Saturday of the Third Week in Advent

Lectionary: 193

Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations.

Today the Church begins its observance of the octave before Christmas, a period of more intensely eager waiting. Beginning with Saint Matthew's genealogy of Jesus we hear for these eight days selections from the "infancy narratives" of Matthew's and Luke's gospels. 

I am especially delighted by today's reading gospel (though I much prefer the more accurate word begot to the peculiarly bland expression, became the father of...

I have been fascinated in the last few months by the way our tradition addresses the mystery of time. Of all God's creatures only human beings are aware of time. (And angels, perhaps.) Other earthly creatures may bear scars of the past and, as individuals have memories; but only the human being can locate itself in this present moment between the past (which is unchangeable,) and the future, (which is unknown.) A dog remembers cruelty or kindness within his own experience but he will never comprehend the history and traditions of his experience. A basset hound might sense her relationship to a chihuahua but have no conception of breeding. 

This awareness of history emerging out of "prehistory" and plunging toward an uncertain future is a burden peculiar to the human being. 

Cooling his heels in an unknown jail, Saint Paul reflected on the mystery of time: 
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory. (Colossians 1:26)
Saint Matthew sees glimpses of this "mystery hidden from ages" in the genealogy of Jesus and revealed at his birth. The magi detected that hidden mystery foretold in their astrological science and recognized the moment in the appearance of a star. 

Although eastern Christians preferred to celebrate the nativity of Jesus in early January, the Roman Church wanted to anchor the incident in the annual cycles of the sun. Today we discover it in the planetary orbit of the Earth. This cycle is as close to eternal as we mortals can imagine. Where it ends is beyond our comprehension.

I point to Saint Paul's letter to the Colossians because he locates his personal suffering in Salvation History; and that gives him great satisfaction! ("I rejoice in my suffering!"

As we approach Christmas, spiraling downward as it were into this celebration, we dare not abandon the experience of suffering. We need salvation! We cannot save ourselves! With all creation we are in agony until it appears. Saint Luke honors that agony when he says of Mary, "she brought forth" her first born son. His being laid in a manger emphasizes the Holy Family's meek acceptance of poverty, rejection and misery. 

We too rejoice in our suffering as Christmas approaches. Soon and very soon we are going to see the Lord. 

{"Pride of place belong to the "Great O Antiphons" for the Magnificat from December 17 to December 23. These antiphons, which the Roman Church was singing as long ago as the time of Charlemagne, not only synthesize the messianism of the Old Testament in its purest form. Using ancient biblical images, they also present the divine titles of the incarnate Word, while the Veni ("Come!") is freighted with all the present hopes of the Church. In them the Advent liturgy reaches its culmination.The Liturgy and Time, from the series, The Church at Prayer, by Martimort, Dalmais, and Jounel, 1983, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1983, pg 95}

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.