Many times when God communicates with someone in the stories in scripture, whether directly or through a messenger, the message is prefaced by some version of the phrase “Do not be afraid.” Among these events is one central to Advent; the story of the annunciation. It made me ponder what it is that we are afraid of, and why this repeated reminder not to get paralyzed by that fear.
Mostly, I think we are afraid of Mystery. We don’t like not knowing how things are going to turn out. We are uncomfortable when we know we are not in charge. But realistically, we can’t know everything. We can’t always know “why?”, and as much as we’d like to think we’ve got it all planned out, we can never know the future. So we will save ourselves a lot of trouble if we learn to embrace the mysteriousness of life.My teacher Brother David Steindl-Rast taught us that the German word for mystery is “Gehemnis,” the root of which, “heim,” means home. So we are creatures of Mystery ourselves, and we can learn (or re-learn) to be at home there. Like Mary, we can let go of always trying to understand with our heads, and rather open our hearts. And while we cannot know God fully, God is fully present with us, and will accompany us as we step into the unknown.