Posts Tagged ‘Sing to him a new song’

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, December 21, 2017 — “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb…”

December 20, 2017

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent
Lectionary: 197

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Reading 1 SG 2:8-14

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.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
and come!
“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!
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“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely.”

OrZEP 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21

R. (1a; 3a) Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Sing to him a new song;
pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Mary and Elizabeth By Corby Eisbacher

Gospel LK 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

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From Living Space from The Carmelites

Commentary on Song of Solomon 2:8-14 and Zephaniah 3:14-18

We have a choice of two First Readings today. The second, which is from the prophet Zephaniah, is for those who may find the passionate love implied in the passage from the Song of Songs a little strong for a liturgical celebration. The Song of Songs (also known as The Song of Solomon) is a collection of about 25 poems or parts of poems about human love and courtship, suitable for singing at weddings. “The poetry is graceful, sensuous and replete with erotic imagery and allusions to the ancient myth of the love of a god and a goddess on which the fertility of nature was thought to depend. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, loc. cit.). The pronouns (He, She…) imply that the speakers are a bridegroom (Lover), bride (Beloved) and chorus. Although it is called ‘The Song of Solomon’ the actual author is unknown. And, although dating from about the 3rd century BC, the symbols and motifs date from early mythology and have become the language of human love and courtship.

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Strangely enough, the book has no obvious religious content compared to other books in the Bible and it can only be given such an interpretation by finding a deeper symbolism in its highly graphic language. Its inclusion in the Old Testament can be explained by the Lord being called the “husband” of his people (Hos 2:16-19). In the Christian tradition, it has been understood as an allegory of the love of Christ for his bride, the Church (Rev 21:2,9), or as symbolising the intimate experience of divine love in the individual soul. The links between mystical experience and sexual ecstasy are not so far apart. We should be grateful that such a beautiful work has been included in our collection of God’s Word.

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The choice of the reading for today is obviously linked to the Gospel account of the Visitation of Mary and Jesus to Elizabeth and John. The love expressed in the First Reading clearly points to a close, warm relationship between Jesus and John, where John represents each one of us. Perhaps we do not use this kind of passionate language when speaking to Jesus but there have been mystics who have not hesitated to do so. One thinks of John of the Cross or Ignatius of Loyola and even more of Teresa of Avila.

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As the passage opens, it is the Beloved, the girl who is speaking. She is living with her parents in the city. Not unlike the lover in one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, the Lover appears at the Beloved’s window. The door is closed and there is a forbidding wall. “He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.” He urges her to come away with him to the countryside. “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”

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The cold of winter, which is also the rainy season is past. It is now spring, the time of new life. Nature is bursting out in leaf and flower and the migrant birds have returned to make their nests. The cooing of turtle doves is heard, the first figs are appearing and the vines are in fragrant flower. And, of course, for humans, too, it is the season of love.
The Beloved is hiding in the clefts of the rock, a euphemism for her home, a place inaccessible to the Lover. “Show me your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face beautiful.”

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Jesus, too, is still hidden in the womb of his mother. His mother’s voice is enough to create a joyful reaction in John, in Elizabeth’s womb. He knows that where the Mother is, the Son must also be close by.

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It is important to realise that our Christian faith is not just a list of intellectual doctrines. Ultimately it is a life based on love, intimacy and affection for our brothers and sisters.

ALTERNATIVE  FIRST READING – from the prophet Zephaniah (Zephaniah 3:14-18)

Zephaniah was a prophet during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BC) who did much to restore traditional Jewish religious customs. But his example was not followed and Zephaniah foretold disaster and this indeed happened with the collapse of the Assyrian empire brought about by the Babylonians who went to attack Egypt, an ally of Assyria. Josiah took sides with Egypt and was killed in a battle. It was to set the stage for one of Israel’s most painful memories – the Babylonian Captivity. While much of Zephaniah is a condemnation of religious infidelity, the last part from which today’s reading comes is a promise of better times to come for those who wait patiently for the Lord.

