The Fourth Sunday of Advent and the Feast of the Birth of Christ
Our daily calendars and the Liturgical calendar run into each other this year, giving us the shortest Advent possible –a Fourth Week of only one day!- and, from late Saturday to Monday morning, our Christmas liturgies offer us a richness of Scripture texts that leave us in awe and invite us to ponder…to ponder the mystery.
Sunday morning (or the Saturday vigil) we will celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent and a young woman (girl) who says, “Yes” to God’s invitation, delivered by Gabriel. Then, later Sunday and into Monday morning, the Church celebrates the Christmas mystery, over and over again, like turning a precious diamond to see every aspect of its beauty. We celebrate our wondrous God who so loved the world as to want to share our humanity, our real, sometimes messy, human lives. He came as a helpless baby, like we all do, and experienced learning to talk and walk, learn and play, to have friends and to discover what God wanted of him as an adult, as we all do.
Christmas is such an amazing feast that it has four separate liturgies – each brings a particular facet of the mystery to be celebrated. There is the Christmas Vigil Mass, the Mass during the night, a Mass at Dawn, and a Christmas Mass during the day! The prophet Isaiah leads us in most of the First Readings, St. Paul in the Second Readings, Luke’s Gospel invites us to be with Mary and Joseph as they travel -and then the birth. There are angels and shepherds – and this young mother “pondering all these things in her heart.”
With so much to ponder and treasure, perhaps simplicity is our guide. Let us take time to let our imagination sit with Mary holding her infant son in her lap, gazing at him and loving him. She will show us the way, the mystery, the love.
“10. The contemplation of Christ has an incomparable model in Mary. In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary. It was in her womb that Christ was formed, receiving from her a human resemblance which points to an even greater spiritual closeness. No one has ever devoted himself to the contem-plation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary. The eyes of her heart already turned to him at the Annunciation, when she conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the months that followed she began to sense his presence and to picture his features. When at last she gave birth to him in Bethle-hem, her eyes were able to gaze tenderly on the face of her Son, as she “wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger” (Lk2:7).
Thereafter Mary's gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave him. At times it would be a questioning look, as in the episode of the finding in the Temple…; it would always be a penetrating gaze, one capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana…”
Pope John Paul II Rosarium Virginis Mariae
2002 Document introducing The Year of the Rosary
If we attend the Christmas Mass during the Day or perhaps after we have spent time pondering with Mary as above, we come to the beginning of John’s Gospel (the Gospel during the Day).
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, He was in the beginning
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth…”
This helpless infant whom Mary holds to her breast, was in the very beginning with God, is God’s Son.
May this reality we celebrate gladden our hearts
and teach us to love one another as He loves us.
-Sister Marian Baumler
Sisters of St. Mary of Namur . 241 Lafayette Avenue . Buffalo, New York 14213 . (716) 884-8221