- Sunday, December 18, 2011
The Fourth Sunday of Advent
2 Samuel 7:1-11,16 • Canticle 3
[or Can. 15; or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26]
Rom. 16:25-27 • Luke 1:26-38
It is a rare thing for a king to rest from all his enemies, rare indeed for a king to rest at all. So restless is the human spirit, so desirous of accomplishment, so prodigious in pomp and disaster. King David could not sit still. There was no Thomas Merton to whisper in his ear, as he did to fretful monastic novices: “If it isn’t necessary, don’t do it!” The economy of God had not yet delivered our Lord Jesus who advised his disciples to remain in Jerusalem with the express purpose that they do nothing more than wait for the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4). Unless the Lord builds it, redeems it, prompts it, human activity is so much vanity and chasing after the wind. We should do less. And if providence should ever give us rest from our enemies, we should rest in that restfulness like languishing lovers. Thus the Living Lord of Heaven stalls David in his plans to build a temple.
David must be reminded that his grand and glorious God had elected to be portable among his people. David has a point, however. He confesses, “I live in a cedar home, and the ark of God is placed in a pup tent.” The Lord has a better point still. The Lord doesn’t like to settle down. “Will you make me something to live in?” Rather, David is taken back to his early ministry when he was called to shepherd God’s people. “I was with you in everything, and wherever you walked.”
The text from St. Luke holds out the same promise. Mary, the humble virgin, hears an angelic voice: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Dominus tecum). She is disturbed, we imagine, not only because the voice is mysterious and otherworldly, but because of what the voice says, the insistence that the Lord is with her. If only the Lord lived in a holy city, a sacred temple, perched upon a mountain peak, at some safe and known distance. Then on special days we would wear our special clothes and we would dance about the dome of the house of the Lord. Then, having purchased our souvenirs and having snapped 350 digital photographs, we would go home to serve lesser gods of our own making. But God is with Mary. She is fecund with God. She is swollen with the grace of a kicking fetus. And after the Son of the Father is born of Mary, he will ever remain with Mary, a wound sliced into her heart.
Dominus tecum. It is possible and most fruitful to swim in this beautiful and frightful truth for the whole of one’s life. And, in the fullness of time, when a new backdrop unfolds from the heavens, we will see a new heaven and a new earth, but will search for temples, shrines, mosques and churches in vain. Imagine, no religion! In that holy city an irrevocable rumor runs its course. Templum domini est cum hominibus. The temple of God is with his human beings. The Lord speaks an eternal word, a mantra blown into our ear canal, traversing circuits in our brain and toward our heart: “I am with you.”
Look It Up
Read 2 Sam. 7:5. In your mind’s eye enter the most beautiful church you know, and then hear the question: “Would you build me something to live in?”
Think About It
You could not ask for this divine love unless it had already arrived. Still, asking the Lord to be with you will startle your senses to an awareness that the Lord is with you.