These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For never before or after, has there been any like you.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel at me?
For what you behold is a divine mystery.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Our joyful waiting is almost at an end, as the Canticle of Zechariah proclaims, “the dawn from on high shall break upon us.”
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?"
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
“What will this child be?” A wonderful question whenever we encounter a child. For as people of faith we know that the hand of the Lord is with every child born into this world. I had an uncle who was born on December 26th. My grandmother always made sure to hold back one of his Christmas presents for him to open on his birthday and of course, there was always a birthday cake. And for all those who were born in this holy time, and share a birthday near the Lord’s, we know that your love is like His. The picture today is of John the Baptist from the Church of Saint Mary in West Jefferson, NC. The Christmas Carol today is from Colombia, Dulce Jesús Mío (My Sweet Jesus).
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
The Canticle of Hannah (which is the Responsorial Psalm of today) is the source of the Canticle of Mary. What is remarkable is that both canticles speak of God’s favor (God’s preferential option) for the humble and the poor. The picture today is of an Appalachian Mother & Child from the Great Depression. The Christmas Carol is from Colombia and is about poverty, El Niño No Nos Trajo (The Baby Jesus Brought Us Nothing).
O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death.
Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.“ Elizabeth’s words have echoed through the ages. As we come to these final days of waiting for the Lord’s coming, Mary’s faith gives us hope. As Elizabeth says of Mary, “Blessed are you who believed.” We share Mary’s faith in the Radiant Dawn, the Sun of Justice, the Splendor of Eternal Light, our Lord Jesus Christ. The picture is of the fresco, Mary Great with Child, in Saint Mary's Church, West Jefferson, NC. The Christmas Carol is Colombian, Salve Reina y Madre (Hail, Queen and Mother).
O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
This Fourth Sunday of Advent turns our attention to the Virgin Mary and to her Fiat (her YES to God’s plan). As Saint Augustine would say of Mary: “Mary is more blest in her believing, than in her conceiving.” And as Elizabeth will say of Mary: “Blest is she who believed that the words of the Lord to her would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45). The picture today is the Annunciation to Mary by Van Eyck. And today we have the ancient Basque Carol, The Angel Gabriel.
O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!
And the angel said to him in reply,
“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
Luke’s Infancy Narrative is a double experience: two annunciations, two nativities, two hymns of praise. But what a contrast in the two annunciation stories, the priest who fails to believe, and the young girl who says “Let it be done to me as you said.” And what a fitting punishment for a priest: to be mute, until the child is born! The picture is the Annunication to Zechariah. The Christmas Carol is Mi Burrito Sabanero that is very popular in Colombia.
O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!
The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
In Matthew’s gospel, Saint Joseph takes an important role in the Infancy Narrative. Pope Francis has proclaimed an extraordinary Holy Year of Saint Joseph which runs from December 8, 2020-December 8, 2021. Perhaps for all of us, Saint Joseph is a good example of doing what the Lord asks of us. The photo today is a detail of the head of Saint Joseph from a stained glass window in Saint Pius V Catholic Church in Troy, Indiana.The Christmas Carol today is from Colombia, Las Barbas de San José (The Whiskers of Saint Joseph).