4th Sunday of Advent (Lk 1:26-38) “She Said Yes” PDF Version
Homily for 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B (2017): Lk 1:26-38
Throughout much of our Church’s history, it was not uncommon for bishops and priests to on certain occasions recite the illustrious homilies of the saints of old in place of their own homilies. This was done out of humble recognition that certain homilies are so incredible that a homilist cannot improve upon them and can confidently share them with his people for their lasting beauty, relevance and majesty.
On December 20th, clergy, religious brothers and sisters and members of the lay faithful who pray the Liturgy of the Hours are given the joy of reading a homily by our patron, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, concerning the moment the Archangel Gabriel announced unto Mary that she would become the Mother of God. I have read this homily for 16 consecutive years and I have yet to find another that captures the sacred drama and wonder of the moment when the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us.
And so, in place of my own homiletic musings, allow me to share with you a portion of a homily of St Bernard of Clairvaux, being one of four homilies he composed in a short collection known as “Homilies in Honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, composed in years 1138-9 AD. For it helps, I invite you to close your eyes and imagine yourself watching as the Angel of the Lord speaks to Mary and how the angels of heaven, the souls who dwelt in the depth of Sheol prior to the resurrection of our Lord and all of human history watches this sacred drama unfolds, awaiting to she how Mary will respond to the word of the Lord:
“You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.
The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.
Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.
Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.
Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary.
Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.”