ADVENT 4, B – December 24, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Psalm 19; 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God… And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

 

When the holy virgin experienced what great things God was working in her despite her insignificance, lowliness, poverty, and inferiority, the Holy Spirit taught her this deep insight and wisdom, that God is the kind of Lord who does nothing but exalt those of low degree and put down the mighty from their thrones, in short, break what is whole and make whole what is broken.

Just as God in the beginning of creation made the world our of nothing… so His manner of working continues unchanged. Even now and to the end of the world, all His works are such that out of that which is nothing, worthless, despised, wretched, and dead, He makes that which is something, precious, honorable, blessed, and living. On the other hand, whatever is something, precious, honorable, blessed, and living, He makes to be nothing, worthless, despised, wretched, and dying. In this manner no creature can work; no creature can produce anything out of nothing. Therefore [God’s] eyes look only into the depths, not to the heights; as it is said in Psalm 138:6, “Though the Lord is high, He regards the lowly; but the haughty He knows from afar.”… For since He is the Most High, and there is nothing above Him, He cannot look above Him; nor yet to either side, for there is none like Him. He must needs, therefore, look within and beneath Him; and the farther one is beneath Him, the better does [God] see him…

The tender mother of Christ here teaches us, with her words and by the example of her experience, how to know, love, and praise God. For since she boasts, with heart leaping for joy and praising God, that He regarded her despite her low estate and nothingness, we must believe that she came of poor, despised, and lowly parents… Doubtless there were in Jerusalem daughters of the chief priests and counselors who were rich, comely, youthful, cultured, and held in high renown by all the people; even as it is today with the daughters of kings, princes, and men of wealth… [Mary was] but a poor and plain citizen’s daughter, whom none looked up to or esteemed. To her neighbors and their daughters she was but a simple maiden, tending the cattle and doing the housework…

[But] she finds herself the Mother of God, exalted above all mortals, and [yet] still remains so simple and so calm… Oh, we poor mortals! If we come into a little wealth or might or honor, or even if we are a little prettier than others, we cannot abide being made equal to anyone beneath us, but are puffed up beyond all measure. What should we do if we possessed such great and lofty blessings?...

[“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” Mary cried when she visited her cousin Elizabeth.] She calls God her Savior, or her Salvation, even though she neither saw nor felt that this was so, but trusted in sure confidence that He was her Savior and her Salvation. This faith came to her through the work God had done within her. And truly, she sets things in their proper order when she calls God her Lord before calling Him her Savior, and when she calls Him her Savior before recalling His works. Thereby she teaches us to love and praise God for Himself alone, and in the right order, and not selfishly to seek anything at His hands. This is done when one praises God because He is good, regards only His bare goodness, and finds his joy and pleasure in that alone…

[Mary] does not glory in her worthiness nor yet in her unworthiness, but solely in [God’s] regard, which is so exceedingly good and gracious that He deigned to look upon such a lowly maiden, and to look upon her in so glorious and honorable a fashion. They, therefore, do her an injustice who hold that she gloried, not indeed in her virginity, but in her humility. She gloried neither in the one nor the other, but only in the gracious regard of God… not her humility but God’s regard is to be praised. When a prince takes a poor beggar by the hand, it is not the beggar’s lowliness but the prince’s grace and goodness that is to be commended…

Mary confesses that the foremost work God did for her was that He regarded her, which is indeed the greatest of all His works, on which all the rest depend and from which they all derive. For where it comes to pass that God turns His face toward one to regard him, there is nothing but grace and salvation, and all gifts and works must follow… And that Mary herself regards this as the chief thing, she indicates by [later] saying: “Behold, since He has regarded me, all generations will call me blessed.”

Note that she does not say men will speak all manner of good of her, praise her virtues, exalt her virginity or her humility, or sing of what she has done. But for this one thing alone, that God regarded her, men will call her blessed. That is to give all glory to God as completely as it can be done. Therefore she points to God’s regard and says: “For, behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed. That is, beginning with the time when God regarded my low estate, I shall be called blessed.” Not she is praised thereby, but God’s grace toward her…

Whoever, therefore, would show her the proper honor must not regard her alone and by herself, but set her in the presence of God and far beneath Him, must there strip her of all honor, and regard her low estate, as she says; he should then marvel at the exceedingly abundant grace of God, who regards, embraces, and blesses so poor and despised a mortal. Thus regarding her, you will be moved to love and praise God for His grace, and drawn to look for all good things to Him, who does not reject but graciously regards poor and despised and lowly mortals. Thus your heart will be strengthened in faith and love and hope. What do you suppose would please her more than to have you come through her to God this way, and learn from her to put your hope and trust in Him, not withstanding your despised and lowly state, in life as well as in death? She does not want you to come to her, but through her to God…

When men accord us praise and honor, we ought to profit by the example of the Mother of God and at all times make the proper reply and to use the honor and praise correctly. We should openly say, or at least think in our heart: “O Lord God, [Yours] is this work that is being praised and celebrated. [Yours] be also the name. not that I have done it but [You], who are able to do all things, and holy is [Your] name.”