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Today’s passage consists of two psalms or hymns looking forward to the full restoration of Jerusalem to its former glory and religious faithfulness. The whole people (“daughter of Zion…daughter of Jerusalem”) are invited to celebrate the coming salvation. Words echoed in the words of the angel to Mary: “Rejoice! The Lord is with you.”

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In today’s celebration, it is the close presence of the Lord which is emphasised. “The Lord, the King of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear.” And again: “The Lord your God is in your midst.”

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Again, “The lord your God is in your midst…
He will exult with joy over you,
he will renew you by his love;
he will dance with shouts of joy for you…”

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There is also an air of joy. “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion!.. Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem.”

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All of this can fittingly be applied to Elizabeth as she welcomes Mary and Jesus and indicated by John jumping for joy in the womb of his mother. Let us too share their joy as we prepare to welcome the coming of our God among us in Jesus.

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Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/A1221r/

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Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669). The Visitation, 1640

Rembrandt uses light and shadow to train the viewer’s eye through the canvas. The brightest light falls on Mary and then Elizabeth. Mary has just traveled to see her cousin, whom the angel told her would be with child in her old age. There they both stand, pregnant by divine intervention—Elizabeth with John the Baptist and Mary with the Christ.

Rembrandt’s light focuses on the two women like a spotlight coming down from the heavens. As our eyes adjust to the scene we see the two servants. Beyond them at the edges of the frame we see Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah the priest, to the left and Joseph down and to the right.

A few years ago this Rembrandt traveled to my city as part of an exhibit about the Dutch Golden Age. I was struck by small size of the painting. It is just a little bigger than two by two and half feet. Still, Rembrandt doesn’t waste an inch of composition space, filling the dark background with an elaborate cityscape and the foreground with detailed foliage and architecture. The peacock looking on from the bottom left signifies Jesus’s royalty and immortality. Peacocks were regarded as kingly and there was a myth in Rembrandt’s day that their flesh never decayed.

The scene shows an ornate world in motion, but the meeting between these two women, though their pregnancies would transform that world forever, takes place with no fan-fare. As Isaiah said, there would be nothing about Jesus’s coming that would capture the world’s attention.

 

Consider

“When the angel Gabriel stood before Mary, the hypothetical gave way to the real. The ordinary stories all at once glistened under the extraordinary light of this celestial storyteller.

“As she listened, there rose inside her a sense that the glory of his tale was nothing new, but rather was older than time. She only needed uncommon light to see it. She had, Gabriel told her, found favor with God. She shouldn’t fear this visit or the message he brought.

“It must have been strange to stand before this seraph dressed in light, strong and otherworldly, and hear him tell her not to be afraid. Perhaps it was even stranger for Mary to discover that God had formed an overall impression of her. She was known by God, and he favored her. He liked what he saw?

“The angel then came to the reason for his visit. He told Mary she would conceive a son, who would rescue his people from their sins. God had already chosen his name— Jesus, which meant “salvation.”[1]

 

Examine

What do you think the angel means when he tells Mary she has found favor with God?

In what ways is the Christmas story globally epic? In what ways is it deeply personal? Are you drawn to one of those poles more than the other? Which one? Why?

Where are some places in your life where you need the help of a God who governs the cosmos? Where are some places in your life where you need a God who can cut into the deeply personal details of your heart?

http://russ-ramsey.com/day-19-the-ordinary-overshadowed-reflection-questions-and-art-during-advent/

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From Fear to Faith a painting by artist Howard Lyon — Need to be told by the coach “Do not be afraid.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 DECEMBER, 2017, Thursday, 3rd Week of Advent
BEING A JOYFUL MESSENGER OF LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Song of Songs 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18aPs 32:2-3,11-12,20-21Luke 1:39-45 ]

Many of us are living a joyless life.  We are grouchy, irritable, negative in thought and words, jealous and always putting others down.  Such people unconsciously drive people away from them.  Then they lament, “I have no friends.  No one loves me.  I feel lonely and rejected.”  But what is the cause?  It is because they do not reach out to others.  Instead of extending their hands in friendship, being warm, gracious, welcoming and affirming, we drive people away from us by our low self-esteem and insecurity.

