and thus grow in perfection. At the end of our earthly life, as we pass through the thin veil of death and (perhaps via the purification of Purgatory) enter into heavenly glory, we are confirmed in grace and attain to a state of "immaculate conception" in which there is no longer any stain of sin within us.
Just as Mary embraced the Word Incarnate with totality, we are to open ourselves to Christ completely and unconditionally. In doing so, we begin our "pilgrimage of faith" that leads toward our final destination in God. As Blessed Pope John Paul II observed, the Virgin Mary's "exceptional pilgrimage of faith represents a constant point of reference for the Church, for individuals and for communities, for peoples and nations and, in a sense, for all humanity" (RM 6) Just as Mary cannot be understood apart from her Son, the journey of the Church cannot be understood apart from Mary.
The Catechism of The Catholic Church explains: "What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ" (487).
This Advent, let us venerate Mary for her exemplary purity; let us seek her loving and motherly intercession with filial devotion, that, with the help of her prayers, we may be brought into greater union with her Son, and thus follow the path of faith and light which she herself has trodden. Let us praise the Father for having made the Virgin Mary his most precious daughter and our spiritual mother; let us adore the Son whom Mary bore in her womb, whose sacrificial death redeemed humanity, and whose love constantly awaits us; and let us embrace the Holy Spirit, the sweet Virgin's Spouse, whose gifts of grace and love transform us with wisdom, understanding, knowledge and fortitude, enabling us to better follow the journey of Mary and therefore embark on holiness as a way of life.
F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at joyintruth.com
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Advent, Virgin Mary, Immaculate Conception, conceived without sin, grace, Mary reveals her Son, Jesus, Son of Mary, Son of God and Advent, season of advent, F. K. Bartels
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