Today, seven days before Christmas, is the traditional feast of The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I love the very idea of this day. For one thing, the word "expectation" serves a double meaning: we are soon, very soon, expecting the birth of Our Savior, and His mother was expecting, in the maternity sense. The significance of this being that she was pregnant ~ very pregnant ~ at this time. And, while any mother knows the range of feelings, from joy to terror, we experience when we are soon to give birth, we can only guess at how Our Blessed Mother was feeling at this time. But for her more than any other woman in history, the word "expecting" carried the virtues of faith and hope with it.
And it also implies preparation.
But consider the situation Mary and Joseph were in. They were obliged by the law of the land to travel approximately 70 miles, from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to be counted for the Roman census. It probably took them between four days and a week to make the journey, so she would likely have been on her way at this time, a week before Jesus' birth. Even considering the painless birth she experienced (as told by the mystics), I can't imagine Our Blessed Mother did not feel awkward and uncomfortable at this time, as any of us would. Just imagine climbing up onto the back of a donkey when you're nine months pregnant!
But Mary, the Mother of God, defined the virtues of faith and hope, and her resignation was always perfect.
She surely had that mothering instinct to prepare or "nest," but the circumstances would have made proper cleaning and arranging impossible. She undoubtedly swept away the cobwebs, and St. Joseph must have brought in fresh hay. Their poverty prevented her having a proper bed to lay her Child in, so she had to settle for cleaning out a feeding trough and softening it with some of the hay her husband had brought in. Having the forethought of any good mother, Mary had brought along the traditional cloths, rough but clean, in which to swaddle the dear little One. No extensive infant trousseau awaited this Child, nothing made of fine fabric, no toys. This mother could not even provide the warmth of proper shelter for her baby.
But her resignation was always perfect.
And the preparations she made were perfect.
They were perfect because the scene that Heaven looked down upon glowed with the light of Mary's perfect and humble heart. The hardships she endured were meaningless behind the perfect love and joy that blossomed from her perfect faith and hope. That humble stable in Bethlehem shone with a brightness that lit the universe through to eternity.
Dear Expectant Mother, who so perfectly prepared for the birth of your Son, please help me prepare my soul to be a fitting cradle for Him on His birthday!