So how do they overcome their insecurity and lack of capacity to love?  They drown themselves in work and in studies, hoping that they would be recognized for their work and academic achievements.  They seek glory and honour from the world.  Or else, they indulge in fine dining, expensive holidays and shopping.   But their hearts remain empty because they know that the praise of the world is shallow.  The moment we are no longer performing or at the top, the world will abandon us. Food and holidays without our loved ones are meaningless.

Indeed, for such people, the most important thing in life is missing.  They do not have a beloved.  In spite of our success, even when we have plenty of money and luxuries and are doing well in our career, achieving fame and recognition, without someone to share our joys and our fruits, life is incomplete.  It is empty.  This is because we are created for love.  We cannot just live for ourselves or seek to love ourselves directly.  We live and love ourselves only when we live for others and love others.

However, one cannot love unless one is loved.  This is the basic axiom of life.  We cannot give what we do not have.  We need to be loved.  This is why in the first reading, from the Book of Song of Songs, we have the beautiful description of a lover seeking for her beloved.   Only when we are loved, can we find the strength and the joy to share our love with others.  This was the case of Mary in the gospel.  When she was so loved by God to be chosen to be the mother of the Saviour, her immediate concern was not about herself but to share her love and joy with her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant in her old age.   Her reaching out to Elizabeth was spontaneous and immediate.  The gospel says, “Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah.”

To find our beloved, we must wait patiently.  Some of us are still waiting for our beloved to come into our lives.  We must be patient.  We cannot rush into any relationship.  When our beloved comes, we will know.  The waiting and the yearning in our hearts must keep us attentive to the voice of our beloved.  Like the lover, she said, “I hear my Beloved.  See how he comes leaping on the mountains, bounding over the hills. My Beloved is like a gazelle, like a young stag. See where he stands behind our wall. He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.”

Sometimes, our beloved is not ready to be reconciled with us.  This was true in the case of today’s first reading.  The Book of Song of Songs should be read in the context of the book of lamentations.  Israel was the bride of God but they abandoned the Lord.  She was unfaithful and worshipped the idols.  So they were banished to Babylon to reflect on their actions and so come to repentance.  Very often it is in suffering and pain that we come to understand ourselves better.  This is true in a broken relationship.  Not all failed relationships are to be seen negatively.  They are stepping stones to build stronger relationships through our mistakes.  The next time, we learn how to be more mature and giving in love.

When the time of waiting is over, when “winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.”   So we must be patient.   The joy of meeting her beloved helped her to forget all her past and all her sufferings.  When she heard the voice of her beloved, she was filled with joy.  The patient waiting for her beloved to come was worth the wait.  She was complete.

Yet, we cannot love generously and selflessly unless we are filled with God’s love.  This is why we need to seek our true beloved, which is our Lord who alone can give us the capacity to love.  If our love is dependent on human love, then we are drawing out the love from each other.  But that kind of love is so conditional.  I love you as much as you love me.  And if we lack the capacity to love, then it means that human love will remain unsatisfying since we cannot truly love each other fully.  For this reason, the capacity to love cannot come from human love alone but ultimately from the love of God.

Consequently, we are called to be loved by God.  “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come. My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, in the coverts of the cliff, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.”  The Lord our beloved desires us.  He wants to love us.  The Lord is coming into our lives.  How is He coming into our lives?

Firstly, through the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  It is notable that Mary set out immediately to share her joy after she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.  She set out in haste to share the joy of her election as the mother of the savior but more importantly, the joy of her cousin in her old age conceiving a child.   We read that when Mary reached her house, the Holy Spirit also touched the heart of Elizabeth and she in turn, infused with the Holy Spirit, cried out in joy, exclaiming, “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.”  It was the same Holy Spirit that inspired Elizabeth with the knowledge of Mary as the mother of the Saviour even before Mary could tell her what happened.  Through this confirmation of Elizabeth, Mary too was reassured that what the Lord said to her was true.

