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Old Calendar: Fourth Sunday of Advent
"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Click here for commentary on the readings in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
The first reading is taken from Isaiah 7:10-14. The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel’ (Is 7:14). This well-known affirmation by the prophet Isaiah announces the coming of the Messiah into human history. It already gives us a taste of the proximity of that marvelous, stupendous day which will be the ‘dies natalis’ of Jesus. It was foretold by the prophets and proclaimed throughout the whole of Sacred Scriptures that He would be the One who would fulfil and bring them to completion. Our God will be incarnated and born due to the generous willingness of the ‘Virgin’ who, from the very beginning of time, was chosen to be the Mother of the Savior.
The second reading
is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 1:1-7. St. Paul opens his letter to the Jewish and Gentile converts of Rome, the first generation of Christians in the captial city of the empire, by stating that he is an Apostle chosen by Christ to spread the good news of the Incarnation. He calls this news the Gospel of God," for it is an account of that almost incredible act of God's love for us. God sent his divine Son, as man among us in this work, in order that we might be with the three divine Persons for all eternity in the next world.
is from Matthew 1:18-24. "How unsearchable are the judgements of God and how inscrutable his ways!" as St. Paul says to the Romans (11 :33). If God had preserved the kingdom of Judah (which he could so easily have done), and if the Messiah, the son of David, were to be born in the royal palace in Jerusalem, it would be natural and we would almost say, more fitting the dignity of the Messiah. Instead, God allowed the kingly line, and the throne of Judah, to disappear, and he chose a humble carpenter of Nazareth, a true descendant of David but a lowly one, to be the foster-father of his divine Son, when he took human nature and came on earth to "dwell among us." But God's ways are not our ways. It is not by their social standing, nor by their bank-accounts, that God values men. Virtue is the scale he uses when weighing men. In God's eyes, no king sat on the throne of Judah, not even David himself, who was more acceptable to God as foster-father for his Son, than the carpenter of Nazareth.
This is the last Sunday of our preparation for Christmas, the anniversary of Christ's birth. Like Joseph, we can all feel unworthy of the honor of welcoming him into our hearts and our homes. We are indeed unworthy, not because we have little of this world's goods, but because we have so little humility, so little charity, so little faith and trust in God's goodness. Let us try to imitate Joseph and Mary, the humblest of the humble, the kindliest of the kindly, and the greatest-ever believers in God's goodness and mercy. We can never hope to equal them, but we can follow them humbly, from afar.
The feast of Christmas should draw the hearts of every child of God towards the furnace of divine love. In the manger, the infinite love of God for us miserable sinners is dramatically and forcefully portrayed before our eyes. In that helpless Baby, represented by a statue, we know that the person, and the power, of the omnipotent Creator and sustainer of the universe lie hidden "He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave" for us. He became a creature, like ourselves, so that he would make us sharers in his divine nature. He came on earth to bring us to heaven. He hid his divine nature so that he could cover us with it.
"Unsearchable indeed are the judgements of God, and inscrutable his ways." But though we are unworthy of his infinite love, it nevertheless stands out as clear as the noonday sun in the Incarnation. We realize that we can never make ourselves worthy of this infinite love, but let us imitate Joseph and accept the honor which God is giving us, as we trust that he will continue to make us daily less unworthy.
Excerpted from The Sunday Readings
by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.
O King of the Gentiles
"Come and save man, whom Thou hast made out of dust." What is man? He is but a particle of dust, an insignificant creature who has further separated himself from God through sin. He has been cut off from the fountain of truth and banished from God to darkness and misery. Still in the ruins there dwells a spirit that possesses a capacity for truth. In these ashes there is yet a spark that may be fanned to life to burn with the brilliance of divine life. But only God can revive this flame. For this reason the Church cries out, "Come and save man, whom Thou hast made out of dust." Save him who is so weak, so miserable and helpless. Remember his nothingness. Consider the many enemies who lay snares to rob him of divine life and to entice him into sin. Think of his obscured knowledge and his proneness to evil, of his tendency to error, and his weakness in the face of temptation. Guard him from the enticements of the world; shelter him from the poison of erroneous teaching; deliver him from the devil and his angels.
During these days before Christmas, the Church contemplates the overwhelming misery of unregenerated mankind. She cries out, "Come and save man, whom Thou hast made out of dust."
Jesus is King of all nations. "The kings of the earth stood up and the princes met together against the Lord and against His Christ. Let us break their bonds asunder, and let us cast away their yoke from us. He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh at them, and the Lord shall deride them. Then shall He speak to them in His anger and trouble them in His rage. But I am appointed king by Him over Sion, His holy mountain. ... The Lord hath said to Me; Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me and I will give Thee the Gentiles for Thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for Thy possession" (Ps. 2:2-8). Well may Herod seek the life of the newborn king. Indeed, many kings and tribes and nations in the course of time shall deprecate the divine King, Christ. But to Him has been given all power in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28: i8). Before Him every knee shall bend, and every tongue shall confess that He is the Lord (Phil. 2:10f.).
The more the mighty condemn the kingship of Christ, the more shall He be exalted by the Father.
Now He comes to us in the form of a lovely child. One day in the presence of the Roman governor He will assert His right to kingship. But after this one public confession of His royal origin He withdraws again into the obscurity which He had freely chosen. For the present He is satisfied with this manifestation of His royal dignity. The day will come, however, when He will manifest it with power and majesty as He comes again on the clouds of heaven. Before all nations God will declare: "I have anointed Him King of Sion. My holy mountain." All men shall pay Him homage as king; all nations shall acclaim Him the King of Glory.
Excerpted from The Light of the World
by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.
6th O Antiphon:Symbols:
Crown and Scepter
Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.
O King of the Gentiles and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one; Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
The crown and scepter signify Christ's universal kingship. As we sing in the fifth O Antiphon, Christ is not only the King of the Jewish nation, but the "Desired One of all," the cornerstone which unites both Jew and Gentile.
Recommended Readings: Apocalypse 15:1-4
Today is Day Seven 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