Posts Tagged ‘two annunciations’

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, December 21, 2015 — “I have come to serve and not to be served.” — Proclaim the message of liberation

December 20, 2015

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent
Lectionary: 197

Art: The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth,  by Florentine Artist Domenico Ghirlandiao, in 1491.

Elizabeth realises that Mary is going to be the mother of Christ and falls to her knees – and her own babe , the future John the Baptist ,“leaped in her womb for joy” in recognition of the promised Saviour.

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!“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.”

Or ZEP 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.


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

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.”
Meditation from Living Space
We continue reading from Luke, picking up from yesterday’s text. In the last two days we heard about the two annunciations – to Zechariah and to Mary – about the birth of two special children, John the Baptist and Jesus. Obviously, both mothers, cousins to each other, must have been very excited about the birth of their first child. They were anxious to share together their joy and happiness. In one way, it would make sense for Mary to visit Elizabeth, because the younger should visit the older. On the other hand, Elizabeth should be the one to visit because Mary’s child was a person of such rank and dignity, God’s own Son. In a way, the story is more interested in the children than in the mothers. And Luke uses his Infancy Narrative as a vehicle to present in advance some of the characteristics of Jesus’ future life. Here it is the characteristic of service that he illustrates.
Jesus later on will say, “I have come to serve and not to be served.” And so, still in his mother’s womb, he comes to visit his cousin, John, rather than wait at home to be visited. The power of the Spirit is also much in evidence. John leaps in his mother’s womb at the very sound of Jesus’ voice. His mother recognises this as the power of God in Jesus reaching out to her son. Elizabeth herself is also filled with the Spirit and recognises in her young cousin the Mother of her Lord. As we saw, the choice of the First Reading is interesting. It is taken from the Song of Solomon, a poem of the passionate love between two young people. It is a fitting expression of the love that should exist between Jesus and his followers and between the followers themselves. There is no such thing as a purely ‘spiritual’ love. True love literally ‘em-bodies’ the whole person – spirit, mind, emotion and body. Mary, filled with the Spirit, will soon break out into that wonderful hymn of praise that we call the Magnificat, a hymn that will proclaim the message of liberation Jesus will later deliver by word and action. We will see that tomorrow.


Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
21 DECEMBER 2015, Monday, 4th Week of Advent


What is it like to welcome someone whom you love dearly?  We all know the joy of anticipating the meeting with someone we love, especially if that person is our beloved.  Many of us would take much trouble to prepare ourselves to meet that person.  And if the person is coming to our house, we would make sure we clean up the place, decorate it with a nice ambience and prepare the best food and delicacies to serve our guest.  We only want the best for that person because we love him or her.  We want her to feel happy to be with us, to enjoy our company and share our love and joy.  Indeed, the preparation to receive our guest is already such a great joy.  The thought of meeting our beloved gives us much consolation and joy.  The waiting itself is filled with yearning and thoughts and feelings of love.

This is what the scripture readings of today invite us to do.  As Christmas is just a few days away, the Church is asking us whether we are ready to receive our guest, who is not just human but also divine.  Are we ready with our preparations to make Him feel welcome, not just physically but most of all, whether our hearts are ready to receive Him?  In other words, are we filled with joy and expectation just thinking of receiving Jesus into our lives?

In the scriptures we are told of how Israel was filled with joyful expectation of the Lord’s coming.  The first reading from the Book of Song of Songs portrays Israel as the beloved of God.   The lover is of course the Lord Himself.  Israel was delighted to know that God was coming.  The author says, “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.”  Yes, that is how God loves us.  He is excited about us and His joy is to love us.  He calls us His beloved too. “My Beloved lifts up his voice, he says to me, ‘Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”  Truly, He is inviting us to come to Him.  This is fulfilled in the gospel when Christ, still in the womb of Mary, came to fill John the Baptist who was in the womb of Elizabeth.  Hence, “she 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?  For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.”

However, God is a “shy” lover.  He does not force Himself on us.  He needs to be invited.  That was how the author describes God.  “See where he stands behind our wall.  He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.”  If we want God to come into our lives, then we must invite Him and open our hearts to receive Him.  If we are still lacking this joyful expectation of the birth of Christ, is it because our hearts are too preoccupied with many non-essential things like the rest of the world than with the most important thing which is the birthday boy Himself?  I am afraid that many of us are not much different from the world in our preparations for Christmas, focusing on the material preparations, the merry making, the gifts, the decorations, etc, but not on our personal relationship with the Lord.  How could we ever celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ, without Christ Himself?  The joy of Christmas is more than dinners, parties and merrymaking but the encounter with the love of Christ.  With this experience of Christ’s peace and love in our hearts, we in turn would want to share Him with others through the sharing of gifts, love and fellowship.  Unless such celebrations are rooted in Christ, they are empty, superficial and we have missed out the true meaning of Christmas.  And thus Christmas will not bring us the joy and peace we hope it would.

