[4th Sunday of Advent, Year B, December 21, 2014 / 2 Sam 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16 Ps 89:2-3, 4-5, 27+29 / Rom 16:25-27 / Luke 1:26-38]
CHRISTMAS is nearly here. Today’s Gospel is the Annunciation, the first Christmas in the history of salvation, when Mother Mary agreed to the plan of salvation. She conceived in her heart before conceiving in her womb. With her ‘yes’ the Word would become flesh.
This really is a great mystery and needs to be approached with gentleness and respect.
When you enter a chapel in Asia you need to take your shoes off. We need the same delicacy approaching the mystery of the Incarnation. St Ignatius of Antioch said that the great mystery of the childbearing of Mary is discovered only in the silence of God, and is hidden from the princes of this world.
The mystery is only revealed through love. If we want Christmas to be more than turkey, bloated stomachs and fairy lights then let us follow the advice of the Advent preface, “let us prepare to celebrate his birth so that when he comes he may find us watching in prayer, our hearts filled with wonder and praise.”
Two thousand years ago the Scribes of Herod knew that the Christ would be born. They knew the Scripture but they missed his birth. The same can happen to me. I know that Christmas is 25th December but I can miss the birth of the Savior. It is an invite to live Christmas in an attitude of listening, of silence, of “going placidly amid the noise.” It is the time for the mystery to be lived anew, “the mystery kept secret for long ages” (Romans 16:25).
What is the content of this mystery? As the poem by Robert Southwell describes it, “Behold the father is his daughter’s son, The bird that built the nest is hatched therein…Eternal life to live does now begin, The Word is dumb, the joy of heaven is found crying, Might feeble is, and force does faintly creep.”
The moment of the Annunciation is a privileged moment in the history of salvation. It is the moment when with Mary’s “yes”, God becomes man. God comes to share in our humanity so that we can share in the Godhead, in other words we become participants in the divine nature.
As John the evangelist would explain it, “to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12). Our participation in the divinity is also represented in the mass when we mix the water with the wine. Here the priest asks the Lord that we may be able to “share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” It means that our lives are elevated to a supernatural level too.
We cannot remain only in the visible, the natural because we are also sharers in the divine nature! Our lives have a supernatural and eternal vocation. Our life and our living are to be a sharing and participation in the love of the Trinity. Jesus’ incarnation is our ticket of entry into the Trinity. We are sharers in the Trinitarian communion. Our actions need to express this. Let us be concrete for fear that one may not see the relevance of this great truth.
In the married couple for example, their love for each other needs to be considered not only and exclusively from a natural point of view but also from a supernatural one.
Married love is called to be a participation in and reflection of the Trinitarian love! Often in the media love and sex are only considered from a carnal or merely natural point of view! This is an incomplete vision.
The married couple is an icon of the Trinity. Their love is called to be a true expression of inter-personal communion, to be open to the transmission of life. The couple is called to participate in the divine life! Their union is not to be understood just from an earthly perspective because it has an eternal dimension which is often not fully appreciated.
It is through Mary’s “yes” that we have been given the opportunity to participate in the divine nature. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The eternal God steps into time as a little baby. He becomes man so that we may participate in the Godhead. This is the gift of Christmas. This is the drama of Mary’s “yes.”
St Bernard describes it thus “The angel is waiting for your answer. We too are waiting. If you consent, straightaway we shall be freed. On your lips is hanging the consolation of the wretched, the redemption of the captive, in a word the salvation of all Adam’s children.
Answer, O Virgin, answer the angel speedily. Let your humility put on boldness. Open, O Blessed Virgin, your heart to faith. And Mary said ‘Behold I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your Word.’”