An Advent Reflection for Mothers
by Cornelia Mary Bilinsky
In the apocryphal writings of the early church, there is a lovely story about St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The story tells us that St. Anne was childless into her old age. She and her husband Joachim suffered the social stigma that accompanied this unfortunate state. In heartache and in hope, the couple turned to prayer. One day, after his gift was rejected at the temple, Joachim retreated to the desert where he prayed intensely all night long. Meanwhile Anne, praying alone in her garden, promised God that should she be blessed with a child, she would dedicate that child to the Lord’s service. Then a miracle happened. An angel of God appeared separately to both Joachim and Anne with the joyful news that Anne would conceive and bear a special child. In due time, Anne bore a child and named her Mary. When Mary was three years old, Joachim and Anne, in keeping with Anne’s promise, took her to the temple in Jerusalem where she was brought up, learning to know God, to love God and to serve God.
This wonderful story teaches us that the journey of a mother is most blessed when accompanied by prayer. God has a plan for every child born into the world. The prayers of a mother, starting before conception and continuing forever after, help to light the way for the child. We can well imagine Anne praying daily, thanking God for the miraculous gift of her long-awaited child. We can see her blessing her baby as she puts her to bed at night. And we can understand her constant fervent prayers when Mary is away from her. “Dear Lord, protect her and keep her safe. Shine your light around her and show her the path you have chosen for her!”
The effects of Anne’s prayers come to rest on her daughter when God moves to fulfill his plan for Mary. Already Mary has been schooled in the ways of prayer during her time in the temple. When the Archangel Gabriel visits her, she is ready to say “Let it be done to me according to thy word.” And an even greater miracle is about to take place Mary will give birth to the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Savior. As she faces the trials of her journey into motherhood, we can picture her praying as her mother did. Pregnant out of wedlock, the subject of suspicious whispers, she prays to affirm her trust in God’s plan for her. As she sits on a donkey and travels the dusty roads to Bethlehem, she prays for the child in her womb. As she gazes at the newborn Jesus in the manger, she gives thanks that they have found shelter, poor as it is. As the Holy Family flees to Egypt in the night, she surrounds her child with protective loving arms, all the while praying, “Lord, save us from this danger…. Lord, we trust in you…lead the way.” We know that Mary’s prayers for her Son, Jesus, extend all the way to the foot of the cross and far beyond, for, as our heavenly mother, she now prays constantly for us, her adopted children.
We do not know for certain if St Anne lived to see the eventual fulfillment of her prayers in the birth of her grandson, our Lord and Savior. Nevertheless the example of her prayerful love, devotion and self-sacrifice leaves behind its own legacy: the inspiration to pray. A mother cannot raise her children simply on her own strength. She needs the support of blessings that come from God through prayer, blessings that could extend not only to her children but also to her grandchildren.
When the prayers of a mother are united with God’s grace, miracles can happen.
Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life,
form yourself in me,
that I may see with your eyes,
smile with your smile,
and love with your heart.
Mary, our Mother, Teacher, and Queen,
pray for us.
Cornelia Mary Bilinsky is a mom, grandmother, and retired teacher born and raised in Manitoba, Canada. She now lives in Ontario, where her husband is a Ukrainian Catholic priest. Cornelia is the author of some of our most beloved children’s titles: Santa’s Secret Story (2011), The Saint Who Fought the Dragon (2011), The Queen and the Cross (2013), God Is with Me (2014), Patrick and the Fire (2017), and 2 new upcoming titles: Brother Lorenzo’s Pretzels (2019), and The Legend of the First Valentine (2020).