The readings for the liturgies surrounding the fourth week of Advent point to one resounding truth: the impossible becomes possible. The first reading for Sunday (Micah 5:1-4a) begins with the prophet Micah pronouncing that Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to even be considered viable among the clans of Judah, is the locale from whence the Messiah will hail. Though He is a king, He will be born in humility to poor parents in this unlikely place. With sin and repentance in seemingly endless cycles, with the unfathomable love and mercy of God continuing to keep the people able to hope with gratitude, that for which humanity had longed was closer than ever. The greatness of Heaven would reside in Him, and the ‘totality’ of the incomprehensible God would reside in a fully human baby. As if that is not enough, Micah tells us: “He shall be peace.” In a world sorely in need of peace, this is truly the impossible becoming possible. If God can come into the world in the way Micah described, (and indeed He did), then we see that nothing is impossible, absolutely nothing, is impossible with God. He is peace and He is endless hope and mercy.
Mary’s response to the impossible being done in her, having freely given herself into God’s complete care, was to enter fully into His mercy so much so that it propelled her outward to serve her older cousin. When Elizabeth heard Mary enter her home, she was so moved to be in the presence of God, though cognitively unknowing, she burst out in joy: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Through the power of the Holy Spirit, she not only knew that Mary was pregnant, but she knew that it was with the Son of God. Furthermore, she knew that God had spoken to Mary and that Mary had believed and acted upon it. Elizabeth acknowledged that the impossible was made possible in Mary and rejoiced that Mary had responded with a ‘yes.’
The Mother of our Lord comes to us because her role is always to bring Jesus into our world. And truly, she did not choose us: God did. But we are not to sit back and watch this event unfold; rather, we are meant to participate in it. We must actively welcome Mary who comes with the One she bears in her womb with love beyond all telling. It is she who we join - (with Joseph, too) - as we travel those last grueling days to Bethlehem and follow her into the stable for the time when she will give birth. We are not to sit slack-jawed in bewilderment, but to move through that which is difficult so that we can arrive with open hearts for the little Child. She wants us to come into the stable, not desperate, but filled with hope, echoing the Psalmist with the cry of delight: “Out of Zion’s perfect beauty, He shines. Our God comes, He keeps silence no longer.”
©Michele L. Catanese
The first image is an enlargement of one part of an icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It is the Star of Bethlehem which is above the Holy Family in his icon The Holy Family for the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem. It can be found with three different 'frames' at his webpage. I used this one, though the frame is not visible: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-holy-family-for-the-holy-family-hospital-of-bethlehem-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
Next are the Advent candles, all lit, for this last week of Advent.
Third, is the work of Bl. Fra Angelico. It is another version of The Visitation, different than the one I used last week. This one is from the predella of the Annunciation Altarpiece (c.1430-32). http://www.repro-tableaux.com/a/fra-angelico/visitation-from-the-prede.html
The next two are icons of Mary by Fr. William Hart McNichols. The first is Mother of God Waiting in Adoration, found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/mother-of-god-waiting-in-adoration-248-william-hart-mcnichols.html
The second is called Mary of the Magnificat Mother of the Poor. It is found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/mary-of-the-magnificat-mother-of-the-poor-091-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Finally is one of my photos: a single rose, which I chose because I had the lyrics to the wonderful Advent hymn, Lo How a Rose Ere Blooming, in mind. Here are the lyrics:
For a wonderful rendition of this hymn, listen to the Moreau Seminary Schola (Priests and Brothers of Holy Cross) singing it at worship at Moreau Seminary in Indiana. Just stunning! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLEoTyGB9XM