Tucked away in this season of waiting and expectation are a few profoundly pro-life messages.
The Immaculate Conception
The December 8 feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates life’s beginning in the womb of St. Anne. Even more, the feast acknowledges God’s action toward Mary, from the very first moments of her life. For the rest of believers, forgiveness of original sin occurs through the sacrament of Baptism, celebrated after birth. But for Mary, God spared her of original sin and concupiscence from the first moment she existed. By highlighting the conception of Mary, (and on March 25, the conception of Jesus) the Church conveys the teaching that life begins at conception.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, suggests another pro-life message during this Advent season. The miraculous impression left on St. Juan Diego’s tilma of La Virgen Morena contains many symbols of the Aztec culture. The black ribbon around Our Lady’s waist indicates she is with child, allowing us to call to mind Mary’s pregnancy and the sacredness of the womb that bore the son of the Eternal Father. The facts surrounding the practices of the Aztec religion at the time of Mary’s apparition also lend itself to emphasis the sacredness of life. The Aztecs sacrificed their own infants and children to their false gods. Then Our Lady enters in and points them to the God of Truth, guiding them to abandon those immoral practices. The pro-life movement has taken Our Lady of Guadalupe as its patronesses, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, houses a memorial to the unborn. The apparitions of Our Lady at Tepeyac Hill in Mexico, celebrated during the Advent season, remind all believers of the sacredness of human life.
The Advent Season
Every Advent is an anticipation of waiting in the final weeks and days of Mary’s pregnancy (in addition to our vigil awaiting the Lord’s return in glory). In the days of the O Antiphons, our liturgical readings sequentially lead us to Christ’s birth. We hear about miraculous conceptions in the lives of Elizabeth and Mary and the joy of John the Baptist leaping in Elizabeth’s womb. We see statues of Joseph leading the pregnant Mary on a donkey to Bethlehem, and some people re-live the Holy Family’s experience through the Las Posadas tradition. In these days of Advent, the whole world awaits the birth of an infant who will take away the sins of the world. We journey with the pregnant Mary and await the day the prophets foretold. Our liturgical observance conveys a subtle pro-life message as we wait with expectation. As we live these Advent days, be sure to celebrate life!