A Pilgrimage through Advent
Updated: Dec 21, 2021
During this season of Advent, a popular Catholic tradition is setting up the manger scene with Mary and Joseph craning their necks toward an empty manger. The newborn Messiah has not yet arrived. They wait in hopeful anticipation. By virtue of this popular nativity scene setup, one can say that Christ is not yet here.
And yet, Christ was there. Mary and Joseph were in the midst of the Incarnate Messiah already. Hence, Elizabeth proclaims jubilantly, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:42-43). The Lord is already incarnate within Mary at the Visitation, and so she is called “mother of my Lord” even before the nativity scene.
What does this mean? As Mary had Christ already within her, so do we in this Advent season. After the Incarnation, our pilgrimages, just like Mary and Joseph, are walking with God toward God. It is not as if we are going to meet Him, but that we are meeting Him. This form of pilgrimage, as one walking with God to God, is different than other forms of pilgrimage. For the Jewish people during the time of Christ, pilgrimaging to the Temple for the various Jewish feasts meant going to the holiest place on earth where the Presence of God dwelt. Yet, for Mary and Joseph, when they visited the Temple, they were bringing the incarnate Presence of God with them. Rather than see God just in the Temple, they were seeing Him in their very flesh.
Advent, then, is a continual, daily awareness of meeting Him who is already with us—in the Eucharist, in the people we meet, and in our prayer. It is being with the Holy Family who know they are with the awaited Messiah and treasure the presence of Him already.
To pilgrimage toward Christmas like Mary and Joseph is to pilgrimage toward Christ with Christ already within one’s heart. The nativity scene of each of our hearts contains Him even now. To have a mind and heart that is continual aware of Christ’s presence already is one that is ready to welcome His Second Coming.