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Meditation on the Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year B

Mary is the new tabernacle. Through her perfect humility and faith, she became the Mother of God and the Mother “in the order of grace”. God, who cannot be contained by anything or anyone, came into the world through the tabernacle of Mary.

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year B

Readings taken from The CTS Sunday Missal 2024

First Reading: 1 Samuel 7:1-5,8-12,14,16

Once David had settled into his house and the Lord had given him rest from all the enemies surrounding him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘Look, I am living in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go and do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.’

But that very night the word of the Lord came to Nathan:

‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel; I have been with you on all your expeditions; I have cut off all your enemies before you. I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel; I will plant them there and they shall dwell in that place and never be disturbed again; nor shall the wicked continue to oppress them as they did, in the days when I appointed judges over my people Israel; I will give them rest from all their enemies. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a House. And when your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your = ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 88:2-5,27,29. R. Cf. v.2

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.
I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord;
through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth.
Of this I am sure, that your love lasts for ever,
that your truth is firmly established as the heavens. R.

‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
I will establish your dynasty for ever
and set up your throne through all ages.’ R.

He will say to me: ‘You are my father,
my God, the rock who saves me.’
I will keep my love for him always;
for him my covenant shall endure. R.

Second Reading: Romans 16:25-27

Glory to him who is able to give you the strength to live according to the Good News I preach, and in which I proclaim Jesus Christ, the revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages, but now so clear that it must be broadcast to pagans everywhere to bring them to the obedience of faith. This is only what scripture has predicted, and it is all part of the way the eternal God wants things to be. He alone is wisdom; give glory therefore to him through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’, the angel answered, ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary, ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

Reflection

Would you build me a house to dwell in?” (2 S 7:5)

This question, asked of King David by God, seems simple enough, yet is bursting with implications and suggestions that only come to completion many centuries later with the conception and birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of David. Having settled into his palace, King David recognised how inappropriate it was to live in comfort while the ark of the covenant remained in a tent.

The significance of David’s sensitivity to the situation should not be overlooked. This was the same man who expressed deep reverence for the ark (2 S 6:9), who danced in exultation as it was brought into the city of Jerusalem, and who then offered sacrifices as “he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts” (2 S 6:12-19).

The Dominican theologian Fr Yves Congar wrote that David had a “sensitive and profound religious spirit” and that, for him, “the religious motive was paramount, all-inclusive, and absolutely pure.” So it is understandable that David wished to build a temple, and it is no surprise that the prophet Nathan thought well of the idea.

But God responded with a word of recollection and of promise. First, he reminded David of the past: it was God who chose David, who cared for him, who protected and guided him, and who conquered his enemies. “I have been with you”, he said, “wherever you went.” The ark and the tent did not contain God, but were visible signs of God’s presence with his people. God “makes his own temple by dwelling in the midst of his people”, wrote Congar, “and his presence cannot fail to be supremely active.”

Then God pointed to the future, when he would build and establish the house of David from which would come an heir and a kingdom. This was fulfilled, in temporal terms, through Solomon, who did build the great temple in Jerusalem. But, of course, Solomon sank into sin and eventually the people were taken into exile. The perfect fulfilment would not come through military might and physical conquest, but through humility and holiness, through a virgin “betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David.”

God was still with his people; he was especially with Mary in a most unique way: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” John Paul II, in the 1987 encyclical devoted to the Blessed Mother, Redemptoris Mater, noted that: “The fullness of grace announced by the angel means the gift of God himself.” God was with his people at Mount Sinai and throughout their forty years in the desert. Now, the angel told the maiden, the Holy Spirit will come and the “power of the Most High will overshadow you”, just as, in the words of John Paul II, “at the time of Moses and the Patriarchs the cloud covered the presence of God”. This overshadowing is the same mysterious manifestation of God’s presence that is described in Exodus 40:35: “Moses could not enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”

Mary, then, is the new tabernacle. Through her perfect humility and faith, she became the Mother of God and the Mother “in the order of grace”. God, who cannot be contained by anything or anyone, came into the world through the tabernacle of Mary. “For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men” (CCC 721). David longed to build a temple but only God could build a house to dwell in, for our sake and for his glory.

In the words of an Eastern hymn: “Mary, Mother of God, honourable tabernacle of sweet ointments, make me through your prayers a chosen vessel that I may receive the sanctification of your son.”

Prayerfully discover the meaning of Christmas:

Prepare the Way of the LordPrayerfully discover the meaning of Christmas with this collection of meditations on the Scriptures and prayers of the Advent season. Reflecting upon the Sunday Gospels, Carl E Olson highlights their depth and helps us to apply the Scriptures to our own lives.

Olson continues this Advent meditation by offering a line-by-line contemplation on the Hail Mary, illuminating the significance of each word so as to deepen our experience of this integral prayer. By praying the Hail Mary mindfully, we discover how to walk through Advent with Mary, ready to welcome her Son at Christmas.

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