· Vatican City ·

Fourth Sunday of Advent in the Year of St Mark

Go forth to meet Him

 Go forth to meet Him  ING-051
22 December 2023

On the fourth and final Sunday of Advent that falls this year on Christmas Eve, we are invited to contemplate Mary at the moment of the Annunciation. Her decision today will bear fruit tomorrow, nine months telescoped into the passage of a few hours. As she reflects, no doubt greatly troubled, on the greeting and invitation of the Angel, we see a young woman at a moment of profound significance in her life’s journey. The word that she voices today will bind her for all eternity as the mother of another Word, God’s self-expression as love and life and longing for the love of his people.

How prepared was she to give her word? Studying centuries of representations of the Annunciation in Christian art, it is noteworthy how often the image of the book appears, either in her hands, or beside her. This artistic fantasy, though not mentioned in the Gospel, is none the less inspired: meditating on the word of God, no doubt her constant practice, she is enabled to conceive the Word. Yet she is not merely passive: she poses her pointed question, How shall this be since I have no husband? Some translations say “How is this possible”, a happy phrase that anticipates the reply, with God nothing will be impossible. The hope that hovers over the possibility is confirmed in the negation of impossibility.

How do we enter into this mysterious exchange? The faultless fidelity of God’s Word is the benchmark for any human word given. Mary utters her let it be to me according to your word, thereby fixing her in a faithfulness that will enfold her as she walks the paths of life. According to John, she will in fine stand firm at the foot of the Cross. All of us have moments great and small when we give our word. The God-given example of the Incarnation in which thy all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne (Wis 18:14) challenges us to make our word count, whether in the telling truthfulness of our daily dealings or in the life-changing promises that define the contours of our journey. On the eve of Christmas, as the Virgin’s fiat bears visible fruit, let us dedicate ourselves to be friends of the true word of honest speech and worshippers of the Word made flesh.

Fr Edmund Power, osb