Both Fear and Joy
BY CAITLIN WRIGHT | December 20, 2021
It is nearly impossible for me to reflect on the Advent readings without recounting Christmases past (how “Scrooge” of me). Often, I find myself seeing the readings through the eyes of my childhood-self. Cold Minnesota mornings, the warm church down the road, crafts and drawings of the Nativity. Cookies, carols, joy. And that joy is still abundant, but it is also met with apprehension. As an adult, I find myself plagued with a wonder that leans more toward consternation. The logistics, the anxiety, the fear: how did Mary do it? Wasn’t she nervous? Scared? How could she not be confused, angry, even? How did she find joy?
This week’s Gospel recounts Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and their celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ. They cry out, they embrace. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Even the infant in the womb leaps for joy! My first impression is to believe that the joy overcomes Mary’s fear. Or that Mary does not feel fear at all, because her belief in God is so great that she does not have the capacity to be afraid. And this very well could be a respectable conclusion. But with greater contemplation, I think what I find is this: Mary likely is scared, but also feels great joy. Our humanity allows fear and joy to exist together, for it is what we do with our fear that builds us up and makes us stronger. Our actions grant us greater space for joy. And so Mary sets forth to visit Elizabeth, embracing all feelings with fervent trust in God and His love. And so too shall we.
This particular Advent season, one still stricken by the pandemic, has its share of apprehension, anxiety, and fear. In a time she likely felt anxious about the future, Mary sought companionship in Elizabeth. And though we may not be able to be physically near, we can still rely on one another and share the good news. We can still find solace in our community and in our shared experiences, solidarity in fear and in joy.
Caitlin Wright considers herself an aficionado for all things Jesuit. After graduating from Creighton University (Go Jays!) in 2017 with a degree in English, Spanish, and Legal Studies, Caitlin completed a year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Brooklyn, NY. She continues to reside in Brooklyn and works as an immigration counselor at Catholic Migration Services, a not-for-profit organization that provides legal aid to migrants in Brooklyn and Queens. In her free time, Caitlin enjoys going to Broadway shows, singing with the schola at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, and finding the best bagels New York has to offer.
Fear and Joy are two emotions that fit together. What Caitlin describes is certainly what Mother Mary experienced in meeting her cousin Elizabeth. She is inspirational in her generosity to Elizabeth. Today we experience fear and joy in our everyday lives as we fear the pandemic that is still with us but have the joy of welcoming a new baby or seeing a person expereice something for the first time or praying with someone in Church and letting them know we are praying for them. The joy of putting up our Christmas tree and the fear/sadness we won’t be able to share it as much as we did in the past. The joy of having Zoom or Facetime to share as much as we can with others. The joy of knowing/loving and serving our God who gave us His Son to redeem the world. Let us give thanks for both the joy and fear in our life as we get nearer to the date of the Incarnation..
Thanks Caitlin Wright. Solidarity is indeed the way forward.
Fear and joy are often companions – but, joy always overpowers fear, it teaches us to trust that we are not alone … during this time of God-with-us, we rejoice in that knowledge.