Summary: The Word of God comes in silence and is revealed as the word of the new and everlasting covenant, so that when we celebrate Eucharist we are freed from our messy little daily sins and given strength for the journey.
Monday of 4th week in Advent
19 December 2011
As a member of the tribe of Levi, and a priest, Zechariah would have been familiar with all the books of the Old Testament, just as he stood at the threshold of the New. He would have heard the Levites singing the psalm that praises the Lord who “establishes in her own home the barren wife as the joyful mother of children.” He would be familiar with the stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs like Abraham with Sarah and Jacob with Rachel. He would know this story of Samson’s conception, and that of the great prophet, Samuel. In fact, one of the most talked-about wondrous works of God was His ability to make the barren fertile. So when a great archangel appeared to him and announced the message that his wife would conceive and bear a son, John, the last thing he should have asked was “how shall I know this–I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman?” He would not believe the word of the Lord, so he got to spend the next nine months making signs and calling for writing tablets to communicate. Worse, he had to endure nine months of Elizabeth asking him, “You said WHAT to an angel of God?” And, worst of all, he had to listen to all his neighbors and relatives talking about what an idiot he was, because the Scripture implies that they also thought he had lost his hearing.
As we look forward to our celebration of the mystery of the Nativity next Sunday, we should be thankful that this is the longest Advent possible. That’s not because we need another few days to shop. It’s because we need another few days to prepare a worthy dwelling place for Christ in our hearts. As we have heard from the Holy Father, the Word of God comes in silence. The Wisdom of Solomon, commenting on the first Passover, sang “For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, 15 thy all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne.” The Sacred Liturgy applies this to the birth of Jesus, whose whole course on earth was directed toward that Great and definitive Passover–His passion, death and Resurrection.
Pope Benedict continues: “In this great mystery Jesus is revealed as the word of the new and everlasting covenant: divine freedom and human freedom have definitively met in his crucified flesh, in an indissoluble and eternally valid compact. Jesus himself, at the Last Supper, in instituting the Eucharist, had spoken of a ‘new and everlasting covenant’ in the outpouring of his blood (cf. Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20), and shows himself to be the true sacrificial Lamb who brings about our definitive liberation from slavery.” In being silenced in death, Jesus revealed Himself as the definitive and eternally salvific presence of God among us–Emmanuel. He left Himself sacramentally among us. Each time we offer Mass, the priest’s words, Hoc est enim corpus meum is the instrumental cause of the all powerful Word leaping from heaven to be our sacrifice and our food. Taking him in faith, we are freed from our messy little daily sins and given the strength to journey on toward our final union with His Resurrection.
The Holy Father tells us, “In the most luminous mystery of the resurrection, this silence of the word is shown in its authentic and definitive meaning. Christ, the incarnate, crucified and risen Word of God, is Lord of all things; he is the victor, the Pantocrator, and so all things are gathered up forever in him (cf. Eph 1:10). Christ is thus ‘the light of the world’ (Jn 8:12), the light which ‘shines in the darkness’ (Jn 1:5) and which the darkness has not overcome (cf. Jn 1:5). Here we come to understand fully the meaning of the words of Psalm 119: ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (v. 105); the risen Word is this definitive light to our path. From the beginning, Christians realized that in Christ the word of God is present as a person. The word of God is the true light which men and women need. In the resurrection the Son of God truly emerged as the light of the world. Now, by living with him and in him, we can live in the light.”