A virgin shall conceive
With our carol services and Rorate Mass, we have already heard St Luke’s account of the Annunciation several times this Advent, and it’s our Gospel for Mass today (1:36-28), the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
In Isaiah chapter 7 we hear about how “a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel” (7:14). Then in the Gospel of the Annunciation we learn how the prophecy is to be fulfilled. After all, how can a virgin conceive a child, because then she would no longer be a virgin? The paradox is unlocked in the Gospel. The virgin of Nazareth conceives by the power of the Holy Spirit, and she doesn’t just conceive any child, but One Whose human nature is hypostatically united to His divine nature, so that He can truly be called “Emmanuel” – which means, “God with us”. That is God in the flesh, God in the midst of mankind. And His first dwelling is the spotless womb of the most pure Virgin Mary, immaculate from the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, St Anne.
This is a powerful reminder to us of God’s activity, because without His action, this miraculous conception couldn’t have happened. In other words, He initiated it – He intervened in history to bring about our salvation. God desires our salvation and arranges the events of history to help bring it about, including taking on our human flesh and then suffering in it. This was the purpose of His coming. In the past, people had spoken of God in all kinds of different ways, and God has spoken to us in many different ways. But with the Incarnation something new has happened – He has actually appeared among us and is visible to us. God is no longer merely an idea. We no longer have to form a picture of Him in our minds on the basis of mere words, because He has now actually appeared in human form. As we read in the letter to the Hebrews, “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days, He has spoken to us by a Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world” (1:1)
May God bless you all, and on behalf of Fr David and myself, I wish you a very Merry Christmas (Mary, Christ, Mass) and a blessed New Year.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC