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Fourth Sunday of Advent - Cycle C December 20, 2009

Fourth Sunday of Advent - Cycle C December 20, 2009

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NFourth Sunday of Advent - Cycle CDecember 20, 2009Scripture ReadingsFirst:
Micah 5: 1-4.
Second :
Hebrews 10: 5-10.
Gospel :
Luke 1:39-45.Prepared by: Fr. Stephen Dominic Hayes, OP1.
Subject Matter 
 
·
 
As we come close to the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord that Christmas, the readingspoint us directly to the mystery of the Incarnation. The precise method by means of which theAlmighty has decided to save the human race is that it should encounter him precisely as asocial and historical being. God wishes to come to mankind through mankind; and for thisreason Christ was born in Bethlehem. The readings today, however, cast God's visitation ofhis people precisely as
encounter 
: and this encounter for-shadows the continuing role ofHoly Church.
·
 
The most Blessed Virgin Mary, bearing Christ under her heart, the Savior she has conceivedthrough hearing and believing the Word of the Angel delivered to her, comes to visitElizabeth, the mother of the greatest of prophets, whose father yet refused to believemessage of the Angel. The unborn Messiah shares his prophetic Spirit with the unborn Johnas their mothers meet; the silent Prophet, cleansed from sin for his ministry, chosen nowmanifestly by God from the womb, leaps for joy at the coming of the Christ and fills his ownmother with words of prophecy. Holy Church, whose image is Mary, who bears Christ intothe world in every age, remains the place of encounter through which God visits his people.2.
Exegetical Notes
·
 
The prophet Micah puts before us the mysterious figure of the Messiah who is at the sametime, from the clans of Judah and yet whose origin is also, from of old, from ancient times.He is given the royal title of Shepherd; and yet he shall shepherd God's flock "by thestrength of the Lord". The service of this Messiah is not only for Israel; for his greatness isto reach the ends of the earth. He shall be peace ( Heb. shalom): there is a play onwords here both upon the name of King Solomon, the son of King David - for the Messiah willbe another son of David, and, as Solomon was in his day, a man of peace; there is alsopotentially a play on the Messiahs role as King of Jerusalem; he shall be Peace; andJerusalem means, City of Peace- he who is peace possesses Jerusalem as his own. In
 
the Christ, the eschatological city of peace is possessed by the King who make peacebetween heaven and earth with his own blood upon the hills of Jerusalem. According to aspiritual sense, Micah foreshadows the Church's understanding of the hypostatic union of thedivine and human natures in the Person of the divine Word and Son.
·
 
Hebrews 10: 5-7 attribute the words of Psalm 40:7-9a to the Son at the Incarnation. TheMasoretic text differs from the Septuagint here: the MT says ears you have dug for me(emphasizing the importance of obedience over mere ritual observance, without rejectingritual observance) whereas the LXX , a body you have prepared for me is especiallyrelevant to the Lord's own self offering at himself in death. In verse nine, Behold, I havecome to do your will. He annuls the former in order to establish the latter, the author of theLetter to the Hebrews emphasizes that Christ has come precisely to establish a new order ofworship, in which the various rituals temple sacrifice on our now replaced by the one self-sufficient and voluntary offering of Jesus Christ to his Father' s will. The Messiah is born atBethlehem precisely that he may ascend the Cross at Calvary. The Incarnation of Christ isdirected precisely to the sacrifice of the His Redemption.
·
 
The Gospel for today is from Luke, and deals with the Visitation. Luke has constructed theinfancy narratives of Christ in conjunction with an account of the origins of John the Baptist;in fact, there is a deliberate and complete comparison, which the scholars compare to thefamiliar classical artistic form of the diptych, between that of Christ and the holy Forerunner.Christ's birth is foretold and believed by the Virgin; John's birth is foretold and not believed byZachary his father the priest; the two Nativities of John and his Precursor will be compared ina similar manner. These four panels of the two diptychs come together in the account ofthe Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth which is the subject of this week's Gospel. The Mother ofChrist meets the mother of John the Baptist, and Christ the bearer of the Holy Spiritcommunicates that Spirit of prophecy to the Baptist while he is still in the womb. The HolySpirit is extremely active and visible in the Gospel of Luke, and particularly so in thispassage.
·
 
