Last Wednesday night, members of the University of Dayton community participated in Las Posadas. Las Posadas incarnates a backstory for the Lukan passage, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (2:7). A simple translation of the words sung on behalf of Mary by Joseph and all pilgrims at three houses follows:
In the name of heaven, I ask for your assistance in respite for my beloved wife who cannot walk. She is the queen of heaven and is asking for shelter for one night. Mary, my wife, will be the mother of the Incarnate Word.
In this popular practice, Mary and all are turned away at the first three houses. At the fourth house, all are welcomed in for a large party. Although Mary has no speaking role during the celebration of Las Posadas, we experience in this event how Mary calls us to rejoice.
Many times when we arrive at Gaudete Sunday and light the pink candle of the Advent wreath, we focus on anticipation of the arrival of Jesus. We are excited about being with loved ones. Yet the etymology of “rejoice” also calls us to pay attention to more. “Re” can be given the root meaning to express intense force. “Joy” of course means delight, bliss, and pleasure (including erotic pleasure). All of these meanings of “joy” are linked to our sensuality.
We experience the world as sensual beings. And as sensual beings, we’re also complex—we can simultaneously label sensual stimulation as positive and negative. The sensuality we see in Mary, her tiredness and inability to walk because of her pregnancy, is the root of a gathering for Las Posadas. Hitting a piñata during the posada celebration is a symbol of beating against the seven deadly sins. Swinging at a piñata can bring pleasure and relieve stress. It can inspire courage—the kind needed to risk looking like a fool by missing entirely. And then there’s the sometimes painful sensation that comes with missing the piñata and whacking the tree.
To rejoice means to be in strong force with all of that sensuality and all of our sensual existence. In preparing to write this piece, I asked some companions in the Marianist family and Marianist education for a few words to share about Mary. “Mary is one, who in intimate proximity, accompanies each of us,” said Caitlin Cipolla-McCulloch. “Mary is an incredibly tangible role model who exemplifies the brilliance of bravery and conviction of faith lived out in the normalcy of daily life,” Tiffany Nascimento said. “Mary, the only Mother of God, is a real person whose faith strengthened her,” said Fr. Michael Davis.