When we are waiting for the return of a long absent friend, for instance at a train station or airport, we strain our eyes as we attempt to pick him out of the crowd of people, wondering perhaps whether he will look the same as when we last saw him, whether we will even recognize him. We seek his face in the crowd, but have misgivings when we see someone who looks similar. Our imagination strains to recreate how he looked when we last saw him, to suggest how he might look now.
Something similar can happen even when we await someone we’ve never seen — we imagine what her features may be, how her voice will sound, what mannerisms she may exhibit. This is particular poignant, I imagine, for a mother who awaits the arrival of her unborn child. She feels the presence of the baby, kicking or lounging about as the case may be, but can only imagine what he may look like, how he might coo or cry, who he will resemble most. During the months of waiting, the mother longs to see the face of her child.
As we await the coming of the baby Jesus this Advent season, we have in a way both kinds of longing. The one we await is a traveller from a far-away land, who has existed since before time began, with God and in God, leaving sign posts concerning himself in Moses and in the Prophets–and yet he comes to us as a little baby, whose countenance has been formed anew in the womb of the Virgin Mary. As Mary awaits the birth of her son, she eagerly looks forward to seeing his face. She already has heard the holy name of Jesus, and has perhaps pronounced it, at least to her betrothed, who knows it also. Now she awaits the revelation of his holy face, the face of the child she has been told is the son of God. “Seek the face of the Lord always,” she prays. “Let the light of your countenance shine on me, O Lord.”
Meditation: On the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary reveals herself as an expectant woman, bearing God in a hidden way within herself. Take a moment to join her in her longing to see her son. Pray to her that she may help you to long more profoundly to see the face of God.