But if we make room for our beloved Lord to come to our house, just as Mary and Elizabeth did by opening their hearts to the Lord, then we, too, will receive peace and joy.  For those who are reconciled with the Lord, and have made their peace with God and their fellowmen, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, they too will see the fruits of Christ’s coming.  As the author says, with the coming of the Beloved, it means that “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.”  So great is the joy that this joy is expressed in dancing. “He will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival.”  The Prophet invited Israel in similar terms when he wrote, “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!”  Even John the Baptist leapt for joy in the womb of his mother.  If we are not leaping for joy, it is an indication that our hearts are perhaps not really disposed to receive Him yet.  We have not entered into the experience of being loved and embraced by our beloved.  God remains distant from us.  All who are in love are always full of joy.  The psalmist remarks, “They are happy, whose God is the Lord, the people he has chosen as his own.”  Indeed, to belong to the Lord, to be His Chosen as His own truly make us feel so loved and special.

As a result, we no longer have to live in shame and in fear.  The Prophet Zephaniah said, “The Lord has repealed your sentence; he has driven your enemies away. The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear. When that day comes, word will come to Jerusalem: Zion, have no fear, do not let your hands fall limp. The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.”  With God in our midst and as our warrior, we need not fear about our future or our past.  The former is certain and the latter is forgotten.  Indeed, if many of us are fearful about our past and the future, it is because we have not brought Christ into our daily life and our struggles.  So long as God is with us, as He was with Moses, the prophets, Mary and Christ, then we can be certain that we can overcome all suffering, trials and challenges in life.  He will see us through and prove us victorious.

But how does He come into our lives so that we can be filled with joy?  Alas, Christ has come and is coming all the time, but because we have not been attentive, we have missed Him.  Christ comes to us through the ordinary events in life.  He came to Elizabeth in her cousin, Mary, who bore Him in her womb.  He comes to us too in the daily events of our life, in our joys and sorrows, in good and bad times.  But faith is necessary to see Him.  It was the faith of Elizabeth that enabled her to see that Mary was truly the mother of her Lord.  She could have doubted Mary’s claim to carrying the Messiah. Of course, she herself, having a miraculously conceived of John the Baptist, knew that nothing is impossible to God.  Thus she was filled with joy for Mary.  “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” With faith comes hope. With hope comes joy. The hope of liberation, of being loved and forgiven, of having a new life, fills us with joy indeed.

Secondly, He fills us with joy when we share the joy we have received.  We find Elizabeth and Mary filled with joy because both of them shared with each other what the Lord had done for them.  No greater joy can we have than to share with someone whom we love the joy that is in us. When joy is shared, it is doubled.  That is why at Christmas we underscore the importance of giving gifts.  As we give ourselves to others, we find joy.  Making ourselves a gift to others is what Christmas is all about because God makes Himself a gift to us in Christ.  Of course, the greatest joy we can give to someone this Christmas is to give Him Jesus.  Have you shared with someone what Christ has done for you as Mary did with Elizabeth?  If you have not, then, although you might have given many gifts, you would have failed to give THE giver of all gifts to those whom you love so much.  The gifts we give to others will soon be forgotten but if we give them Jesus, He will see them through not just today, tomorrow or next month, but throughout the year and beyond.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh





Song of Songs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon, the Canticle of Canticles, or simply Canticles (Hebrew: שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים Šîr HašŠîrîm ; Greek: ᾎσμα ᾈσμάτων asma asmaton, both meaning “song of songs”), is one of the megillot (scrolls) of the Ketuvim (the “Writings”, the last section of the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible), and the fifth of the “wisdom” books of the Christian Old Testament.[1]

Scripturally, the Song of Songs is unique in its celebration of sexual love.[2] It gives “the voices of two lovers, praising each other, yearning for each other, proffering invitations to enjoy”.[3] The two are in harmony, each desiring the other and rejoicing in sexual intimacy; the women (or “daughters”) of Jerusalem form a chorus to the lovers, functioning as an audience whose participation in the lovers’ erotic encounters facilitates the participation of the reader.[4]

In modern Judaism, the Song is read on the Sabbath during the Passover, which marks the beginning of the grain harvest as well as commemorating the Exodus from Egypt. Jewish tradition reads it as an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel.[5] Christian tradition, in addition to appreciating the literal meaning of a romantic song between man and woman, has read the poem as an allegory of Christ (the bridegroom) and his Church (the bride).[6]