Pregnancy changed everything. I set aside the junk food that had been the cornerstone of my diet. I was careful to take prenatal vitamins every morning, to get enough sleep, and to avoid dying my hair. Everything revolved around doctor’s appointments, and I followed each medical recommendation to the letter. Periodically, I studied the books that detailed the gestational changes taking place in my body and in the tiny life that I carried within me. I knew when the heart began beating and the toenails formed. I knew when the baby was developed enough to have the hiccoughs, suck her thumb, or breathe on her own should she come early.
Everything focused on getting the child safely born.
I haven’t thought about those days for a long time. But then I read a book entitled Mary, the Church at the Source by Cardinal Ratzinger. One passage caught my attention, and I actually put the book down for a few minutes and let the words sink in.
“Only a conversion to the sign of the woman, to the feminine dimension of the Church, rightly understood, will bring about the new opening to the creative power of the spirit. . . “(59-60).
What does this mean? I remember saying that question out loud while sitting alone in my bedroom, the book open on my lap, my spirit sensing a fantastic mystery embedded in those words. For some reason, my thoughts turned for a moment to each of my pregnancies, and I considered what this quote and pregnancy might have in common.
Like pregnancy, there was something profound and mysterious and altogether procreative at the center of being converted to the sign of the woman.
Maybe one can never fully grasp what this teaching means and what it could potentially unfurl for the Kingdom of God, but I’m wondering, especially during Advent this year, what might happen if I truly embrace the challenge to be converted to the sign of the woman, if I focus everything on birthing Jesus Christ to the world.
Of all the seasons of the year, Advent is infused with Marian mystery. If there is ever a season that lends itself to greater understanding of this special conversion, it is Advent.
To be like Mary, to give a yes with no strings, to offer a love with no bounds, to live a life of holiness, free of shadow or stain, that is how one is converted to the sign of the woman.
I must realize that everything matters, what I eat (feast days and fast days), what I hear (homilies and holiness of saints), where I go (Adoration and Mass and Confession), how I fully engage the season of Advent (prayer without ceasing and daily offering myself to God and others). It is all-consuming and very much like the season of pregnancy.
There is a quiet joy and hope-filled anticipation in my spirit this year. To birth Jesus Christ to the world, to do all and be all and give all for Him, if this is our ultimate mission, we can be sure the effort won’t be in vain. God will show up, like He did in Bethlehem, like He did when a simple virgin gave her Fiat to the Lord Most High.
Don’t take my word for it. Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) says that a conversion to the sign of the woman will provide an opening for the creative power of the spirit. Doesn’t that get you excited? Doesn’t it make you want to find out for yourself what it might mean in your life? It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, young or old, married or single. We can all look to the Blessed Mother and begin to understand what it means to be converted to the sign of the woman and to usher in the opening for God’s creative power.
This Advent, take the challenge and bring Jesus Christ to your world. Carry Him with great joy and be ready to birth Him to the world around you.