December 22, 2014
Edward Morse
Creighton University Law School
click here for photo and information about the writer


Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent
Lectionary: 198

1 Samuel 1:24-28
Psalm 1 sm 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8abcd
Luke 1:46-56

Praying Advent

Today's Daily Advent Prayer

Today’s readings begin with Hannah and her miracle-child, Samuel.  Hannah suffered in a culture that valued children, as she had none. Hannah’s earnest prayers were seen by Eli, the priest, who at first misunderstood her intentions.  But he sent Hannah on her way with a blessing.  Hannah’s prayers were answered when little Samuel was born.  Hannah returned to the temple with young Samuel so that he could serve there with Eli, who was probably surprised by this development.  But I imagine that he was also amazed at the faithfulness of Hannah and her husband Elkanah, who allowed Hannah to do as she thought best for their miracle-child’s future.  Hannah responded with openness to the gift she received.

Miracle-children also play a role in today’s Gospel.  Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was pregnant with John despite her advanced age. John was also an answer to prayer who surely provided joy to Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. 

But Mary finds herself pregnant in quite different circumstances from Hannah or Elizabeth.  She did not ask to become the Theotokos.  But Mary also responded with openness to this unexpected gift. Her cousin Elizabeth and little John in the womb knew that something wondrous was happening, too.  Both of them recognized her as the Theotokos who would bring the Savior into the world, even before this had come to pass!  They were attentive to the work of God in their midst, and bold enough to share their hope and joy with one another: John through leaping, and Elizabeth through sharing extraordinary insights. Each did what they were capable of doing.

This sharing by Elizabeth and young John in utero probably comforted and encouraged Mary in the midst of a complicated situation.  Mary’s canticle speaks back Elizabeth’s blessing, recognizing that she was chosen to participate in this great work of God: “[B]ehold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”  She did not allow her awkward circumstances to detract from the hope that was rooted in a deeper reality.  I imagine that the sharing by her faith-filled kinsmen provided a catalyst for Mary’s prayer.  Notably, both Mary’s and Elizabeth’s prayers descend through the ages to enrich us today.      

Mary’s response to Elizabeth exemplifies the theological virtue of hope.  Pope Benedict XVI once wrote, “Faith, hope, and charity go together.  Hope is practiced through the virtue of patience, which continues to do good even in the face of apparent failure, and through the virtue of humility, which accepts God’s mystery and trusts him even at times of darkness.”  (Deus Caritas Est, ¶ 39).  When it comes to prayer, I am much more like Hannah than Mary, as my prayers usually seek after my own good rather than rejoicing in the future good that God will bring through his Kingdom.  But good can still come through those desires, as we offer them up to God and seek after openness to His goodness in the midst of the messy world in which we live, recognizing that God’s gifts sometimes come in unexpected circumstances.  And let us not neglect the importance of assembling together to rekindle our hope and the joy of our Salvation in one another, as did Mary and her kin.  Thanks be to God.

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