Pregnancy is many things—exciting, nauseating, joyful, physically challenging—but it is also a vocational reality. As we await the birth of the Son of God through this Advent, we focus upon the maternity of Mary. One thing we can learn from her is what it means to be chosen for motherhood.
Editor’s note: The following is the first part of a two-part excerpt from The Gift of Birth: Spiritual Direction for Expecting Mothers, to be published in January 2016. Part 1 (Choosing Wonder: Learning You’re Pregnant) may be found here.
by Susan Windley-Daoust
“Let it be with me according to your word”: On chosenness
The other piece that can be easily lost in absorbing the news that you hold a new life within you is that another announcement came with “you’re pregnant”—that is, you are a mother. Not you will be a mother, but you are a mother. Even if you miscarry in the next hour, you are always and forever a mother.
Motherhood is a vocation. We are used to understanding the priesthood or religious life as a vocation, a calling from God. But the truth of the Church is that all people are called through their baptism for discipleship, as well as called to a particular vocation in life. There is a reason the marriage vows ask: “Will you accept children lovingly from God…?” You declared an openness to new life and the fruitfulness that can come from the love between you and your beloved. Every sexual act presumes that openness to gift.
If that language seems a little too heady for you, try this instead: God wants you to be a mother. The meeting of that sperm and that egg was not random. At the very moment you realized you were pregnant, God was busy knitting the child together in your womb, beautifully, fearfully, wonderfully made.
All vocations come from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God chose the prophets of old and called them by name, and every prophet responded “Here am I, Lord.” And when we recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday, we name the Holy Spirit “the Lord, the giver of life.” In a similar way, the Holy Spirit has worked perceptibly in your life, calling you by name to motherhood, accepting your offer of openness to life, and creating a new being for God’s kingdom. You are chosen to carry this child, and to be a mother.
Note how Mary responded: Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. She responded like a prophet (Here am I), like a disciple (the servant of the Lord), and with acceptance (let it be). She did not resist her chosenness; instead, she trusted God. Do not question your abilities or worthiness. There is time to address what needs healing in your life. But the first step is to trust God.
Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
As we know, Mary went quickly to visit a relative with another unexpected pregnancy—the older and presumed barren Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s child (John the Baptist) leaps in her womb at Mary’s approach, and Elizabeth remarks, “You had faith!” Mary’s response is to turn the attention to God in a song of wonder and praise:
…“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)
Part of living without fear means to trust God. Mary’s song is a hymn of trust and joy in the power and goodness of God. After all, why do we praise God? Yes, it is God’s due. But it is also because when we sing in praise we open ourselves to God’s inflowing life and goodness. To praise is to embrace the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God himself helps us put aside our doubt and fear, and trust in God’s plan for our lives.
Susan Windley-Daoust teaches theology at Saint Mary’s University. She is the author of Theology of the Body, Extended: The Spiritual Signs of Birth, Impairment, and Dying (Lectio Publishing), which was awarded first place in the small press category at the 2015 Catholic Press Association awards.
Get an e-mail when The Gift of Birth is available
You’ll be notified by e-mail when The Gift of Birth is available for purchase in January 2016.