Note: Join us each Sunday during Advent for an excerpt from Pope Benedict’s book Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives.
First Sunday of Advent:
“In one of his Advent homilies, Bernard of Clairvaux offers a stirring presentation of the drama of this moment. After the error of our first parents, the whole world was shrouded in darkness, under the dominion of death. Now God seeks to enter the world anew. He knocks at Mary’s door. He needs human freedom. The only way he can redeem man, who was created free, is by means of a free “yes” to his will. In creating freedom, he made himself in a certain sense dependent upon man. His power is tied to the unenforceable “yes” of a human being. So Bernard portrays heaven and earth as it were holding its breath at this moment of the question addressed to Mary. Will she say yes? She hesitates . . . will her humility hold her back? Just this once—Bernard tells her—do not be humble but daring! Give us your “yes”! This is the crucial moment when, from her lips, from her heart, the answer comes: “Let it be to me according to your word.” It is the moment of free, humble yet magnanimous obedience in which the loftiest choice of human freedom is made.
Mary becomes a mother through her “yes.” The Church Fathers sometimes expressed this by saying that Mary conceived through her ear—that is to say: through her hearing. Through her obedience, the Word entered into her and became fruitful in her. In this connection, the Fathers developed the idea of God’s birth in us through faith and baptism, in which the Lógos comes to us ever anew, making us God’s children. For example, we may recall the words of Saint Irenaeus: “How shall man pass into God, unless God has first passed into man? How was mankind to escape this birth into death, unless he were born again through faith, by that new birth from the Virgin, the sign of salvation that is God’s wonderful and unmistakable gift?”
Excerpted from Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Joseph Ratzinger. Copyright © 2013 by Joseph Ratzinger. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.