Daily Reflection
December 21st, 2003
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
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Daily Advent Prayer for this Day
The Fourth Sunday in Advent
Micah 5:1-4a
Psalm 80
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45

So as to be more available to the Advent graces contained in our readings, we might imagine Mary leaving her home and heading for her cousin Elizabeth’s house. She has had a strange visitor whose message/invitation have called her past her fears to this journey of faith.

Perhaps she stops to rest and revisit. She looks up into the sky and wonders if she were dreaming or did it all really happen. She ponders whether or not she should continue and see if her cousin is really pregnant as her visitor had said. “What if that isn’t true; what if it is!!!”


We pray simply for the grace of receptivity. It is better to give than receive if you are God. It is better to receive than give if you are human. We can pray for the emptiness, the incompleteness, the openness, which are necessary for God’s annunciations and promises to fill us.

Advent, liturgically, takes four weeks, but spiritually it can take but a flash of sensitivity when we sense that we are as little as Bethlehem, as empty as a stable, and receptive as a pregnant girl of faith in Nazareth. If there is no room in the inn, then Christmas will be a holiday, not a holy day. We pray with any image or object which speaks of reception; a glass, the hollow space of the Advent Wreath, the softness of our up-turned hands.


David was the great king of Israel who ruled with power and justice. It seemed that Israel would prosper forever and all nations would see her and reverence her God. With the eventual decline and infidelities of God’s chosen people, Jerusalem fell into foreign hands and Israel was led into the darkness of exile.

Michah, from whom we hear in the First Reading, has been foretelling this apparent abandonment of Israel by God. What we hear are verses of great hope that the greatness of David’s time and lineage will be born anew. The Lord will “give them up”, but this birth from within the small realm of Bethlehem will signal God’s fidelity to ancient promises.

The one to be born will be davidic-like in that he will be a shepherd to his people, but” Now his greatness shall reach the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.” The greatness that was the Jerusalem of David, will now return again from the smallest place, Bethlehem, and move beyond and cover the earth bringing Peace.  This is a dramatic change in this prophesy. Jerusalem, the great city, stood in siege and often had to defend itself within its walls. Now with this prophecy, instead of military defenses and defensiveness, there will be a greatness of peace going forth from Jerusalem and Israel. The first three verses of the previous chapter speak of this peaceful time and end with the startling words, “there will be no more training for war.” It will all begin with the Almighty becoming powerless within the smallest of places.

We are treated to a journey-story in two senses for our Gospel reading. There is a foot-by-foot hastening by Mary to the house of her cousin. When she arrives, Elizabeth, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, confirms Mary’s spiritual journey of faith. All Mary had was a mysterious invitation, her personal wondering, her faithful response and a waiting to see. Elizabeth’s response to Mary’s greeting ends the first segment of both her journeys. Mary stays with Elizabeth, but then has to return to let it all be done according to the promise and Promiser.

As Mary makes her way towards Elizabeth’s house, she has no proof to fortify the invitation and promise. She is young, her town is small, her faith tender. She has only her memory by which to review and faith for her pre-view. She might be going in haste to see if her cousin is pregnant and use this as some evidence that she was not being tricked. That journey would be very exciting in expectation. The journey back to her own home, I wonder what her spirit was then. Having a child is a wonderful event to which to look forward, but there were promises made that intensified the life after the child’s birth. The visitor had not given Mary a “Mother’s Guide to “Messiah-Raising”.

The area around our eyes, ears, nose and mouth are extremely sensitive and in a way, private. I have noticed that when offering a person something to smell, for example, that person will take the object in her or his hands and guide it towards their own nose. The same when offering something to taste or view closely. We do this instinctively and protectively. To let somebody else get so close to the vulnerable and private takes great trust.

Here then is Mary in the privacy of her own life. Here is a virgin girl whose womb is most sacred to her as woman. Here is a fragile life whose own future is being transformed through intimacy. The privacy of her ears have heard an invitation; her mouth has voiced the truth of her questions and the words of a hope-filled “yes”.

You and I are on similar journeys of faith, hope and a love which is meant to spread out and extend the kingdom of peace. As with Jerusalem, Mary was the place from which God’s presence would be revealed and extended. As with Mary, our journeys begin and continue by our letting God invite, interrupt and offer things for us to taste, smell, see, feel and especially hear. God reverences our protectiveness and so is as gentle as angel’s wings.

“The virgin is with child and shall bear a son, and she will call him Emmanuel.” Is. 7, 14
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