A Virgin Shall Conceive and Bear a Son
On this final Sunday of Advent we are less than a week away from the celebration of Our Lord’s birth, and so the Church reminds us in today’s Gospel of the Annunciation, that nine months earlier our Saviour was conceived in the womb of His Blessed Mother, Mary. What is announced in today’s Gospel is what all the Old Testament prophets had spoken of, that a Virgin would conceive and bear a Son, and His Name shall be called Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14) which means “God is with us.” Mary did not conceive in the normal way since she “did not know man.” She conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit so that the One she would bear would be the Son of the Most High, the God man, the Word made flesh. Just as the Fall of man had been a free act, so too Mary’s cooperation in our Redemption had to be a free act. St Bernard (1090-1153), in one of his homilies, dramatically describes this moment with the whole of Heaven and Earth holding their breath, so to speak, as they await her reply to the Angel Gabriel. Will she say ‘yes’ or will her humility hold her back? Then comes her response, her ‘fiat’, “Be it done unto me according to thy word.” At that moment the Eternal Word was conceived in her womb, but her virginity remained intact. It has been the constant teaching of the Church that Mary enjoys perpetual virginity, before, during and after the birth of Our Lord. His birth was completely miraculous.
This has been a very difficult year, an ‘annus horribilis’. But we find hope in the coming of Our Lord. Amidst all the turmoil of this past year, God has protected our faith and kept our hope in the power of His mercy and grace alive. As Christmas draws near, let us remember all those who haven’t experienced His goodness and mercy, those who reject Him or who are afraid of following Him for whatever reason. Let us pray for all those who are suffering, for the persecuted, for the lonely, the poor, the bereaved and those who will not experience the peace and joy of the Christ Child lying in the manger at Bethlehem this Christmas. For us who do believe, we know we do not have to face the trials and burdens of life alone. With the Incarnation, we have a God Who knows what it is to suffer and Who gives it meaning while showing us the way to eternal life and happiness.
On behalf of Fr Simon, Fr David and myself, I wish you all a very happy and blessed Christmas.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC