Tuesday, 15 December 2015

4th Sunday of Advent - Year C

Micah 5:1-4; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-44

We began our Mass with the Entrance Antiphon. It's on the back of the bulletin and it's wonderful. I'll read it again:
Drop down dew from above, you heavens,
and let the clouds rain down the Just One;
let the earth be opened and bring forth a Saviour.

Isn't that a beautiful prayer! Each year, on the fourth Sunday of Advent we have this same antiphon and it's worth looking at more closely right now.

The first thing we notice is that it is a natural image - an image taken from nature.

The clouds rain down ... the earth brings forth ...

How often have we seen this happen? A dry field, a bare lawn, a thirsty vegetable garden, then a cloudburst. The rain falls, covers the earth, penetrates the soil - and the earth brings forth new life. Rain transforms, rain renews.

Secondly we notice that to this natural image has been added a supernatural dimension. It is the Just One who is rained down - it is a Saviour who is brought forth.

The obvious meaning the Church intends us to take from this is that the Just One, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, has come from above, from heaven, and yet, truly Man, he is brought forth by the earth, from below - God and man - human and divine.

Thirdly, the word let makes the whole thing not just a statement of truth but a graceful prayer: let the clouds rain down the Just One; let the earth be opened and bring forth a Saviour.

Is it possible to say these words without them expressing our longing for the Lord while at the same time increasing our longing for him? I can't imagine that.

Next, we notice that this is a nuptial image in which heaven and earth, the divine and the human, are the groom and the bride. We might see this more clearly if I quote the lines from Isaiah on which this antiphon is based.

Rain righteousness, you heavens, let the skies above pour down; let the earth open to receive it, that it may bear the fruit of salvation .... (Isaiah 45:8)

You can't tell me that is not a clear yet delicate nuptial image, an image of procreation.

If we had time we could reflect more deeply and show a connection to Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body which proposes that our sexuality and the marriage act, being essentially good and holy, are in fact a revelation of God himself. Certainly God here unashamedly associates the coming of his Son Jesus to earth with the nuptial act by which new life is created - in a subtle and alluring natural procreative image.

Finally, we see in this Antiphon a looking forward to that moment of intimacy between God and man, when the Virgin Mary surrendered totally to the Will of God with her yes to the message of the angel, and the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, letting the rain of his grace fall into her open womb, and she brought forth the Saviour of the world - a moment of utter human fruitfulness.

No wonder the Communion Antiphon exalts: Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son; and his name will be called Emmanuel.

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