December 24, 2015

Theotokos: Fourth Week of Advent: Simplicity & Empty

Coming soon! Nativity: Welcome to Bethlehem. Starts Christmas day.

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Theotokos: 4th Week of Advent

in a manger” (Luke 2:7)

Because “there was no place for them” (Luke 2:7) Mary and Joseph were led to the poorest of places, “in a manger” where the animals were. 2nd century tradition places the birth of Christ in the caves on the outskirts of Bethlehem. In Dawn of the Messiah, Edward Sri writes, “This tradition was so strong that by 325, Constantine erected a basilica over a series of Bethlehem caves to commemorate the place where Jesus was believed to have been born.”

Regardless of the exact place of Christ’s birth, this we know—it was simple. No hospital. No bed. No epidural. Nothing. Just bare simplicity. However, how fitting. With Mary lying on the naked earth, there was a sweet music that sang to her.






These were her companions since her Annunciation, and these were her companions as she prepared for birth. It was a symphony of empty and the orchestra was led by simplicity.

If we embrace the Theotokos we must embrace simplicity.

Our lives can seem awfully busy. The faster our frenzied life becomes the more complicated it feels. Busy-ness cramps our spirit. Life gets complicated, and the simplicity of God’s design grows crowded. On the other hand, with simplicity I have nothing—nothing else except God. There, I am completely receptive to the glory of God, deep union, and my soul’s deepest desire. It is pretty simple—simplicity leads me to God.

Ask Mary to reveal the utter simplicity of “the manger.” Ask her to help you really focus on Christmas—its true meaning. So, we end where we began. Slow down. Get quiet. Listen. After all, what’s the rush? What are we really preparing for?

For your prayer

Mary and Joseph would have often prayed with Psalm 131. Prep your imaginative prayer by slowly reading Psalm 131. Use your spiritual senses and imaginatively pray with Mary and Joseph in Luke 2:7.

"Father, I ask for the grace today to slow down. Prepare my heart so that might experience miracles this Christmas."


Theotokos: 4th Week of Advent

the time came for her have her child” (Luke 2:6)

For the past 27 days you have come to know Mary as the Theotokos. You have journeyed the emotional roller coaster with her and the pilgrimage has led you to Mary’s triumphant moment of physical surrender.

You have listened to her questions. You have tasted her love for God. You have savored His presence in her womb.

For the past four weeks you have come to know her true identity.







These are not simple words anymore, these are springboards that plunge you into the heart of a woman who danced with God—forever.

Now, she is in labor.

To the naked eye, one could think that Mary’s delivery will empty her womb of the child within. However, to you who have been on retreat with her, you know that the child’s birth into the world will simply be an echo of praise birthed from the perpetual emptiness that will always remain.

There, in the stillness of simplicity, Mary waits.

And, with the manger’s animals attentive in intrigue, the time comes ... Mary’s labor pushes forward ... Joseph clutches her hand ... heaven leans in ... with Mary’s soul singing her refrain of praise ... she gasps for one last breath ... your eyes widen ... your heart quickens ... the baby is seconds away .... and ...

For your prayer

Use your spiritual senses and imaginatively pray with Mary and Joseph in Luke 2:6.

"Father, I ask for the grace today to taste profound depth of your joy for me. Inflame my desire for you so that my Christmas may be filled with your joy."

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© Fr. Mark Toups, 2015