Grand images of Mary abound. The church fathers portray her as the “second Eve,” the faithful antithesis of the first woman. Humbly assenting to God’s redemptive project, this Mary participates in the remaking of the world as the glorified mother of Christ, helping to undo the bondage the first woman helped to establish.

The fathers also liken Mary to the church and sometimes locate her at its root, noting the correspondence between the spiritualized mother of God and the Spirit-pervaded church, both of which give birth.

In the Eastern verse of the latter patristic period, Mary takes on titanic proportions, receiving effusive praise as the new ark and the fire-kissed mountain exceeding Sinai, the hallowed site of an emergent new reality. These portraits of Mary stress her cosmic significance, enclosing the Word and the new creation in her womb. These visions find stars, swirling worlds, and incipient victory therein. 

Something spectacular undoubtedly occurs in Mary. In her flesh, she carries God made flesh, partaking in a drama involving all flesh. Through a pneumatic meeting of heaven and earth, Mary houses and brings forth the body of Christ, the broken and risen body which makes us (and her!) the body of Christ. 

All these miraculous relations and symmetries enjoy a special prominence around Christmas, when all eyes turn to Mary, the girl of Magnificat and manger fame. The holiday, with its emphasis on light amidst darkness, with its soft and nostalgic glow, inspires contemplation of the effulgent mother birthing the greatest light. 

In our quiet exercises, as we sit in a land so long lost in darkness, let us think on Mary and the daylight she bore as an inhabitant of a land likewise afflicted. Let us see her light, her moonlight to Christ’s sunlight, in twinkling lights buffeted by the wintry wind, in bulbs and flashes enlivening the gloom. Let us give ourselves to the silence that must have hung in her angel-illumined chamber, to awestruck silence before God. Let us be made radiant and pensive like Mary.