Some place, some time there was a woman who woke alone on Christmas Day. The cachinnation in the club from the night before still rattled in her ears, the smell of cocktails rancid on her breath, makeup chalky, long hair awry. She’d hoped someone would love her. She’d waited in her car for the one who promised to rescue her from her loneliness, but he never came. Drunken and disappointed and rejected, all dressed in festive red, she’d passed out on the steering wheel and spent Christmas Eve right there in the parking lot. The church bells across the street woke her up.
She saw women with their husbands and children filing excitedly into the cathedral. Even though they were everything she wasn’t, she was drawn to follow them inside. As quiet as a mouse, she peered through the iron bars that graphed the little window on the heavy wooden door. She saw the people rise as men and boys robed in white and holding high a cross processed down the isle toward a flowered altar. She felt like the little match girl in the story her grandmother used to read her, peering through a wall she could not traverse to a life that was not hers, only she knew she was not really freezing or starving to death. Or was she?
The emotion in her caused a tear to begin to streak mascara down her cheek. To the side of the vestibule, light streamed through a nativity scene in a stained glass window. From her childhood, she remembered what it was, but that day she saw it anew. She saw a woman who was everything she never would be, a mother robed in blue with clear eyes full of love focused on the newborn son she held in her arms. The light and love flowed through the heavenly mother’s eyes to the babe and straight into the young woman’s own eyes, straight through her neurons and blood vessels, straight to her mind and heart.
The intensity was too much for her eyes and gravity made her heart too heavy to stand, so she knelt and bowed her head. For the first time in years, she said a prayer, only a word. “Jesus.” The love was almost unbearable, but she looked back up at the child, up beyond time and space. Though she feared the brightness might vaporize her on the spot, she knew that light and love were from the very One who sustained her in existence. She was infused with a courage she had never experienced in her whole life. The courage remained as she confessed her failures and promised to do better. The courage remained when she stepped back out into the morning sunshine. “Hail, full of grace,” she heard in her soul. Neither she nor any other woman would ever be as full of grace as the Blessed Mother, but she was grateful for the Embodiment of Hope beheld in Mary’s gaze. She was a woman changed by grace, a beloved child herself embarking on a path of conversion.