4th Sunday of Advent – December 22, 2012
Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne …
Today we are just a couple of days from the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ whose birth fulfilled the promises made by God from the beginning to bring forth from the offspring of Adam a savior who would restore mankind to God’s family. We see this promise made by God in the third chapter of Genesis, after the fall from Grace of our first parents. In His great mercy, God curses the serpent who represents Satan, whose lie brought death and despair to the human race, and then promises a redeemer who will conquer the evil unleashed by Sin in our world:
I will make you enemies of each other, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring, He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel. (Gen 3:14)
Following that original disaster, that darkest of moments when our first parents chose sin above their love of God, God, nonetheless, took pity on his fallen children, and promised a redeemer who would crush the Head of the Evil One and enable us all to return to communion with our creator and pursue the destiny God intended for us from the beginning.
It is not by chance that the promise includes the woman who shares the enmity of her offspring against the Evil One. Woman will also have her triumph over the Evil One whose deceit led her to a tragic role in the fall of mankind, for which she would suffer and give birth,
as a consequence of that sin, to a race condemned to death. She would be the mother of all the living, all the offspring who will descend from her, but now there is this hope, based on the promise of God, that through her offspring she would also be involved the re-generation of a race presently doomed to suffering and death.
So the Lord promises that “woman,” a representative of all women, would also have her role in the restoration of the race, not this first representative woman who sinned, but another representative woman, the new Eve, who would be sinless and who would triumph over Satan, through her offspring, in the one to whom she would give birth, and who would triumph over sin and death. For centuries and centuries their has been this enmity between the descendants of that first woman and the offspring of satan, both angelic followers and human; now the time has come for the ancient promise to be realized through a new woman and through her blessed offspring, the hope of all the ages.
The meeting of Elizabeth and Mary, then, is the moment chosen by God to proclaim that the promise is fulfilled, that the long waiting of the human race for the triumph over Satan, sin and death was at hand:
Blessed is the fruit of your womb. For generations, for eons, women had carried the fruit of their wombs with the knowledge that the person given life by God
in the womb, to whom they would nourish and give birth, would one day die, that all the children they bore would be subject to the law of suffering and death, like all flesh, because of that original sin. But there was also the promise that sustained the women of faith, the promise that death was not the last word. Among the children of Abraham, this promise was the very substance of their hope, that one day a child would be born who would restore mankind to the destiny he was created for in the beginning, for life not death, for happiness not suffering. They even came to know by revelation that this savior would come from the tribe of Juda, a descendant of David:
From you [Bethlehem-Ephratha] shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler of Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient times..”
But this promise would be fulfilled only with the cooperation of a mother, a new Eve, who in giving birth would bring into the world the medicine of immortality for all the offspring of women. The Book of Kings
mentions the role of the Queen-Mother of the kings descended from David, showing they recognized the linkage of the Davidic Dynasty, which is the Messianic dynasty, with the promise in Genesis about the woman, and her offspring who would be the conqueror of Satan. Notice how woman triumphs in her role as Mother. In giving life, Woman will share in the victory of her son over death.
How beautiful, then, this meeting of these two holy women who are with child, the one carrying the greatest man born of the flesh, and the other carrying the very Life of the world, the one whose “origin is of old,“ from “ancient times.“ How fitting that the Bible should celebrate the arrival of the Messiah, first, by this encounter between two women whose wombs are blessed beyond all other women, the one carrying the new Elijah, the other carrying the very Son of God. Salvation did not come through an earthly battle of armies led by a hero, but through the generosity of giving life, the role of the woman, and the generosity of surrendering that life, the role of the offspring.
From that day, every woman who shares the faith
of Elizabeth and Mary will give birth in joy, a joy based upon the truth that now every child has a well founded hope for immortality, for eternal life, a hope based upon faith in the fruit of Mary’s womb. And from that day, all of us can have that same experience of the coming of the Lord to greet us, to sanctify us in the womb of Mother Church. Every time we approach the altar, our faith, like Mary’s or Elizabeth’s, should fill us with the unique joy and humility that we see in Elizabeth who greets Mary so beautifully, “But who am I that my Lord should come to me,” and we can add,
“who am I that the Mother of my Lord should bring him to me?”
Then will the grace of her blessed offspring stir in our souls too, and transform us into his brothers and sisters, creatures no longer destined for death, but destined now for life, for a joy that her Son assures us cannot be taken away.