O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before You. Come let nothing keep you from coming to our aid (O Antiphon, Divine Office).
As Advent draws to its culmination, there is a sense of eager anticipation that builds like a crescendo. Our home is filled with the sights, sounds and scents of Christmas. The Nativity stands on the mantle, the Christmas tree is decorated, lights glow, stringed instruments rehearse for Christmas Mass, the children sing and whisper Christmas secrets. . . our busy home is abuzz with festive cheer.
The rhythm of readings from the daily Divine Office and Holy Mass have served as a foundation upon which we have endeavored to construct worthy hearts; prepared to welcome the Infant Christ Child, and His Beloved Mother. The daily recitation of the St. Andrew Novena has helped to reinforce the essential truth and beauty of the season of Advent. With every: “Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary at midnight in Bethlehem, in piercing cold, in that hour vouchsafe O my God to hear my prayer and grant my desire through the merits of our Savior Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother. Amen,” our hearts are one step closer to welcoming the One Who is our heart’s greatest desire.
Yesterday’s blizzard offered a unique opportunity for reflection and Advent preparation. Winds howled and heavy snow blanketed our area. By this morning we had 14 inches of heavy wet snow, encrusted with ice. Trees laden beyond their breaking point littered our yard today.
All week we knew the storm was coming. Modern meteorology with its Doppler radar has tracking approaching storms down to a science. On Wednesday, I regretfully informed the kids it was doubtful that we’d venture to the Basilica for daily Mass. We all hate missing Mass, but missing Mass during these final days of Advent seems a particular blow. My daughter Gemma summed it all up: “The Lord has invited us to His banquet, and we won’t be there!” However, I assured them that as the responsibility of their young lives is mine, I knew Our Lord would understand our absence from His holy Banquet. Still, I prayed, as did they, that if possible, we might get to Mass.
Before the icy, wet snow truly piled up on Thursday morning, my husband discovered that his clinic was closed in advance of the inclement weather. By Mass time, as anticipated, the roads were beyond my driving capabilities, but he is more proficient behind the wheel than I, and thus we safely ventured to Mass as a family. The beauty of the Basilica, encrusted with pure white snow from the twin spires to the trees below, is breath-taking. Fr. Jude delivered a magnificent homily to the mere handful of us who were privileged to traverse the steep hill. He explained why King Ahaz preferred to enter a disastrous military alliance with the Assyrians rather than trust in God’s providential care (First Reading, Isaiah 7:10-14). Ahaz was a weak king, who sought his own security and prestige through worldly means and was uninterested in invoking God. Ahaz was not about to trust that God would protect his tiny Kingdom, and in fact he preferred to side-step God, rather than risk losing his precious throne. Politics preempted theology. Thus, with mock humility, Ahaz refused to even ask for a sign. Even though Ahaz refuses to cooperate, the prophesy is uttered aloud: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you this sign: the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name Him Emmanuel.”
The fulfillment of this prophesy reaches completion through the fiat of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was described in yesterday’s Gospel (Luke 1: 26-38). King Ahaz refused to cooperate with God’s grace, and rejected His loving plan to protect His chosen people. Alternatively, the Blessed Virgin chose to cooperate fully with the Divine Will. King Ahaz principally valued his own temporal and political desires. He was full of himself, and placed his personal security above the good of his people and the will of God. In contrast, the Blessed Virgin was (and is still) full of Grace, she sought the Will of God preeminently without consideration of her personal goals and safety. Unlike Ahaz, she trusted God thoroughly, and thus through her God’s loving plan would reach fulfillment in Christ Jesus.
Trust: it seems so simple, yet it is profoundly challenging. Trust is not something that happens accidentally. No, rather it requires a volitional act of the will. We must summon our courage and rest in faith, realizing the validity of the Angel Gabiel’s promise: “Nothing is impossible with God.” Mighty kings and rulers like Ahaz have proven incapable of such trust. Yet, a lowly, humble, poor, young virgin demonstrates exactly how one must proceed. Emulating her example, we can place our trust in the providential love of God, and receive into our hearts the fruit of this love, which is Jesus Christ Our Savior.
Through Mary, may we have the grace to say: “Jesus, I trust in You!”