Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Advent

Hark! my lover–here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.

The great Catholic theologian Hans Urs Von Balthazar taught that God the Father, as his voice thundered over the Jordan Valley when Jesus was baptized, and again on Mount Tabor when Jesus was transfigured, revealing his pleasure in Jesus the Only-Begotten Son of God, also expressed divine surprise.

For surely surprise is an element of pleasure. It’s one thing to know you will be pleased when something occurs; but the actual experience is something else. If the incident entirely satisfies one’s expectations there might not be much pleasure in it; it was simply “satisfactory.” But if there is pleasure one might say, “My cup runneth over.” I think we hear that in the words, “With him I am well pleased!” In fact the “well” of God’s happiness is very deep.

Today’s readings invite us to stop and enjoy the Coming of the Lord, to experience the satisfaction which is more than expected, which is superabundant pleasure.

Today’s first reading from the Song of Songs describes the intense joy of passionate lovers. The imagery is intentionally vague and ancient scholars differed over its intent. Are the lovers God and his people or just two young people? We can read it as Jesus and his Church, following the example of Saint Paul; or we might prefer Saint Bernard’s mystical interpretation of God and the individual soul. In any case the eager, expectant, thrilling pleasure of love is palpable. Bernini’s statue of Saint Theresa of Avilla describes that almost unbearable pleasure.

Today’s gospel picks up the imagery of a joyful lover leaping across the hills in the Virgin Mary’s approach to Jerusalem. Pregnant with God’s love she shares it with her kinswoman Elizabeth who, upon seeing this “apparition” of Mary exclaims, “Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” Had she known Mary was coming she would have been no less delighted upon her arrival.

If God is well pleased with the Lord Jesus, surely we must allow ourselves to drink from the same well. Today’s readings particularly invite us to happiness. There will always be disappointment; every silver lining has a cloud; but, as the prodigal’s father said, “We have to rejoice!” Like Mary and Elizabeth and the young lovers, we open our hearts to the unexpected surprise of pleasure.

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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.