Someone recently shared with me the new interactive “Window to the Womb” website, on which you can watch an animation of and read about the development of the child in the womb. After viewing this website for the first time, I received an inspiration befitting the season of Advent: I adjusted the child’s name to “Jesus.”
This proved to be probably the most moving and fruitful Advent practice I have ever embraced. As I watched the Child Jesus grow in the womb, I entered in a new way into the expectancy of Mary as she awaited the birth of her Son and her God.
As I saw the baby’s tiny heart beat at only five weeks gestation, I thought in awe, “There is the Sacred Heart — so small!” I read that by 20 weeks, the child begins to hear sounds and is especially comforted by the sound of the mother’s heartbeats. From His earliest moments in His Mother’s womb even until now, Jesus has been consoled by the loving beats of the Immaculate Heart of His Mother. And at 36 weeks in the womb, He began to be comforted by the sweet sound of her voice.
Never could a union between mother and child have been so strong as the union of Mary, the sinless one, and Jesus, the only begotten Son of the Father, to whom her will and her life were perfectly conformed. With what joy and expectation, with what peace and tranquility must she have awaited the birth of the Messiah, for whom she had so longed!
What about us? How are we approaching the coming Solemnity of Christmas? I recently overheard a conversation in which a man, upon being asked whether he was ready for Christmas, proceeded to explain why he was not quite ready; every reason on his list was someone for whom he still needed to buy a gift. And when I had been asked the same question moments before, my reason for not being ready was all the papers I still need to grade and would like to finish before the break. What are our preparations for Christmas in these last few days? Are they simply preparations for gift-giving or for crossing things off our to-do lists, or are we also preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ?
If we focus mostly on the external preparations, we are likely to feel harried. Let us take instead for our example the joyful, peaceful stance of the Virgin Mary. If we set aside each day a few minutes of extra personal prayer time with the Lord and His Mother, perhaps meditating on Him growing in the silence of her womb, we will be able better to prepare our hearts for His coming.
As the Christ Child was consoled by the beat of His Mother’s heart, may you be consoled this Christmas season by the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, alive and beating for you in heaven. May your time with them in prayer draw you more deeply into the joy and peace that only our Newborn King can bring.
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.