might find the conjunction of the lesson from the Old Testament and the Gospel a
strange one. Both are dialogues in which great promise is made; both are
messages from God, the one given through a prophet and the other through and
angel. Both look to a wide and undetermined future, the one to that of Israel
before God the other to the birth of the one who is the union of God and
the conjunction is a happy one. Pray consider. There is David, now a King; there
is a measure of peace and stability. He has got there under divine blessing but
by what means. As we sang yesterday, he has endured trouble (Psalm 132) and
exile and has a desire to do God right:
will not allow my eyes to sleep, nor let my eyelids slumber until I find a place
for the Lord, a dwelling for the mighty one of Jacob’
he has also killed, tricked and fought to
get where he now is and there is a peace around. David
is a mixture of ‘glad yielding and manipulative utility’ in Bruggemann’s
phrase1. He has got himself a super new house and is now to build one
for God: that is his new agenda. It will
be a kind of victory lap for him. It
is the new plan, the new build.
is content with the old way, happy now that the ark has come to
Jerusalem; he loves the presence of God in Israel – he also loves the music
and the liturgy. However, he is clearly not going to encourage his master and
God does not go in with David’s plans. His message from God
rebuffs David; no this is not right but it will be you to get a house a
dynasty, this is my covenant with you. As we know from the slow and steady
betrayal of that covenant, that dynasty lasts but a short while and the temple
only for a little longer.
hope of something which he can fix and do - I have a brilliant idea and God will
approve - will remain around in Israel. It has a strong pull on those in power
and continues to do so. I have a good idea for doing stuff, God will like it and
surely gives it His blessing. God’s judgement on that is severe and knows no
slack. Applied to human hopes, David’s model was disastrous once and will be
so again and again.
a model is set aside when Gabriel appears to Mary. Here is no King, no manager
with a great sense of what he has got, with divine backing following. Here is a
teenage girl about to be married, not in Jerusalem but from a provincial
backwater; the angel comes to more like Dewsbury rather than Manchester. The
wisdom of generations is about to be checked and brought to judgement. Jesus'
origins are mocked all along the way, right to the cross.
Unlike David, He will be motivated by God not by the means which seem to get to
God; He will not go off course and still less will He resist returning.
Mary is the one who
corresponds to David; today is not annunciation but Advent to be sure. She is
promised and although this time the promise will be realised more immediately,
it is everlasting and she is promised that she will not go off course for the
Holy Spirit will come on her and
the power of the Most High will overshadow her. She
will bring what is needed to realise that promise and, unlike David, she will
not bend it to her agenda.
Of course she remains so, one who does indeed receive and respond to the grace of God - David did that also - but one who, faced by the different way God has of doing things, does not bend it to fit a human term. She is all glad yielding, no manipulative use here. This wondrous lady, this ‘day of small things’ as Zechariah has recently spoken to us (Zech 4.10), whom Christ is first to ‘ to visit us in great humility’, is taken by God to bring His purposes to pass and without end. As the promise given to David looked far into a future, that of the faithful God, so here a promise takes root, whose fruit is sure, whose growth will not be stopped or blighted by the vagaries of human agendas, manipulative utility, ever.
is why here in Our Lady we have the ultimate word as well as the first to that
mystery which we soon are to celebrate; a mystery which she knew with unique
intimacy, a mystery which she continues to give us with such glad response, natura
mirante2, all that is in wonder. It is why, when we are inclined
to think back two thousand years, it may be worth a reminder to ourselves that
this mystery touches us now and does so because of what Christ and His Mother
are on the last day. It will be our measure, to all our agendas when He comes
who didst once, while wond’ring worlds adored,
Bear thy Creator, Virgin then as now,
O by thy holy joy at Gabriel’s word,
Pity the sinners who before thee bow3
Thomas Seville CR
and Second Samuel, p253
Alma Redemptoris Mater,
quæ pervia cæli
manes et stella maris, succurre cadenti,
qui curat, populo: tu quæ genuisti,
mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem
prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore
illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.