Advent Week 1 Reflections: Mary’s Vow and the Swaddling Clothes
The biblical account of the Annunciation makes up ch. 1 in The Advent Story. This has good reason behind it—Cora Evans, for all her mystical experiences, solidly remained a daughter of the Church. Private revelation enriches and does not supplant the deposit of faith revealed to the twelve Apostles. So at the beginning of this book of selections of Cora’s writings, it is fitting that the first chapter contains the Annunciation.
The message of the Archangel Gabriel brings eternal seeds to sow in first century Nazareth. It stretches from the messianic fulfillments of the Old Testament (“the throne of David his father”) through the end of time (“he will rule over the house of Jacob forever”). On top of that, the event of the Annunciation holds so much of the mystery of Christ in nascent form. His divinity, His identity as the Messiah, and His mission of salvation are all wrapped up in Gabriel’s message.
The second chapter of The Advent Story moves to Cora’s record of her visions. Two things stood out to me: Mary’s vow of virginity and the swaddling clothes.
Sadly, a vow of virginity today sounds like utter madness. The voluntary and accompanying tremendous sacrifice, stands out starkly. With everything we know from the dogmas of the Catholic Church, is it any surprise that an extraordinary person such as Mary would take a vow of virginity? The Church Fathers attested to Mary as ever-virgin.
As the world hurtles deeper into selfishness, vows of virginity are even more important as witnesses to Christ. The world has long since answered the question, is God enough to satisfy? Our modern age discards, or disregards the question at best. The faithful religious orders of sisters, brothers, and priests through the centuries stand as beacons of light in the darkness. The light is Christ, and Mary was the first to raise her Son’s beacon.
Cora’s vision includes not only Mary taking that vow, but the Annunciation taking place on the anniversary of that vow. It’s a beautiful detail that I hope makes us pause to reflect on our own lives. What were the instances where God arranged something so perfectly? Secular culture calls it serendipity, luck, or any number of things. For believing Christians, those instances are signs that our heavenly Father loves and cares for us.
The Royal Swaddling Clothes
The swaddling clothes stand out in St. Luke’s gospel, as one of the small details he frequently included. It’s an interesting thought that Cora’s vision presents to us: how did Mary come upon the swaddling clothes?
“Holy women, teachers at the school, or houses of David, were to weave and embroider these swaddling clothes for the kings who were to be born through the lineage of David. One special set was put aside every twenty five years for the birth of the Messiah whom they believed would be born to a virgin in the House of David.” (The Advent Story, pg. 17)
It cannot be overstated enough. For Jews, the coming of the Messiah was incredibly anticipated, desired, and cherished. Nothing would have been too much or too beautiful for the Messiah.
As we get ready for the coming of Jesus this Advent, Let’s not forget that Jesus is the King, and is due our love and our very best. In return for the gift of eternal life and the very love that flows between the Father and the Son, do we offer Him our best effort? Does our life of faith and charity resemble the royal swaddling clothes or something else?
The story of the swaddling clothes is a great representation of the primary goal of Advent: preparing for the Messiah. References to readiness and alertness abound in the New Testament. Here are some selections to reflect on as we enter Advent.
“Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” 1 Peter 3:15, RSVCE
This is a double exhortation to readiness: always to have hope, and always ready to give reason for that hope. This verse is cited frequently in connection to evangelization. In order to serve as a witness we must have hope and why we have it. The object of our hope is heaven, and the reason behind our hope should be the saving work that Christ has accomplished in us so far. In other words, always have Jesus before us.
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25:13
St. Matthew packed chapter 25 with Jesus’ teachings on readiness. First is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (v. 1-13), who await the arrival of the bridegroom. Second is the parable of the talents (v. 14-30) where servants are tasked with investing their master’s wealth while he travels. Each of those stories begins with an absent and awaited figure, and ends with judgment. The chapter closes with a vision of the general judgment at the end of time.
Underneath the stories and the details rests the reason why preparation is so important. At a day and time not of our choosing, it will be too late to change our manner of life. Sometimes it takes a metaphorical lightning bolt to make us aware of this.
“Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand.” Romans 13:11-12
St. Paul urges the Romans to awaken and continues on to exhort them to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” in the moral life. He gives his readers (and us) both what we need to do and the reason why. Salvation is not a distant reality but right here, right now. Jesus says to every one of us, at every moment: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
Let the visions of Cora Evans serve as a companion and inspiration during this season of Advent. May all roads lead to a deeper union with our Blessed Lord!