Reflections on the Readings
Fourth Sunday of Advent - December 20, 2009 Year C
By Dennis Hankins
The Radiance of Love's Pure Light
...And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!... And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." (Luke 1:41, 42, 45 RSV)
In this fourth Sunday of Advent, it is love that lights our way to Christmas. Mary is that love light who brings great joy to Elizabeth and to the baby she carries in her womb. For six months now, Elizabeth, has pondered the mystery of the boy child growing in her womb. As Mary enters the house, her voice resonates with her own mystery, for the baby in Elizabeth's womb stirs, as Mary's greeting reaches the ear, the heart, the womb of Elizabeth.
Blessed are you among women!
I remember the first time I attempted to pray the Rosary. Being a minister of the gospel is all I had ever known, and now I was seriously considering resigning from being a priest of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. Only my wife and my spiritual director, a Hermit of the Trappist tradition knew what was going on in me. But now, here I was, on the verge of embracing a conviction I could no longer ignore. I was seriously desiring to come into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Nightly, upon going to bed, I began listening to Catholic radio in Buffalo, NY. As it turned out, going to bed and hearing the Rosary being prayed on the radio occurred at the same time.
"What harm could it be," I thought. I began to pray along. Getting no further than 'blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your ....' My voice trailed off.
"This is really dry stuff," I said out loud. "How would you ever get people to do this," I continued.
And then it happened. I sat straight up in bed, and exclaimed, "Wow! What was that?"
It lasted for only a moment, but it felt, it seemed like, eternity. It was a Holy Spirit moment. The impact of that eternal moment remains with me.
It seems to me, Elizabeth had a similar moment. She is filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaims, "Blessed are you among women." Elizabeth confirms forever Mary's place in history and the Church specifically and the blessings of womanhood and maternity for all time.
Blessed is the fruit of your womb!
The womb of Mary is forever the vital affirmation of life in the womb. It is poetic and pure to speak of babies as fruit. Still these two thousand years later, it is the fruit of Mary's womb that is the joy of the world, the inspiration of countless prayers and endless hymns of praise. Through the eyes of Mary we clearly see the blessings of babies, the sanctity of human life.
As we ponder on the wonder of our salvation, it is good to begin by reflecting on the womb of Mary. It is from her our Lord assumed flesh and blood. This young Virgin of Israel carries in her body the fulness of our life and salvation. And from Mary's womb comes the blood that will flow from Calvary, thirty-three years in the future.
Destiny resonates in the words 'blessed is the fruit of your womb!" Every husband and wife who have been blessed to conceive and bring children into the world know the truth of what I say. Joyfully, every Mom and Dad who have been privileged to adopt know children are the precious fruit of the womb. In time, a woman who has aborted a baby, knows deep in her heart that what she possessed in her womb was fruit, not a blob. It is these precious souls and the mothers who carried them we lift up in prayer.
Blessed is she who believed!
She who believed is the mother of our Lord; she is the mother of us all. Traditionally, the Church has understood Mary to be the new Eve. In contrast to the first Eve, Mary, the new Eve, embraces the will of God.
Many women in salvation history have left us testimony of their faith. Notably we recall Sarah, Leah, Rachel, Deborah and Esther. In Hebrews 11:35 we read of nameless women who received back their dead, raised to life again. That's the power of believing. It is this same kind of faith and believing Mary demonstrates. And without her there is no gospel, no salvation, no hope.
In Mary we observe the culmination of faith. For in her believing heart she attains a preeminence that has captured the imagination of the Church for two millennia. Important apparitions of Mary have occurred in the world. Although not necessary for personal devotion or salvation, they are recommended to us for our support in faith and prayer.
Mary embraces her exalted role not for herself, but for us. She is unselfish, a humble handmaiden seeking first the kingdom of God. Mary portrays a selflessness that beams with the radiance of love's pure light. For without any thought for her own well being or reputation, she prays, "Be it unto me, according to your word."
And in all humility, Mary also said, "For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed."
And so they have.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.