Sunday, December 20, 2009

Prayers today: God of love and mercy, help us to follow the example of Mary, always ready to do your will. At the message of an angel she welcomed your eternal Son and, filled with the light of your Spirit, she became the temple of your Word, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

St. Dominic of Silos (c. 1000-1073)

It’s not the founder of the Dominicans we honour today, but there’s a poignant story that connects one Dominic with the other. Our saint today, Dominic of Silos was born in Spain around the year 1000 into a peasant family. As a young boy he spent time in the fields, where he welcomed the solitude. He became a Benedictine priest and served in numerous leadership positions. Following a dispute with the king over property, Dominic and two other monks were exiled. They established a new monastery in what at first seemed an unpromising location. Under Dominic’s leadership, however, it became one of the most famous houses in Spain. Many healings were reported there. About 100 years after Dominic’s death, a young woman made a pilgrimage to his tomb. There Dominic of Silos appeared to her and assured her that she would bear another son. The woman was Joan of Aza, and the son she bore grew up to be the "other" Dominic — the one who founded the Dominicans. For many years thereafter, the staff used by St. Dominic of Silos was brought to the royal palace whenever a queen of Spain was in labour. The practice ended in 1931.

The Holy Gospel to Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (1.26-38)

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you. Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end. How will this be, Mary asked the angel, since I am a virgin? The angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God. I am the Lord's servant, Mary answered. May it be to me as you have said. Then the angel left her

The Annunciation
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

If we search the Old Testament, I do not think we shall find a greeting from God equal to the one expressed by the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. In the Book of Genesis the first direct communication from God to man (Adam) is a permission and a command: “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat. The moment you eat from it you shall certainly die” (2:16-17). God’s first words to Abraham consist of a call, a command: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and your father’s house to a land I will show you” (Gen 12:1). God’s first words to Moses are a warning and a command: “Moses! Moses! Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet ... I will send you to Pharaoh to lead my people..” (Exodus 3: 4-10). God’s first words to Samuel (1 Samuel 3: 11-14) were a judgment against Eli and his family. The first words of God to Elijah as reported in the first book of Kings are a command: “Leave here, go east and hide in the Wadi Cherith..” (17:3). God’s first words to the prophet Isaiah were to cleanse his sins and to command him to go to the people as his representative (Isaiah 6: 6-9). But observe the greeting expressed by the exalted emissary from God to the humble and obscure virgin Mary: “Greetings, you who are filled with God’s favour! The Lord is with you.” I do not think there is anything its equal in the history of God’s people. The great Angel, Gabriel, representing God as he does, bows in respectful and loving obeisance before the Virgin. Before the Angel stands one who is singularly endowed by grace, one with whom God is present in every way and in an absolute, unqualified sense. This is the Lady of God’s chosen people, the one who is about to become the new Eve, the mother of all the living. God did not address the first Eve as he does the second. Let us then stand with the Angel and share in his veneration for this singular creature, pure in her holiness beyond description, who gazes upon him in humble wonderment. Hail, Mary!

The angel does not command, but announces the will of the Lord and in doing so asks the Virgin’s consent. But hearken now to his message. It is the will of the Lord that she here and now be with child, and this child will be none other than the Messiah himself. One wonders if, at the very moment the angel arrived, Mary was reading a scroll of a Messianic prophecy. Perhaps she was praying and yearning for the Messiah who was to come, as did Simeon whom she would see and hear before the coming year was out. In any case, the Angel now tells her the wondrous news. Her child would be the Messiah himself. How great a child! “You are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1: 26-38). These words must have burned themselves indelibly on the profoundly impressionable mind of Mary, treasuring them in her heart as she would have for the rest of her life. Reported in Luke, these words have her for their source. Her child was the King of kings, and he would sit on David’s throne forever, and his kingdom would never end. Moreover, he is the very Son of the Most High. How, she humbly asked, could this happen now, for I am a virgin? The Spirit of God will come upon you, the angel explained, and the divine power will cover you. Thus you will become the mother of the Son of God. For nothing is impossible to God! The holy maiden’s reply is simple, yet it expresses the most profound obedience ever lived by any creature of God: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be to me as you have said.” Her consent obtained, the angel left her. The Son of God had become man, the new Adam. The virgin had become the new Eve, mother of all the living. The greatest miracle here is not that of the virgin birth, but that of the Incarnation. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Son of God was made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. God’s definitive revelation of himself to man as a trinity of persons had formally begun, as had the mystery of the Incarnation.

This revelation was been heard, received and accepted in total faith by the Lady of our race, our mother, the first and foremost Christian, the mother of the Church and the most perfect human image of her divine Son. Let us ask her intercession before God, that we too receive in obedient faith all that God has revealed of his plan for our salvation. Let us receive it as did she, in full faith and obedience. This obedience would lead her to the foot of the cross. It will lead us there too.

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