Daily Meditations

The Twenty-Third Day of Christmas Advent. Anxious About Life.

THEREFORE, I TELL YOU, DO NOT BE ANXIOUS ABOUT YOUR LIFE.” That is what Jesus says, but is it really possible to live without anxieties both big and small? We are anxious about children, friends, jobs, health—and the list goes on and on. We are anxious about so many things.

There is unbelieving anxiety, and then there is anxiety encountered by faith. John Henry Newman said of Christian faith, “Ten thousand difficulties do not add up to a doubt.” We may have great difficulties in understanding how God will keep his promises, but we do not doubt that he will keep his promises.

Mary was anxious when the angel appeared out of nowhere announcing, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you.” Luke tells us, “But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.” Mary had good reason to be troubled. She might well have thought, What are people going to say and do about a young girl who is pregnant, and not by her husband? Mary did not know what was going to happen next. She did not have at hand a catechism or a theology textbook to look up the meaning of ‘incarnation.” Mary was anxious.

To be anxious is to be human. The question is what we do with our anxieties. The decision is between hanging on to them, or handing them over. After listening to the angel, Mary handed over herself, including her anxieties. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” That is Mary’s great fiat—”Let it be.” It is not fatalism, but faith. Fatalism is resigning ourselves to the inevitable; faith is entrusting ourselves to the One who is eternally trustworthy, who is worthy of trust.

“Let it be to me according to your word.” At the very beginning of the Christian story, the theme is set for the people beyond numbering who will come to recognize the child of Mary as their Lord. He most perfectly handed himself over to his Father, who is also our Father. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before he died, he prayed: “Not my will but yours be done.” He is not resigned to the Father’s will; he embraces the Father’s will. Accepting God’s way is not a fallback position for when we can’t get our way.

“Let it be to me according to your word.” Faith is not blind faith, but trust with eyes wide open. Faith does not deny the reason for anxiety but rejects the rule of anxiety. Ten thousand difficulties do not add up to a doubt. In the “Our Father,” Jesus teaches us to pray, “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Slowly, and not without difficulty, we learn to prefer God’s will to our own; we learn to want God’s will to be done, knowing that he knows us and loves us immeasurably better than we know and love ourselves.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life.” Mary was greatly troubled. She surrendered herself, and with herself she surrendered her troubles, with eyes wide open. She handed over her anxieties, and thus did she receive the gift of faith, and thus do we receive the gift of faith today, the gift of Emmanuel, God with us.

~From Richard John Neuhaus, “First Thursday of Advent,” GOD WITH US:  Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, edited by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolf


“Undistracted prayer is the highest act of the human intellect.” –Evagrios of Pontus

~From John Anthony McGuckin, The Book of Mystical Chapters:  Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent, from the Desert Fathers and other Early Christian Contemplatives