This time last year, I was in the very early weeks of pregnancy with my first child. Having got married in October 2020, and praying to Our Lady of La Leche, my husband, Niall and I were delighted to find out in early February that we were expecting, due in October. When Lent came around, although I was exempt from fasting, I was deep in the throws of 24/7 “morning” sickness, and I was certainly able to join my sufferings with those of Christ and His mother, Mary! As I struggled with constant sickness and crushing fatigue, I was able to pray, this is my body given up for you, my child; this is my body, given to You, Lord, for the glory of Your creation.
Throughout Lent last year, my prayer kept returning to the Easter hymn, ‘Now the Green Blade Riseth’, as I reflected on Christ in the tomb and the new life in my womb. Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain, Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain; Love lives again, that with the dead has been: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green. The tiny new life, who we would later come to know as our son, Joseph, was so hidden, being formed in secret; just like the wheat in the dark earth, very few people knew he was even there. I was in awe of how God was doing his work of creation in the silent darkness of my being.
In my reflection and prayer, I was also being drawn much deeper into the beauty of the silent, dark tomb. God’s work of salvation, His plan for our redemption was carried out in the seemingly silent, darkness of a tomb. It was a reminder to me that God does His best work in the silence, in the still, in the quiet. Even when all seems dark, He is working and is to be glorified. I couldn’t see, hear or feel my baby at this point, but I trusted that God’s hand was at work. I reached the end of my first trimester, and the safety of the 12-week mark, on Maundy Thursday, meaning that as we celebrated the triumphant glory of Christ’s resurrection at Easter, Niall and I were able to share with friends and family our own “good news”. We really felt like our Domestic Church had been brought to life through the Resurrection power of Jesus.
This year, Lent has taken on another much deeper meaning for both me and Niall. During Mass on Ash Wednesday, I marvelled that Joseph was still bathing in the glory of his baptism, already claimed as Christ’s own through the cleansing waters of the font. But my heart was soon drawn to Our Lady’s experience of the Passion of her Son.
As I journey through Lent with five-month old Joseph, whilst reflecting on the love I have for him, I am challenged by Christ’s sacrificial love and I’m striving to emulate, in some small way, the depth of motherly love and devotion that Mary had, especially in those darkest hours of the Passion.
Becoming new parents has been a school of love and learning about the meaning of sacrifice, and yet we know that our love for Joseph cannot even come close to the love that God has for him, and for each and everyone of us. We, like Mary, must accept the will of God the Father and play our part in His plan and the building of His Kingdom. As we look towards the celebration of Easter, we are still in awe of God’s gift of new life. Joseph brings joy to so many, just as Jesus’ rising to new life still brings joy each and every day.
Although there is no written account of it, I often imagine Jesus appearing to His beloved mother after His resurrection. What a beautiful and joy-filled encounter that must have been. Tears of joy, disbelief and laughter; a tight embrace between mother and son. Perhaps they ate breakfast together, or just sat together for a little while, in companionable quiet in the early morning. An ordinary moment made extraordinary by Christ’s redeeming love. And that’s what we hope Easter will be like in our home, our Domestic Church, encounters with Christ and one another, moments of joy, of deep love, of profound awe in the power of the resurrection and the gift of new life. Pope Francis refers to the family as “a factory of hope”. Families, as Pope Francis reminds us, are places of sacrifice, the cross is present, but all difficulties are overcome by love. The Cross is never separated from the Resurrection, in Christ, death leads to new life, and that is our greatest hope.