Fourth Sunday in Advent

Deacon Blaine Barclay


In order to get to the point of my homily, as an aside, I first need to say a few things about the temple in Jerusalem.

In our first reading King David is ashamed that he lives in an elegant house made of cedar, while the presence of God in their midst, the Ark of the Covenant, lives in a tent.  David promises God that he will build him a house to live in, a Temple for the holy of holies, the ark of the presence.  King David doesn’t get to build this house, but his son Salomon does.  King Solomon builds a glorious temple that would dwarf our cathedral by comparison. Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and was rebuilt after the exile.  This second temple was later devastated by the Greek empire during the time of the Maccabees.  Before and during the time of Jesus a third restored temple was being built. This temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

So, what does this have to do with our gospel today?  What does the temple in Jerusalem have to do with the story of the annunciation? In the annunciation, God has raised up for himself another temple to house the holy of holies.  The womb of the virgin Mary is the new holy of holies.  Mary is the Ark of the new covenant, she carries in her person the presence of God in our midst, Emmanuel, God with us.

Some of you may have seen the famous Christmas painting by the Canadian artist, William Kurelek,.  It is the painting of Mary riding on a donkey on her way to Bethlehem, except that the artist represents Mary as a Eucharistic Tabernacle.  Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, the first Eucharistic Tabernacle.

The Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, foundress of Madonna House, writes of this Christmas Donkey Carrying God; ’The donkey that carried our Lady to Bethlehem took another form in my thoughts.  For he carried the Word – a dumb animal, carrying a Virgin who carried God – and so he was the carrier of God too.  His bells were the first Church bells, for Mary was the first Church, the first tabernacle of Christ’.

The Church is Marian at her source.  The whole of the Christian faith is born of, is contained in the Marian fiat, in Mary’s yes. ’Let it be done to me, according to your word’; says Mary in response to the message of the angel Gabriel;  ’and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’, literally, ‘pitched his tent among us’, moved into the neighborhood, became one of us.

Preaching on this same text of the Annunciation the other day, Father Shawn called the Annunciation ‘the hinge text’, ‘the threshold gospel’.  Everything turns on this ’Yes’, it beats at the heart of what is old and what is new, like the hinges is of the valves of the heart.  Mary is the New Eve, Mother of the new regenerated humanity.  Mary is Theotokos, God-Bearer, Mother of God.  All subsequent Catholic teachings about Mary are contained in these two ancient affirmations about her.

Mary gives birth to the one who is the New Adam.  The flesh of the new elevated human nature is born of her Yes.  The flesh, and human nature of Jesus Christ is taken from her flesh, her Yes.  Mary’s Yes is not just an act of her will.  Mary says yes with her whole person, it is a completely embodied Yes; ’And the Word became flesh’. Mary gives birth to the one who is Emmanuel, God with us.  With her Yes to the Word she becomes pregnant with the Word.  Mother of the Word who is God Incarnate, Theotokos, God-Bearer, Mother of God.

In all this, she is our Mother, mother of the divinized body of Christ extended through time.  The body of Christ that is the Church.  This is why one of her titles is, ’Mother of the Church’, and why all of our Yes’ are contained in her Yes.  Whenever we ask her to pray for us, we place ourselves, we take our stand within her primal Yes.  As such the story of the annunciation can leap off the page, and take a journey from the ear to the heart, so to speak, and become your yes and mine.

On this day, the final day of Advent, standing within the Marian Yes, the yes of the annunciation, let us make ready for the coming of the Christ, pitching the tent of his flesh among us. Let us say with Mary, right down to the bottom of who we are. ’Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your Word’. ’And the Word became flesh’. And the Word becomes flesh, again and again and again.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.