Early Wednesday mornings, I spend an hour in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. As part of my prayer, I typically say a rosary, and since it’s Advent, today I said the Joyful Mysteries.
As I was going through them, it struck me: every “joyful” mystery also came with a double helping of sorrow or anxiety.
I mean, think about it:
Mary is a very young woman, not even married yet, and first of all, she comes face to face with a VERY SCARY angel, who has to start off by telling her not to fear, and THEN tells her she is going to be the mother of God’s son. No pressure. Yikes!
Immediately after the above, while still in early pregnancy (not pleasant, from what I hear), she sets off on a long journey on foot to visit and assist her cousin. I mean, it’s wonderful that Elizabeth is having a baby, but…man, how tiring and miserable would that have been?
I imagine Mary preparing a space for the baby. Maybe Joseph made a beautiful cradle. Maybe she had little clothes laid by. And then? She ends up giving birth in a stinky stable, far from home, likely without many relatives around. Poor Mary!
The Presentation at the Temple
A few weeks after Jesus is born, Mary and Joseph, as good Jews, go to present their child at the Temple. There they are reminded that they are poor (meh, turtledoves are fine–we know you guys are broke), and THEN hear a bunch of scary prophesies about their new son.
The Finding at the Temple
If you’ve ever been somewhere very crowded–the mall, an airport, a fair–and had a child disappear for even a few minutes, you can identify with Mary and Joseph’s panic. Except it wasn’t a few minutes! Jesus disappeared on them, and they searched for DAYS! Granted, they did find him, but…goodness!
Yes, there is also joy in each of these if you look deeply, but mostly the joy came not from the situation, but from their acceptance of God’s will for them, not getting riled up by the circumstances.
Advent can be tough for me. I’m single, I don’t have kids. I get melancholy remembering wonder-filled evenings as a kid when we’d light the Advent candles and turn off the lights, and read a prayer by candle light with all of us elbowing and jostling to poke at the candles.
I miss all the saint days for which we had fun traditions: putting out our shoes for Saint Nicholas on December 6th, making pinatas for Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th, candles for Saint Lucy on December 13th.
I miss baking cookies as a family, making fudge, making Christmas decorations.
I’ve spent long years wishing I could see all these things through the eyes of my own children, which doesn’t seem likely now.
Maybe I’m crazy, but it helps a little to realize that even some of the most wonderful happenings in all of time weren’t untainted by loneliness and anxiety and sorrow. It also makes me a little more inclined to look deeper at my own days, to find that kernel of beauty and joy that I might otherwise miss. I want to value the moments I do get to spend with family–nieces and nephews and siblings, instead of burying myself in envy. I want to pick up an Advent wreath and start a few traditions of my own, even if I do so alone. I want to value the freedom I have to stop by the adoration chapel before or after work now and again this month.
Sometimes, joy is where you find it.