The account of the Visitation is extremely rich in the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.Elizabeth's child, the prophet of God, leaps in the womb: this reminds us of Rebeccaschildren (Genesis 25:22ff.); and of King David's words and dancing before the advent of theHoly Ark to Jerusalem ( 2 Samuel 6:16); Isaiahs prophecy of the response of God's poor tothe Advent of the Messiah (Isaiah 35:6); this last instance may be multiplied (Psalm 114:6;Malachi 3:20,
etc 
.) Elizabeth's words Blessed are you in praise of Mary are presaged inthe Old Testament in such places as Deborah's praise of Jael (Judges 5:24), the praising ofJudith (Judith 13:18) and the abundant blessings of Deuteronomy 7:12-14. The presentpassage is argued to Mary's own words, filled with the Holy Spirit in her Magnificat, read laterin the week.3.
References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
 
·
 
CCC 463
Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christianfaith: "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ hascome in the flesh is of God." Such is the joyous conviction of the Church from her beginningwhenever she sings "the mystery of our religion": "He was manifested in the flesh."
 
 
·
 
CCC 476
Since the Word became flesh in assuming a true humanity, Christ's body wasfinite. Therefore the human face of Jesus can be portrayed; at the seventh ecumenicalcouncil (Nicaea II in 787) the Church recognized its representation in holy images to belegitimate.
·
 
CCC 477
At the same time the Church has always acknowledged that in the body of Jesus"we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see." Theindividual characteristics of Christ's body express the divine person of God's Son. He hasmade the features of his human body his own, to the point that they can be venerated whenportrayed in a holy image, for the believer "who venerates the icon is venerating in it theperson of the one depicted".
·
 
CCC 523
St. John the Baptist 
is the Lord's immediate precursor or forerunner, sent toprepare his way. "Prophet of the Most High", John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he isthe last. He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother's womb welcomes the comingof Christ, and rejoices in being "the friend of the bridegroom", whom he points out as "theLamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world". Going before Jesus "in the spirit andpower of Elijah", John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion,and through his martyrdom.
 
·
 
CCC 971
"
 All generations will call me blessed 
": "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virginis intrinsic to Christian worship." The Church rightly honors "the Blessed Virgin with specialdevotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . Thisvery special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnateWord and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration." Theliturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an"epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.4.
Patristic Commentary and Other Authorities
 
·
 
Origen
 
(Homilies on the Gospel of Luke 7.1):
Better men go o weaker men to give themsome advantage by their visits. Thus the Savior came to John to sanctify John's baptismJesus was in her womb, and he hastened to sanctify John, who was still in his own mother'swomb. but as soon as Mary spoke the word that the Son of God, in his mother's womb hadsupplied, "the infant leaped in joy." At that moment Jesus made his forerunner a prophet forthe first time.
·
 
St. Ephrem the Syrian
(Commentary on Tatian
  
s Diatesseron 1.30)
:
Moreover, that heexulted in the womb of his mother was not of himself, nor because of his five months, but sothat the divine gifts might show themselves in the barren one that was now carrying him. Itwas also so that the other womb, that of the Virgin, would know of the great gifts given toElizabeth, and that the two soils might believe in the seeds they had received through theword of Gabriel, cultivator of both grounds. Since John could not cry out in his exultation andrender witness to his Lord, his mother began to say, "You are blessed among women, andblessed is the fruit of your womb." Our Lord prepared his herald in a dead womb, to showthat he came after a dead Adam. He vivified Elizabeth's womb first, and then vivified the soulof Adam through his body.
·
 
Maximus of Turin
(
Sermon 5.4
): Not yet born, already John prophesies, and while still in theenclosure of his mother's womb confesses the coming of Christ with movements of joy-since

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