4 Advent, December 24
The days when darkened churches were often open to visitors seeking solace and quiet have largely passed. When empty and dim, they are usually locked. When open, they are brightly lit and wired for sound. Talk is frequent, loud, and mostly trivial. In our time, the church is not so much a temple to what is deeply sacred as a place of communal comfort and fellowship. Does God need a home? If so, what kind?
At one time, God lived in a tent: easy to erect and easy to move. “I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle” (2 Sam. 7:6). This may seem cheap and lowly, but it was God’s preferred mode of being and remains so, though providence permits fixed churches and other holy sites, a permission that should not obscure God’s will to pitch a tent among us (John 1:14).
The motion of God, however lowly it seems and perhaps is, suggests nonetheless great and awe-inspiring power. “The Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and at night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night” (Ex. 13:21). He who is the way shows the way by moving along the path. Come, follow me.
In the fullness of time, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Christ our Lord entered human history under the veil of his Mother conceiving by the power of the Spirit. As with many great biblical characters, Mary is a type. She is both uniquely herself, holding an irreplaceable part in the story of the incarnation, and a model of every Christian who, like her, carries Christ to the world.
Unfortunately, a biblically sound Marian devotion is often suspect in certain Christian quarters in which the Bible is said to be most valued. A serious and careful reading, however, may go a long way in reopening an assessment of her indispensable role and its significance for every Christian. Mary is the tent of God. She is the place and body in which Christ is set. When she walks to meet her cousin Elizabeth, when she goes down to Egypt, when she returns to Nazareth, she carries him from place to place. She carries him as the Virgin Mother of God.
Mary’s virginal state graphically expresses some of the most powerful theological terms: graces, election, calling, and providence. God acts in her life; and although her consent is awaited, the priority of God’s calling and overshadowing is preeminent. Salvation is of God. This was true for her and it is true for every Christian.
Consider this meditation with an open and relaxed mind. Listen to one of Church’s finest biblical interpreters. “Through this wonderful participation [one in substance with his mother while sharing the Father’s substance], the mystery of new birth shone upon us, so that through the same Spirit by whom Christ was conceived and born, we too might be born again in a spiritual birth; and thus the evangelist declares the faithful to have been born not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Leo the Great, Ep. 31, 2-3).
The Holy Spirit overshadows and conceives Christ in all the baptized. The revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for ages lives in the faithful. We are the dark and quiet tent of meeting.
Look It Up
Read Luke 1:29, 47.
Think About It
Perplexed and filled with joy.