Although two weeks of Advent have already gone by, now is the perfect time to intensify our efforts not to give in to the constant noise and flashing images that the world sets before our eyes, but direct our gaze, together with Mary, in anticipation, toward Bethlehem.
You may not know that there is a little known Feast Day coming up on December 18th, which begins the octave leading up to Christmas. It is called the Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (longing to see His Face). The Feast has it’s origin in the year 656 in Spain and spread throughout the Middle Ages. Because of an ancient law of the Church which prohibited the celebration of feasts during Lent, the Church in Spain transferred the Feast of the Annunciation from March 25th to the season of Advent. The Tenth Council of Toledo in 656 assigned the feast to the 18th of December. It was kept as a solemn octave, eight days leading to Christmas. When the ancient laws regarding feasts were changed, the Annunciation was celebrated twice, on March 25th and December 18th. In some places in Spain it is still celebrated on both days.
The following is a portion of a meditation, which Rev. Lawrence Lovasik, S.V.D., offers for this feast, in a book called Our Lady’s Feast Days:
“Mary, Your life with Jesus was one of the purest, most fervent, most perfect emotions of love to God, whom you sheltered within yourself. How can I ever imagine the emotions of longing and most eager expectation of the Birth of the Divine Child! How great must have been that longing! You were longing to see the Face of God and to be happy in the vision. You were soon really to see the Face of God, the created image of divine perfection, the sight of which rejoices heaven and earth, from which all beings derive life and joy; the Face whose features enraptured God from all eternity, the Face for which all ages had expectantly yearned. You were to see this Face unveiled, in all the beauty and grace of childhood as the face of your own child.”
The Triduum begins Dec. 15 – 17th and may be continued until Christmas. The prayer for this beautiful Feast Day is as follows:
“Most just indeed it is, O holy Mother of God, that we should unite in that ardent desire which you had to see Him, who had been concealed for nine months in your chaste womb; to know the features of this Son of the heavenly Father, who is also your own; to come to that blissful hour of His birth, which will give glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of good-will. Yes, dear Mother, the time is fast approaching, though not fast enough to satisfy your desires and ours. Make us re-double our attention to the great mystery; complete our preparation by your powerful prayers for us, so that when the solemn hour has come, our Jesus may find no obstacle to His entrance into our hearts. Amen.”
There are two important aspects of Advent mentioned in this prayer that are necessary for us to prepare our hearts for Jesus on Christmas Day: preparation and penance (that Jesus may “find no obstacle in our hearts.”) Sometimes the greatest obstacle to Jesus entering our hearts is our own self-love. Let us have confidence in Mary’s intercession to help us overcome this self-love, removing all obstacles to her Son, so that our hearts will be prepared to receive Him Christmas morning and experience with joy the redemptive love shining of the Face of the Infant Jesus.