Any time we women anticipate a big event in life, we nest. The nesting instinct is most visible if you enter a woman’s home somewhere toward the end of her pregnancy, though I’m convinced we women “nest” to some degree throughout our lives.
The phenomenon of nesting is barely understood by the men in our lives, but they do recognize it quite well. Characteristic of any nesting are long lists, and conversations beginning with, “Honey, I’ve been thinking about…,” or, “Sweetheart, I made a couple of lists for you…” At which point, he knows exactly what’s coming!
Nesting provides for a woman a burst of superhuman cleaning powers and bionic eyes capable of spotting dust, grime and disorder in locations not visible to the average human eye. Postponed nesting typically results in frustration and a desire to compensate – imagine having those superhuman powers of seeing and spotting but not being able to act.
What if physical nesting and making home isn’t possible for some reason? How do we nest so that it doesn’t become obsessive, and in particular, what does Advent nesting look like?
Immersing my heart in Advent allows me to ponder how Our Lady went about nesting and preparing for her Son’s birth. I’m certain she wanted to freshen the home, wash a few simple linens, tidy and arrange her cooking supplies. I imagine she wanted to make her nest as beautiful and comfortable and secure as she possibly could in anticipation of HIM. The Word made flesh was growing within her. Instead, she packed a tiny bag and started the journey toward Bethlehem. I cannot imagine what my own anxiety and frustration and worry might have been. Well toward the end of a pregnancy (tradition tells us that she was in her 8th month and that the journey took nearly a month…think about that!), and full of grace, she no doubt knew the fullness of time was at hand. Yet, instead of shuffling about her home happily tidying and preparing, she was bouncing toward the unknown on the back of a donkey.
How then could she nest? What were the final moments of her Advent like?
We think so much of our own physical busy-ness that we forget that preparation begins and finds its full expression in the heart. It’s a beautiful thought to imagine Our Lady spending that entire long, grueling, physically uncomfortable journey to Bethlehem preparing her heart for His arrival. Home would be wherever He was, and He was always with her. I think of this every time I pray the Rosary and think of the angelic salutation to Our Lady, “…the Lord is with you”.
Like the shepherds we wonder how it all happened, how she did it? We don’t read much about the details but a few words stand out – words like ponder and heart.
Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.
To ponder…to think about something carefully with great reflection, to contemplate. These thoughts and memories were her treasures and they didn’t need to be dusted or folded, regrouted or polished. They were beautiful and perfect and illuminated her heart. That is how she nested – she pondered in her heart.
She must have continued on the Flight into Egypt. With a baby in arms and surely a great desire to just go home and quietly tend, she surrendered her will and the safety of her family, the safety of the little Divine Infant, to the protection and care of her husband, St. Joseph, trusting. Trusting. How many times does Our Lord turn our plans, our day, our lists on end and redirect us with a suffering – a cross of some kind? How many times have we made our own flight to Egypt? Do we follow and trust? Our Lady gave us the best example of how to do this – eyes on Him.
Scriptures imply that they fled quickly, for it was night when they fled. There would be no sweeping, no rug shaking, no scouring of the oil lamp – just riding and cuddling and treasuring and pondering this great mystery she now held in her arms.
Grace transforms worry and anxiety into trust, gratitude and adoration – her fullness of Grace allows her to express this perfectly. She could look tenderly at the Mystery of the Incarnation, the Word Made Flesh, I AM, the second person of the Holy Trinity. She didn’t just contemplate the mystery, she was a participant in it. He was there enfolded in her arms and looking into her eyes. She could ponder in her heart every tiny wrinkle, soft curl and penetrating gaze along that journey under cover of night. There was no desire to sweep or tidy and nest, no mental checklist she lamented as not being completed. Grace enabled her to trust and trust opened her Heart to the depth of His love. The greatest desire of her heart was simply to love HIM with every breath, every thought, every glance, every touch.
So this Advent, as we make our preparations and tidy and clean and nest and we try to ready our hearts to receive Him, let us ponder with the Heart of Mary. Let our nesting be as hers, in our hearts. There may be chaos all around us, a grueling, physically uncomfortable journey may be before us, but we sit with her in awe of the great mystery she awaits and shelters within her womb. We wait in joyful hope and anticipation with her.