Gospel Reflection – Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

Today, just before Christmas itself, is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Mary within the miracle of the Incarnation. She, as the handmaid of the Lord, was central to the plan of God-made-man and she holds a unique and pivotal place in the Christmas message.
We Cistercians have a special devotion to Our Lady. In fact, every single Cistercian Abbey in the world – including here at MSJ – is dedicated to her. Yes, every Cistercian Abbey through history and in the present day, too. When we think of our own vocation as monks, it is Our Lady to whom we turn as the exemplar of vocational devotion. We do this because of the way she embraced her vocation as Mother of God. It is what we strive for.
We tend to know Mary as depicted on the Christmas cards and in the crib and through jawdropping artwork of centuries. But the reality was not so rosy and gold-tinted. Working back from her terror and anguish of witnessing the execution of her own Son, she lived a quiet life of not-knowing, in which she will have pondered many things in her heart, many odd occurrences, countless inexplicable acts. The birth of her Son was, too, a time of tumult, of darkness and cold, of not knowing what was happening next. She had no schedule printout from heaven. No, she had only the words of the great Angel Gabriel as heard in today’s Gospel.
And she answered that mysterious message with the words ‘Be it done unto me according to thy word.’
She placed her life into God’s hands. That is what we strive to do here as monks. And it is the hope and posture, too, of any Christian.
But the words she spoke are charged with meaning, because she didn’t even know what she was subscribing to. Not fully. She didn’t know the joy and the pain that she would later meet, not until it actually happened. Instead, Mary said YES in advance, YES to God’s will, YES to whatever came her way.
So let us walk into this fourth Sunday of Advent with our own testament to God, a testament uttered in wonder and simplicity to Gabriel two thousand years ago: be it done into me according to thy word. We say those words, like Mary, not knowing what lies ahead on our road. But we DO know, regardless of anything else, that we are saying YES to Christ in our life. And that is our pinnacle of hope in this world. Amen.
A reading from the Gospel according to Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her,
‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
The Gospel of the Lord.