Theotokos–Carrying Christ our Light

 “Greetings,  favored one! The Lord is with you. . . Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.” –The angel Gabriel to Mary, in Luke 1:28, 30-31.

If you’ve ever been on crutches, you know that carrying things is a challenge. I broke my leg a few weeks ago, and find myself stuffing cans of pop into my sweater pockets, shuffling dishes along the countertop, and sliding books along the floor using my crutch as a hockey stick (apologies to librarians!). Objects tucked into my waistband tumbled to the floor so many times I wished I was a kangaroo with a built-in giant pocket.

In the midst of this, Advent began and I found myself thinking about the mystery of the Incarnation. It would not have mattered if Mary had used crutches: the baby Jesus was growing deep within her womb and naturally went with her everywhere she went.

Theotokos--detail from the Virgin of the Sign Icon

In the Eastern Christian Church, the mother of Jesus is often called Theotokos, a Greek title that means “God-Bearer.” Mary carried Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, within her being in a literal sense, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Early church fathers observed that while Christ was truly divine, his truly human side grew out of Mary’s flesh and blood.

That a woman of 2,000 years ago carried Christ within her, feeding him from her very body through the umbilical cord, is reason enough to be filled with awe and wonder. However, this amazing spiritual truth does not end there. For Mary, as premiere disciple, is a model or “spiritual type” of what we are also called to do. We are to carry Christ within our hearts and souls, to “give birth” by bringing his words of mercy and his compassionate presence to all those we encounter.

In this manner, the words of the angel Gabriel are also addressed to each one of us: “Greetings, favored one!” (“Hail, Mary, full of grace!”). Each one of us, and all of us together, are “favored” by God, shown by the superabundant love of Christ by his dying for the whole world.  As a result, we, too, are favored, that is, graced by God,  and chosen to bring the Christ our Light into the world.

May God bless you this Advent and Christmas season–and may the Spirit empower you more and more each day to “give birth” to Christ in the world.

Until next time, Amen!

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