Advent Reflections for Sat, Dec. 21

Today’s Readings from USCCB

Some feastdays that we celebrate seem to be too rich or too complex for us to do them justice in either our celebrations or our homilies. I think here especially of Holy Thursday, but I have the same feeling about Christ’s Baptism and the Transfiguration. The one that interests me the most, however, is what we are focusing on in this passage from Luke.

When we celebrate on March 25, what happens here, we call this the feast of the Annunciation, and what we center on almost exclusively is Mary herself and her response to God. That is not what the word “annunciation” indicates, however, although that centering is better than dwelling on Gabriel impersonally announcing to Mary what God is about to do, as if she had no voice in the matter. That is simply not what Luke says.

If we wished to retain the concentration on Mary and on her response, we might well begin to refer instead to this as the feast of the Invitation, where the Father asks whether Mary would be willing to bear His Son. This could bring out the respect God shows her as well as the very personal attitude she manifests in accepting.

I myself would prefer to call it instead the feast of the Incarnation, since considering our position on the point at which a human life begins (and consequently our position on abortion), this is the day on which we celebrate the most central event in the history of the universe and all creation. I think we might well transfer some of the emphasis we give to Christmas to this day, whether the quiet scene with Mary and Gabriel has all sorts of warm images and memorable stories attached to it or not.

We might do a sort of contemplation of this scene in our prayer. Where is the Father in all of this? And the Second Person? What is Gabriel thinking as he appears and speaks for God? How does Mary feel in having such a visit, even in just the first moments? How does she feel as the angel leaves her? Just exactly what is it that the Spirit does (outside of the obvious physical arrangement)? Talk to each of them and ask them to tell you.

And what does any of that say to each of us about our own lives?

Chas. Kestermeier, SJ

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