Secondly, that joy is always the manifestation of a loving encounter with God.  We read how John the Baptist was also filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Elizabeth, fulfilling the prophecy of the angel when he said to Zechariah, “even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  (Lk 1:15)  The joy of John the Baptist was visible when he encountered the Lord in the womb of Mary.  “Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”  So all of them were filled with the Spirit through the encounter between the two mothers and the two sons.  When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, joy is always the manifestation.

Thirdly, this joy is genuine joy because it is a joy to rejoice with others.  Mary did not visit Elizabeth to boast of her new position as the mother of the Saviour.  She went to celebrate with Elizabeth in her pregnancy and to render her assistance.   On the other hand, Elizabeth did not grudge that Mary has a greater honour than her for she was carrying the savior, whereas she was only carrying the forerunner of the Lord.  She did not envy Mary but was able to rejoice with her.  She acknowledged with great humility that she was graced with the honour of the Mother of her Lord visiting her and she acknowledged that it was Mary’s faith in the impossible that God graced her with this role of being the mother of the Saviour. “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Mary and Elizabeth were one with each other in joy.  We too will know we have the liberating joy of the Holy Spirit if we can rejoice with those who rejoice.  (Rom 12:15)

So today, if we want to be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit and be able to share that joy with others in unconditional love, we need to wait patiently for the Lord to enter into our lives.  We must begin by yearning for Him like a lover for her beloved.  Whilst we spend the time waiting, we do not wait passively, but take the trouble to look for the Lord so that when we find Him, we will be able to enter into His joy.  With the psalmist, we pray,  “Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield. In him do our hearts find joy. We trust in his holy name.”

Finally, we can help each other to encounter the Lord by being messengers of joy and love to each other, like Mary and Elizabeth, encouraging each other in our journey and rejoicing with each other in our discovery.  Indeed, we must never travel alone in our faith journey.  Mary and Elizabeth had each other.  So we have the church to journey with us.  She is there to encourage us and to assist us.   So let us, “Ring out your joy to the Lord, O you just; O sing him a song that is new. Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp, with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs. O sing him a song that is new, play loudly, with all your skill.” Through worshiping and sharing the Word of God, our living testimonies of God’s love in our lives, we too can help each other to encounter the Lord in our hearts.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, December 21, 2013 — To find true joy and peace, we must find the Lord

December 20, 2013

File:Champaigne visitation.jpg

Elizabeth (left) visited by Mary, the Visitation, by Philippe de Champaigne

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent Lectionary: 197

Reading 1 Sg 2:8-14

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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. My lover speaks; he says to me, “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come! “For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance. Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!
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“O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the secret recesses of the cliff, Let me see you, let me hear your voice, For your voice is sweet, and you are lovely.”
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.Or Zep 3:14-18a

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Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem: Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.

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Responsorial Psalm PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21

R. (1a; 3a) Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song. Give thanks to the LORD on the harp; with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises. Sing to him a new song; pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness. R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song. But the plan of the LORD stands forever; the design of his heart, through all generations. Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he has chosen for his own inheritance. R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song. Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and our shield, For in him our hearts rejoice; in his holy name we trust. R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

Gospel Lk 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
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The Visitation, from Altarpiece of the Virgin by Jacques Daret, 1434-1435.
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The infant in my womb leaped for joy. The Lord Jesus and the good news are a treasure not only to be possessed but to be shared. Those who have truly received Jesus in faith know that he is for the life of the world, the world that needs him badly. So they go out to share to others the grace they have received.

We can see this in our Blessed Mother Mary. After she receives Jesus in her heart and in her womb, she travels in haste to a town of Judah, to visit her relative Elizabeth. She brings to Elizabeth and her son, John, not only the words of the good news but the Word made flesh in her womb. What a marvelous effect her visit produces! The Holy Spirit comes down upon Elizabeth at the sound of Mary’s voice. She is enlightened regarding Mary, whom she calls “the mother of my Lord”! She rejoices and so does John who is still in her womb.

Those who bear Jesus and the good news bring grace and joy to people.

SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2012,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection.Luke stresses the readiness of Mary in serving, in being a handmaid. The Angel speaks about the pregnancy of Elizabeth and immediately, Mary rises and sets out as quickly as she could to go and help her. From Nazareth to the house of Elizabeth there were more than 100 km, the minimum, four days of travelling!, There were no buses, no trains. Mary begins to serve and fulfils her mission in behalf of the people of God..Elizabeth represents the Old Testament which was about to end. Mary represents the New Testament. The Old Testament accepts the New one with gratitude and trust, recognizing in it God’s gratuitous gift which is going to be realized and is going to complete the expectation of people. In the encounter of the two women is manifested the gift of the Spirit. The child leapt with joy in Elizabeth’s womb. This is the reading of the faith which Elizabeth makes of the things of life..The Good News of God reveals his presence in the most common things of human life: two house wives who visit each other to mutually help one another. Visit, joy, pregnancy, children, mutual help, house, family: Luke wants us and the community to perceive precisely this and that we discover in this God’s presence..

Elizabeth says to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Up until today, these words form part of the best known Psalm and most prayed in the whole world, “The Hail Mary”. • “And blessed is she who has believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled”. This is the praise of Elizabeth to Mary and the message of Luke for the community: to believe in the Word of God, because the Word of God has the force to fulfil all that which it tells us. It is a creative Word. It generates new life in the womb of the Virgin, in the womb of people who accept it with faith.

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Mary and Elizabeth already knew one another. But in this encounter, they discover, one in one another, a mystery which they had not known as yet, and which fills them with great joy. Today also, we meet persons who surprise us because of the wisdom they possess and the witness of faith that they give. Has something similar happened to you already? Have you met persons who have surprised you? What prevents us from discovering and from living the joy of God’s presence in our life?

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The attitude of Mary before the Word expresses the ideal which Luke wants to communicate to the Community: do not close yourselves in self, but get out of self, be attentive to the concrete needs of persons and try to help others as far as possible according to their need.

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Personal questions

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Placing myself in the place of Mary and Elizabeth: am I capable to perceive and experience the presence of God in the most simple and common things in the life of every day?

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The praise of Elizabeth to Mary: “You have believed!” Her husband had difficulty to believe what the angel was telling him. And I?

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Concluding Prayer

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We are waiting for Yahweh; he is our help and our shield, for in him our heart rejoices, in his holy name we trust. (Ps 33,20-21)

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http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-luke-139-45

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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How are you feeling today?  Are you feeling happy?  Is there joy in your heart?  Or are you feeling sad and downcast?  What is the reason for your sadness? The cause of sadness is always the lack of love and peace in our lives.  Joy and peace is lacking because God is absent in our lives.  Hence, the liturgy is assuring us that God is coming into our lives very soon.

Like the lover in today’s first reading, God is yearning to see us.  The impatience of the man waiting to see his beloved expresses God’s passionate love for us.  Indeed in the bible, the love of God for humanity is always described in terms of a nuptial love, a marriage between Yahweh and Israel.  In the New Testament, Jesus is called the bridegroom and the Church, His bride.  So intimate is God’s love for us that He longs for us to share in His love.

Thus, being in love and the thought of being with our beloved cannot but fill us with joy even during the time of waiting.  When one is in love and when one is meeting one’s beloved, one cannot but be filled with joy, simply knowing that we can hold our beloved in our arms and be embraced by his or her love.  The time of waiting is a time of yearning and pining.  It is one of excitement and joy.

This too was the experience of Mary, Elizabeth and John the Baptist.  We read that Mary, after receiving the message from the angel, went in haste to share with Elizabeth the Good News of the coming of the Messiah.  Elizabeth too, when she heard Mary’s greeting, gave a loud cry and said, “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?”  John the Baptist too “leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” just as King David danced for joy when he received the Ark of the Covenant. (cf 2 Sm 6) So all of them were all dancing for joy at the thought of the coming of the Saviour. They could not contain the joy of the prospect that at last the Messiah was coming.

