For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
– Romans 8:18-23
Mary is not alone as she makes ready to travel, gravid and heavy laden, toward Bethlehem. The whole creation groans with her, and through her. When our Lord is born of Mary, he is born of the whole world; for the body of Mary, and its life, are procedures of the whole world. Every part and portion thereof has flowed into the moment of her delivery, and as it has contributed to Mary, so it participates with her in the redemption conferred by her baby boy.
The body of Jesus, too, is a procedure of the world. To his life, every bit of the cosmos adds the effects arising from its own mere existence; his body, like ours, is the fossil of his living coordination of those effects. If a given bit of the world contributes nothing more (as with the lamb who nourishes him through his mother), then it adds at least its sheer inertial deformation, however attenuated, of his physical fields. His body would be somewhat different than it is, if Alpha Centauri had never existed.
Mater Mary is like all of us a synecdoche of all her material matrix. And so is her son. When God is incarnate in Jesus, he is incarnate in the cosmos. As Alpha Centauri contributes to Jesus of Nazareth, so the life of Jesus contributes to Alpha Centauri – and likewise to us, who are members of the world in which he is incarnate. When he dies and is raised, the whole world dies and is raised. So his resurrection is the first product of that general redemption and renewal, that will bring the world to its end, and raise it again. Into that sea change we shall be carried along, willy nilly, sucked down the enormous tongue and into the maelstrom of the eschaton, ready or not.
When I was thirteen, a month of steady, torrential rains ended in a gigantic downpour that flooded the steep little valley in Vermont where my family summered. In normal times, the brook was three feet wide. That morning, as darkness began to soften into deep grey, we were awakened by the sound – the vibration, coming up through the earth and into our cabin – of great boulders bouncing along its bed. We looked out the window, and a pine tree a hundred feet tall raced by our deck, as fast as a speeding freight train. We scurried out the back door and up the hill to safer ground. The waters leapt and roared; three hundred feet up the hill, we could feel their operations upon the valley through the soles of our boots.
The cabin somehow survived. But the bed of the brook had been completely changed. Where there had been waterfalls, there was now gorge; where there had been deep pools, there were now acres of granite boulders, rocks, pebbles. It was a brand new brook. The valley, too, was changed. Meadows had disappeared, replaced by huge moraines. The road was washed away. Landslides had taken out whole slopes of hills, covered with old trees, and left no sign of them. We found out later that those trees had smashed into all the bridges downstream, battered them to pieces and washed them away, as if they had never been.
Advent is like the month of heavy darkness and rain. It prepares and softens the Earth for the overwhelming influx of the waters from beyond the firmament, the Ocean over which the Spirit brooded in the beginning. When they come, the crisis overtakes and remakes everything. Us, too. With Mary, let us make ready.