29 Dec 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.