The gift of aligning one’s self with Christ’s suffering

A little less than halfway through my pregnancy, a reader wrote me a delightful note saying something to the effect of, “Oh, the joys of being pregnant during Advent!”

And she was right. When I was 20 weeks along, with my baby just starting to show and the flutterings of new life just beginning to be made known inside me, I found myself thinking often of the Blessed Mother, trying to align my wonderings with hers and to conform my appreciation of the miracle of life with her. It was a beautiful time and, the reader was absolutely correct, a complete joy.

Since then, however, four months have passed, and I am beginning to be able to relate pregnancy with our current liturgical season of Lent.

This isn’t to say that the wonderings and the appreciation are gone. Far from it. Every day I am awed by the growing miracle of life that is happening inside my body. It is a blessing and a gift, beyond any I could have ever imagined — even already. But I’m finding that the journey, now so close to being over, is less represented by gentle Advent wonderings and instead is more in tune with the Way of the Cross.

I’m breathing a little heavier these days, unable to sing as loudly or as much as I usually like. Walking down the halls at work, sometimes I wish I had a scooter. Everything hurts a little more. Everything is a little harder to accomplish. Everything makes me that much more inclined to take a mid-afternoon nap. Even in trying not to grumble, I find myself doing a little extra whining these days.

I feel especially bad about this given the fact that I am, in essence, a Lenten failure this year. My commitment to daily Mass has floundered, with my attendance at less than 50 percent. Since eating is my second job these days, I opted out of sacrificing any type of food this year (whether nourishing or not). My prayer life has been erratic and distracted. (“Hail Mary, full of grace, I should really get that hospital bag packed,” for example.)

Enter my husband, for whom I am perpetually grateful. His commitment to Evening Prayer during Lent for the both of us has kept me somewhat focused — or at least somewhat attuned to the fact that, yes, we actually are in the season of Lent.

Despite these failures, I suppose this means that there is an even greater opportunity for me to attempt to find holiness during Palm Sunday and Holy Week this year. To be able to align my insignificant aches and pains of this season of life with Jesus’ suffering on the cross is a great gift, one of which should be taken advantage. Our sacrifices are nothing compared to his.

Suffering is never easy. It’s never what we would choose. But that’s why it’s so powerful. And it’s why the rewards are so great — be they sanctification, salvation or the miracle of welcoming new life into the world. For that, I’ll take the aches and pains any day.

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