[Here is another excerpt from my book, A Place Prepared by God, concerning Mary and the nativity of Our Lord.]
Mary is at the heart of the mystery of our salvation because she is the one who gave us our Savior as man. This is obvious and incontestable: if the mission of the Son of God was to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, He had to be a man to make this offering. Theoretically, God could have saved us in some other way. But since Christianity isn’t a theoretical religion, we must deal with what God actually did decide to do, the way He in fact chose to save us. In this concrete, actual design and act of God, the Mother is indispensable.
We usually think of Mary’s birth-giving as her gift to the world of its Savior, and this of course is true. That is what we are accustomed to celebrate at Christmas. But there is another aspect that we perhaps do not reflect upon sufficiently: she is also giving the Father’s Son back to Him as man. Adrienne von Speyr explains:
“[Mary’s] Son is the one who comes from the Father and returns to him. She was appointed to her motherhood only in order to be able to give the Father this Son as incarnate. But she gives him to God thus: she leaves him his will, which is to give himself completely to the world. Thus she gives him, at Christmas, both to the world and to the Father. She gives him to the world created by God that it may be redeemed, and she gives him to the Father that he may redeem the world. She fulfills a double mission in a single act: she gives the one Son to God and to the world—to the world that cries out for redemption and to God who longs for its return. She stands at the focal point of the double longing, God’s and the world’s, for redemption.”
Far from being a disposable instrument in the divine plan, Mary is shown here not only to have a personal and actively cooperating role in the very life of “the true light” who “was coming into the world” (Jn. 1:9), but also to be the human source of the double gift of the Incarnate Savior to God and to the world. She is indeed the “place” prepared by God for this very thing, the “stage,” as it were, for this divine drama. God glorifies her for giving Him his Son incarnate, and we glorify her for giving us the Son of God in a way that makes his saving sacrifice possible.
What must it have been like, that profound moment of Mary’s giving birth to the Son of God in the flesh? We can’t even begin to know the fullness of it, but we can still enrich our meditations by trying to go deeper. She must have gone into an ecstasy of love and divine communion, not knowing whether she was in Heaven or still on Earth. She was totally and mystically enraptured in the glory, power, joy, light, and immaculate holiness of God. Something utterly unprecedented was happening: God was entering the world as a human being, and He was coming forth from Mary’s own body! Her experience is beyond all words and concepts, beyond anything hitherto known in mystical communion and love, the utter surrender to the torrential divine love that bore fruit in the God-man Jesus by the consent and personal oblation of Mary and the power of the Holy Spirit. The fullness of time had come (see Gal. 4:4), the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies, the realization of the eternal dream of God, who loved the world so much that He sent his only Son as man to redeem us. Henceforth this Jewish maiden is no longer merely Mary of Nazareth, but the holy and pure God-bearer, whom all ages would call blessed.
“Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). Her insertion into such transcendent and incomprehensible mysteries is more than anyone, even the holiest of saints, can easily or quickly grasp. What Mary experienced in her virginal conceiving and birth-giving by the power of the Most High provided endless material for contemplation in love, gratitude, and wonder. St. Luke more than once characterizes her this way, and so we get at least of hint of the depths of the contemplative Heart of Mary.
The evangelist tells us that Mary pondered these mysteries in her heart right after the shepherds made known to her and to St. Joseph what happened to them while they were keeping their midnight watch. Mary and Joseph marveled at what was told them. Then came the time for more quiet contemplation, after the shepherds had departed, praising and glorifying God. That is when Mary perhaps thought about angels. They appeared to shepherds, having come from Heaven to announce the birth of her child! An angel had appeared to Mary as well, announcing the conception and prophesying the glories of the Divine King to be born. She was caught up in the life of Heaven, so that she could see, as it were, angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man, glorifying God because of Him, and mixing in the affairs of men.
There was no turning back now; she would never lead a “normal” life, even though outwardly the raising of her Child would be relatively uneventful. Once she said “yes” to God, her mission was given to her, and it would eventually take her to the Cross and to the Upper Room, and ultimately to a throne next to her Son’s, where she would be forever glorified as the Queen Mother of the King of Glory in the heavenly Paradise. But for now, she looked into the tiny eyes of God the Newborn, and as she held Him close she smiled, with boundless love and awe, as He instinctively sought her breast. Has any woman ever had more profound mysteries to ponder in her heart?