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Opening the Word: God enters our history


The very structure of our Catholic Lectionary — and even of our whole liturgical year — reminds us of a very basic point: Our history is much, much more than it appears to be.

The history in which we live, which seems to simply be made up of human activities and human achievements, is also a divine history. God expresses his love for us by entering into our history and rendering himself open to our embrace. God lays swaddled in a manger, awaiting his mother’s tender care. And God loves us from the cross, his arms spread wide, as in an embrace.

The historicity of the Gospel is truly of the greatest importance. That God himself truly became man and lived amongst us is the Gospel. Author Sigrid Undset writes in “Christmas Meditation”: “God comes to us, forever faithful and loving, and binds himself to us with flesh and blood … as God and true Man among men. His, heart which contains the whole fullness of divinity, has beat beneath Mary’s heart; his mouth, which John saw with a sword proceeding from it, has drunk at Mary’s breast.”

That this is “good news” indeed seems an understatement. It is salvific news. It is transfiguring news. Our whole understanding of God, of ourselves and of the world around us is injected with a new sense of purpose, with hope and joy: God’s heart has beat beneath Mary’s heart!

This historical fact should fill us with hope and joy this Advent. It should transfigure our vision of history, even of these very days in which we are now waiting expectantly to celebrate Christmas: God’s coming to us and binding himself to us “with flesh and blood.”

Yes, “let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” Let us make our way to Mary. She who experienced God’s coming in the most unique of ways, can lead us to the manger, where we will find the child Jesus swaddled and drinking at Mary’s breast.

Mary always offers us a way to her Son. She directs and guides us. And, friends, this simple historical orientation toward Mary during Advent is no different. It offers us a way to wait that is also a way of going to the house of the Lord, that [God] may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.

St. Catherine of Siena remarks on this way, made concrete in Mary: “O eternal Truth … I know of no other road but the one you paved with the … fire of your charity. You, eternal Word, cemented it with your blood, so this must be the road” (Prayer 19). It is certainly the road upon which Mary walks as our guide. Rejoicing, we follow she who is become the house of the Lord.

Thus, Advent is the time of the liturgical year during which we wait and walk in the light of a vision already transfigured by that for which we wait: the historical entrance of God into our history, as a baby with a mother. This vision can always be deepened. Our realization of the importance of this historical reality can always be better rooted in its divine revelation of love.

In this way, we also prepare ourselves during Advent to recognize in that same mouth that drank of Mary’s breast, the mouth from which John saw a sword proceeding, the sword of eternal truth. Walking with Mary along the road “cemented” by God’s charity leads us not only to the historical scene of the manger; it also leads us to the hour when the Son of Man will come. This hour is attended with the same transfiguring vision of love gifted to us at the manger: “the hope of the ages become reality, entering this world and its history,” even unto its final fulfillment (Spe Salvi, No. 50).

November 27 – First Sunday of Advent

Is 2:1-5
Ps 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Rom 13:11-14
Mt 24:37-44


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