What about us?  Are you looking forward to Christmas?  You might, but perhaps you are looking forward to some merry-making and receiving some Christmas gifts, but you are not looking forward to having Christ born in your heart!  How sad it would be to celebrate Christmas without the birthday boy!  Without Christ coming into our hearts, how can we experience the love of God being poured into our hearts?  And without His love, there can be no joy and no peace since love is the origin of joy and peace.

It is therefore urgent to confront the emptiness and despondency of our hearts.  We need to fill it not with things and with activities and festivities but with the love, joy and peace of Christ.  We need to be quiet and seek Him as we approach the feast of Christmas.   We must enter into the longing of the lover waiting for his beloved to come.  Unless we long for God to come into our lives, He will not come.  The beloved will not impose His love on us.

How then can we fill the vacuum in our hearts?  The scripture readings instruct us that in the first place, joy is born of hope and hope is born of a promise.   Because of a promise, we can look forward each day in hope.  Like a young couple awaiting their marriage day, or their child that is to be born, or a young man his graduation day, or a poor family of financial assistance or a terminally ill person of a cure, that person cannot but be filled with joy, provided that hope is a certain hope.  Truly, when hope is a substantiated hope, unlike a vain hope for something to happen, one is infused with joy already.  Christian hope is based on a promise made by God Himself and that is why we know that this promise would be fulfilled.  And because of a promise made to us, joy is already in us even while waiting for the hope to be fulfilled.  

Consequently, to enter into this joy, we must believe.  Mary believed that God is faithful and trustworthy.  She knew that God will always be true to His promise as she sang in the Magnificat, “He protects Israel, his servant, remembering his mercy, the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his sons forever.”  Mary also believed in the Word spoken to her.  Relying on the promise of God through the angel, she consented to do His will in spite of all the uncertainties and challenges ahead of her.  She committed herself to do His will, believing that He will make all things possible, regardless of the sufferings and persecutions she would have to go through.  This faith is summed up in the response of Elizabeth, “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Mary believed that God could do the impossible, and much more than we can imagine and understand.  With God all things are possible to those who have faith.  She remembered the exhortation of the angel Gabriel.

How do we know that we have believed?  Not by words but by the fruits of faith.  Anyone who believes in the promise of God will begin to reach out to others.  So in the case of Mary, she immediately went to assure Elizabeth of the truth of God’s message, for Elizabeth too must be strengthened in her faith that she was no longer barren.  Both gave each other support in believing the miracle that was happening to both of them.  Together they could affirm that whether one is barren or a virgin, God could accomplish the impossible in human reckoning.

If we have faith, we too, must encourage others in their faith.  Like Mary, we must bring hope to others, especially those who are facing crises in their personal life, those who have given up on God or on love because of the tragedies they are going through as a consequence of failed relationships, betrayals, infidelity or sickness and misfortunes in their life.  In solidarity with them, we must help them to cling to God’s promise by helping them to find faith in Christ again, who is their hope, joy and peace.  Are you bearing fruits of love like Mary by bringing Christ to others, or by being Christ to others so that they too can leap for joy in encountering God’s love?

In the final analysis, to find true joy and peace, we must find the Lord.  We must be reconciled with Him by allowing Him to be the Lord of our lives.  Have we gone for the Sacrament of reconciliation?  Have we sincerely confessed all our sins in humility and with contrition?  Have we made time to allow Jesus, the Word to be conceived in our hearts and take flesh in our life?  Like the psalmist then we should pray, “Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield, for in him our hearts rejoice; in his holy name we trust.”

If He seems to be slow in coming, then know that sometimes, like the beloved, the Lord is “hiding in the clefts of the rock” so that He could expand our desire for Him when we begin the search for Him in desperation and earnestness.  The greater our desire, the greater the capacity to receive; the greater the joy we will have.  So in fervent prayer, we beg the Lord, “Show me your face! Let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.”  If we are sincere in wanting His love, He will come and show us His face and pour His love on us.

When that day happens, you will, like all God’s people, exult and sing for joy for He will turn your mourning into joy (Ps 30:12).  Truly, when God’s love is with us, then we can say, “winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.”  How great is our God indeed!  How great is His love for us that He would deign to live in us and not just in our midst!

http://www.csctr.net/reflections/

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