Fourth Sunday in Advent

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Deacon Blaine Barclay

This fourth Sunday of Advent our Lord comes to meet us in the greeting of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. Although we cannot be sure of the words Mary used in her greeting, we do know that Elizabeth, and John the Baptist in her womb, recognized in Mary’s words of greeting the Word made Flesh.

The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, like Epiphany, Is also a ‘little Christmas’. Before the choir of angels, before the shepherds, before the wisemen from the east, Elizabeth and John recognize the coming of the Christ. The Incarnation of God in the person of Jesus had already taken place, the Word has become the most vulnerable of all flesh in the womb of Mary. The Word becomes Flesh in the Marian fiat, in Mary’s yes. All our yeses are contained in Mary’s yes, and in the moment of recognition by Elizabeth and John. So, let us unpack this story a bit.


The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth is of course familiar to anyone who reads the gospels or prays the rosary. But let’s hope that its very familiarity doesn’t hide from us the depth of this text and its layers of invitations. The Visitation takes place immediately after the Word became flesh in Mary’s womb at the Annunciation. It says, ‘Mary set out and went with haste to… Elizabeth’. Mary‘s response to the word that comes to her from God is, ‘Let it be done to me according to your word‘. Then the first thing Mary does in response to this disruptive, dynamite Word, now en-fleshed in her womb, is to think of someone else, to put herself at the service of another. Mary knows that her cousin Elizabeth is perhaps the only person who will believe her ‘good news’, because Elizabeth herself has experienced her own ‘impossible good news’, having conceived John later in life.


Having travelled about 100 miles south from Nazareth to Hebron, a priestly city in the hill country of Judea, upon her arrival Mary greets her older cousin Elizabeth. Perhaps with the traditional Jewish greeting, ‘Shalom Aleichem’ , ‘Peace be with you’. We know only the response of Elizabeth to the word of greeting from her cousin Mary. It forms part of the Hail Mary. ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb‘.


Prior to her verbal response to Mary’s greeting two things take place. First of all, when Elizabeth heard Mary‘s greeting, the child leaped within her womb. Even in the womb John recognized the presence of Jesus in Mary. From the beginning Mary mediates and points to the presence of Jesus. Talk about a womb with a view, Mary is the first tabernacle of the new covenant, of the Messianic age, and both John and Elizabeth are the first to see this. Secondly, ‘Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit‘, and first spoke those famous words of recognition. ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.‘ Elizabeth is also the first to recognize Mary’s unique role in salvation history. When she asks, ‘Why has this happened to me, that the Mother of my Lord comes to me‘? This phrase, ‘Mother of my Lord‘, is both a first Marian dogma and a profound profession of faith in the identity of Jesus. Together, Mary’s yes, John’s leap of faith, and Elizabeth’s profession, ‘Mother of my Lord‘; express a first layer of what is called the Kerygma,  a fancy word for the core proclamation and profession of the Christian faith. As we enter into the great mystery of the Incarnation, of God becoming flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, let us learn from Mary, Elizabeth, and John, how to welcome this coming of God in our midst. From Mary, ‘Let it be done to me according to your word‘. ‘And the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us’. From John, filled with the Holy Spirit even in the womb, recognizing the presence of the Word made flesh. From Elizabeth, who recognized from the beginning, the unity of the Marian yes and the mystery of the Incarnation. Mary’s Yes, John’s Leap, and Elizabeth’s Who am I…. Three foundational moments of recognition embedded in the story of the Visitation. Making us right ready for Christmas.


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.