Fourth Sunday of Advent (Cycle B)
Annunciation - by MURILLO, Bartolomé Esteban - from Museo del Prado, Madrid
Mary is not shown in the thralls of mystical rapture, nor in those of devotion. Murillo's Mary
is a very young woman with an almost childlike face, who is kneeling at her prie-dieu, her eyes cast pensively downwards. She has set
aside her basket of handiwork and seems to have been disturbed by an angel in the midst of her prayers. Mary's purity is symbolized by
the white lilies, and her prior knowledge of the Messiah is symbolized by the open Holy Book at the right containing the words of the
inspired writers of Genesis and Isaiah, of which she had intimate prior knowledge. Were it not for the presence of his wings, even the
angel would seem to be a very worldly creature. He is not floating in some uncertain sphere, nor is he a vision, but is kneeling on the
floor tiles. Strong-limbed and barefoot, almost like a peasant, his pretty face is framed by dark locks. With one hand, he points towards
the dove of the Holy Spirit, which floats above their heads in a truly unearthly and intangible celestial vision. With the other hand,
he makes a gesture of persuasion: he seems to be explaining the purpose of his mission quite vigorously to Mary.
Although the event seems plausible in a distinctly earthly manner - even the Putti in the
clouds do not alter this impression - the miracle is clear. Mary's innocence, underlined by the lily as a symbol of purity, is of such
intensity that the spectator senses her quiet reservation, the excited anticipation of the prophesied miracle and her astonishment at
2Samuel 7:1-5, 8-11, 16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
2Samuel 7:1-5, 8-11, 16
When King David was settled in his palace, and the Lord had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said
to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!" Nathan answered the king, "Go, do
whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you." But that night the Lord spoke to Nathan and said: "Go, tell My servant
David, 'Thus says the Lord: Should you build Me a house to dwell in?'
"'It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of My people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones
of the earth. I will fix a place for My people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance.
Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over My people Israel. I
will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also reveals to you that He will establish a house for you. Your house and your
kingdom shall endure forever before Me; your throne shall stand firm forever.'"
To him who is able to strengthen you in the gospel which I proclaim when I preach Jesus Christ, the gospel which
reveals the mystery hidden for many ages but now manifested through the writings of the prophets, and, at the command of the eternal
God, made known to all the Gentiles that they may believe and obey -- to Him, the God Who alone is wise, may glory be given through
Jesus Christ unto endless ages.
Gospel Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. Upon arriving, the angel said to her: "Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The
Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women." She was deeply troubled by his words, and wondered what his greeting meant. The
angel went on to say to her: "Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God. You shall conceive and bear a Son and give Him the
name Jesus. Great will be His dignity and He will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of David His
father. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and His reign will be without end."
Mary said to the angel, "How can this be since I do not know man?" The angel answered her: "The Holy
Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the holy Offspring to be born will be called Son of God.
Know that Elizabeth your kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age; she who was thought to be sterile is now in her sixth month, for
nothing is impossible with God."
Mary said: "I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say." With that the angel left her.
Fourth Sunday of Advent (Cycle B)
by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.
In this season of giving gifts, we need to pay some attention to the giving of our
very own selves. After all, the word "present" stands for making one's
own self "present" to another as a gift.
One's presence is in the gift given.
Mary gave her very own self to
God, saying: "I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to
me as You say."
It was a costly gift . . . it cost
In the final days of her pregnancy she rode approximately
75 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey. It's hard to imagine a woman nine
months pregnant getting up on a donkey at all, much less getting on and off repeatedly for a 75 mile
journey on something far less comfortable than the seat in a Lincoln Continental. Then, upon arrival in Bethlehem in the middle of the
night, she is only allowed a place for rest in a manger, a place to shelter animals.
Thereupon she delivers her Child,
cradling Him in an animal feeding trough. Her gift
of her self to God was costly.
Then she is forced to endure the frightful pain of knowing that
little baby boys throughout the entire region were being killed on the swords of soldiers ordered to
slaughter by a raging king, all because of the birth of her own
Child. Hearing the shrieks of pain from nearby mothers and enduring
it all in silence must have been horribly painful for her. How much does it
cost to serve God's will?
Shortly thereafter her husband, Joseph, responding to yet another
dream, packs her up along with her Child, puts
them on a donkey again, and takes them on a longer and more arduous trip into Egypt where they, as Jews,
have to live among Arabs and Egyptians who did not look kindly on Jews. There they live as alien Jews who have to be accommodated
by Egyptians. Giving God the gift of yourself can prove
Years later, after having returned back home to Nazareth following the
death of the raging King Herod, Mary has to see
her Son suddenly depart one day to spend an unbelievable amount of time out in
the desert, and when He returns home He presents Himself
to all the family and townsfolk as the Jewish Messiah. The people of Nazareth then and there attempt to
From there it's three short years later to the scene where we find Mary
at the foot of His Cross, suffering
her own anguish and pain as
her much misunderstood Son
dies an agonizing death on the Cross after
having given her away to be the mother of John, and our
mother, too. Just how much was the gift of herself
to God going to cost? It's one thing to give your very own self away, it's
quite another to have your own son give you away to a stranger!
The giving of yourself to another as a gift doubles your risks.
You are never free again to take care of "number
one". As a matter of fact, you never know again just who "number
one" really is. Wherever the one you give yourself to goes, you go; whatever happens to the one you
love, happens to you.
This giving of yourself opens up a lot of questions, questions which can never be fully answered. It's not like giving money,
or some trinket, or something that you've purchased from another to give away. Oh, no! It is tremendously costly
and requires a whole lot of deliberate thought, prayer,
courage and strength.
It also does the most good. For in giving yourself away a miracle
happens - you find your self. It is in seeing your self in the other that you discover your self. It is in being "present" to another that you are, in fact, a gift or a
present to them.
Mary models what being a gift really means. She
gives to us a Christmas story that is quite different than a lot of other Christmas
stories, showing us that the best gift of all is the gift of your self to the
ones you love.
I recently came across the story of a father, a once poor man who
became quite wealthy, who gave his son a high-powered sports car as a Christmas present. The son, not
ready for the responsibility, went out and then totaled the car in an awful accident. The father, feeling
sorry for his son, took the insurance money and bought him another hot car. The son went out and totaled
that one, too, horribly killing two people in the process. One ponders here
over the adage: "Killing with kindness".
Then there's the story of a different kind of father. This one, poor and without money, had a
coupon booklet printed up and gave it to his son. Each coupon had printed on it: "Good for two
hours of my time. I love you, Dad." Throughout the year the boy would tear out a coupon and give it to his dad
who thereupon dropped everything else and gave his son his undivided love and
IT CHANGED THEM BOTH.
Will your gifts this Christmas change you? Can you give the
best gift of all - your self?
And will Jesus get a coupon book from you?