DECEMBER 21, 2010 – TUESDAY OF 4TH WEEK OF ADVENT: ZEPH 3:14-18 ; LUKE 1:39-45


BLESSED IS SHE WHO TRUSTED THAT THE LORD’S WORDS TO HER WOULD BE FULFILLED.  As the days of Advent draw closer to the night of the Savior’s birth, the note of joyous expectation, present in this season from the first, grows more intense and more prominent. Elizabeth’s spontaneous exclamation upon receiving Mary’s visit was a joyous cry acknowledging the blessing Mary had been graced with. Saint Luke intends to convey the fact that the presence of the Word of God in our human history is a cause for rejoicing. All who recognize him in faith experience a freshness of vitality that expands the heart with an awareness of a new quality within that is an intimation of a fuller and richer life. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, Luke informs us, took place immediately after she conceived of the Holy Spirit so that the child in her womb was aged but a week or two at the time of the encounter of the two cousins. At that stage of development, technical language refers to the conceptus as an embryo; only after eight weeks does it take on a form sufficiently advanced in its various features and organs to assume an appearance recognizably human. At this stage it is designated by the term fetus, which is employed for the remainder of its time in the womb. Unformed, though as the body of the child Jesus was at the time of Mary’s greeting to Elizabeth, yet his person is already present and is perceived by John the Baptist who is himself still a fetus in Elizabeth’s uterus.


The more we reflect on the mystery of these events, so movingly natural, the greater our appreciation for the meaning they continue to have for each of us who join by faith with these holy women and the children they bear within their bodies. What Elizabeth celebrates in her joyous greeting has life-changing significance for us as it did for her and for Mary. Her words are an expression of praise of God’s action that creates a new kind of presence among us in this world of time. A presence that is creative of possibilities that are made available to us and that impart a capacity for elevating the meaning of each of our lives. For with the coming of the Son of the Most High, as the angel designated Mary’s child, God unites himself with us in a manner that transcends nature. This child in Mary’s womb is human in every feature of nature and yet his person transcends all human personality, being that of the Son who is of the same nature as the Father. As he was to declare in later years: “I and the Father are One.” The Greek word used here by St. John (10:30) is “hen” meaning “one thing”. There is but one who is God, and that one includes this child, still but an embryo newly implanted who changes the meaning of human existence for all those who come into the world.


This is the mysterious wisdom to be revealed in the birth of the child whom Elizabeth acknowledges as a source of joy while he is still in the womb. At this Eucharist we hear this account of Mary’s visit to her relative as we celebrate the message her thoughtful concern conveys to us as it did to the one she visited, knowing that it is the beginning of a long series of happenings that, taken together, make available to us the plan devised by God for the salvation and sanctification of all our race. We take part in this assembly at the altar in recognition of the merciful love that, through the motherhood of Mary, makes eternal life in union with God Himself, accessible to us. As we gratefully thank God for giving his beloved Son to us in the flesh we prepare our hearts by desire and by increasing our faith in his loving care to welcome him with more ardor when he comes to us as a new born child. May we respond to his love ever more fully by living these days of preparation with attentive care to serve him faithfully in all we do. Ω

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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