Advent: December 23rd
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Other Titles: Day 2 O Antiphons, O Adonai (O Lord and Ruler)
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Today the Church celebrates the Fourth Sunday of Advent. We light the last candle on our Advent wreath and our preparation for Christmas is almost finished. We also reach the culmination of the O Antiphons. In previous antiphons our cry was directed to the Messiah as He manifested Himself to the Chosen People, to the Gentiles, and in nature; now He is addressed in person and asked to remain with us as Emmanuel.
Reading this final antiphon gives the feeling that a climax has indeed come. The very term Emmanuel, God with us, reveals the kindly, human heart of Jesus — He wants to be one of us, a Child of man, with all our human weakness and suffering; He wants to experience how hard it is to be man. He wants to remain with us to the end of time, He wants to dwell within us, He wants to make us share His nature.
The first reading is taken from the Prophecy of Micah 5:1-4. In today's reading we hear words of hope that focus on one who is to be born in Bethlehem and who will bring in the day of peace when all nations will look to Jerusalem.
The second reading is taken from Hebrews 10:5-10. The perfect offering of Christ restores us to oneness with God. Jesus came to do the will of God perfectly. He overcame the power of evil that separates us from God and became our bridge back to God when we fall into evil. David prefigures Christ's sacrifice. The Psalm is now seen from the perspective of Christ.
The Gospel of this Sunday, Luke 1:38-45 recounts the visit of Mary to St. Elizabeth. An ancient title of Mary is Ark of the Covenant. The Church Fathers saw the parallels between the Old Testament wooden chest containing the divine presence and the Virgin about to give birth to Jesus. This theme is developed in a tape series by Tim Staples. Tim brings out the similarities between today's Gospel and the ascent of the Ark to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:1-15).
1. As the ark is brought to Jerusalem, King David is overcome with awe saying, "How can the ark of the Lord come to me?" (v. 9)
2. The ark remains three months in the hill country near Jerusalem, bringing great blessings to the house of Obed-edom. (v.11)
3. King David leaps for joy -- dancing before the ark. (v. 13) (Tim Staples, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed)
In today's Gospel, Elizabeth says to Mary, "Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?" She tells how the babe (John the Baptist) leaped in her womb as she became filled with the Holy Spirit. Finally Mary remains three months with her kinswoman before returning to her home. This Sunday, so close to Christmas, the Church invites us to focus our attention on Mary, round-wombed because of the God-child. As we say in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin: "Ark of the Covenant, pray for us."
Excerpted from Fr. Phil Bloom
Thou art He "who didst appear to Moses in the burning bush." "I have seen the affliction of My people in Egypt, and I have heard their cry because of the rigor of them that are over the works. And knowing their sorrow, I am come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land into a good and spacious land, into a land that floweth with milk and honey" (Exod. 3:7 f.). Thus spoke the Lord to Moses from the bush which burned but was not consumed, which is a figure of God's condescension to assume the weakness of human nature. The human nature of Christ is united to the burning divine nature, and yet it is not consumed.
As Moses approached the burning bush, so we approach the divine Savior in the form of a child in the crib, or in the form of the consecrated host, and falling down we adore Him. "Put off the shoes from thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. . . . I am who am" (Exod. 3:5, 14).
O Adonai, almighty God! Mighty in the weakness of a child, and in the helplessness of the Crucified! Thou, almighty God, mighty in the wonders that Thou hast worked! Mighty in guiding, sustaining, and developing Thy Church! "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).
"Come with an outstretched arm to redeem us." This is the cry of the Church for the second coming of Christ on the last day. The return of the Savior brings us plentiful redemption. "Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you" (Matt. 25-34).
Excerpted from The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.
7th O Antiphon:
Our King and law-giver,
The awaited of the peoples,
And their Savior,
To save us,
O Lord our God.
Today is Day Eight of the Christmas Novena.
Commentary for the Readings in the Extraordinary Form:
Fourth Sunday of Advent
"John, the son of Zachary," to a world now awaiting its God, pleads for our final pre-Christmas "make ready." "Make ready the way of the Lord, make straight His paths" (Gospel).
Heroically, in the desert, he warns against the softness of life in the city, pictured in the background. Alive to the danger of a "soft garments" life, he is seen in a rough "garment of camel hair," carrying a baptismal shell, "preaching a baptism of repentance."
Excerpted from My Sunday Missal, Confraternity of the Precious Blood