There’s a verse in “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” that goes, “And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.” Sometime nearing New Years, I find that sentiment not entirely alien.
The Twelve Days of Christmas: Unwrapping the Gifts by Br. Curtis Almquist offers thoughtful readings for the twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany. In contrast to the marketing promises rampant in the uber-commercial Christmas season, Almquist raises up spiritual gifts that truly fulfill and satisfy, gifts like love, forgiveness, joy, hope and companionship. The chapter on companionship comes along on the 9th day, right about when I find myself humming that particular verse of the aforementioned carol.
I have enjoyed this little book repeatedly for several years, but the first time I read it, I was in particularly ragged shape approaching day 9. My husband had left me to handle our three pre-teens solo while he took a football trip with friends, and upon his return the seemingly unrelenting stream of requests and complaints had me in a state of mind for retreat. On the verge of tears, I barricaded myself in our bathroom and turned on the shower in hopes of being left alone long enough to read the short chapter. I was not especially receptive, however. Companionship was the last thing I wanted at that particular juncture.
Imagine my relief, then, when the company Almquist served up was that of Mary, mother of Jesus. As one chosen to carry an inconceivably great mission, she knew fear. As a low born unwed pregnant teenager, she knew disgrace and the humiliation of being misunderstood. As a courageous companion to her son in his suffering, she knew grief. When I pondered how profound her suffering, my woes seemed small.
Moreover, when I pondered her suffering, it revealed itself to be on the very same ground as her extraordinary blessing. The inextricable interlacing of suffering with blessing that Mary represents opened my heart in that moment to the blessing of children tangled up with my suffering exhaustion. Without even leaving the sanctuary of my bathroom, spending time with Mary that morning soothed my angst and filled my heart with gratitude for the people I call family.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God: Pray for us sinners now
and at the hour of our death.
Join the conversation. How do you encounter the interlacing of blessing and suffering in your journey?
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