By Doris Donnelly
The fourth week of Advent functions as a Grand Pause and returns us to the early days of Mary’s pregnancy. The altered time sequence moves us back, in the closing days of this season, to a more contemplative way of being, to roots, to silence, to mystery–all of which have a way of getting sidetracked in the frenzy of preparations for the celebration. The fourth Sunday says–again and more emphatically–Be still. Let what is about to happen sink in.
Be still enough to listen to the story as if for the first time. Mary and Elizabeth recognize that Yahweh’s promise for each of them has borne fruit. In the excitement, the unborn John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. Curiously, the word used in scripture to designate the leaping means “an exultant delight in the liberating God.”
The leap of joy in Elizabeth’s womb may be a conventional and even accidental biological response of the shifting of weight in utero; it may be the result of the bonding of Mary and Elizabeth and her unborn; or it could even be more than these things. Maybe it had something to do with an infusion of the Spirit of God who filled them and allowed them to experience a moment pregnant with hope and possibilities for liberation.
Mary’s “yes” changed the course of human history. Like hers, our “yes” is asked for. Christ will not be born again without our consent. The Christian assembly is given yet another opportunity in this last quiet catch-up week to join in stillness and wonder as the mystery of God’s coming draws to climax. “Blessed is the one who trusts that God’s words will be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45). For all of us, the moment of redemption is at hand.
Reflection: When have you experienced a moment “pregnant with hope and possibilities for liberation”? Describe. What possibilities for liberation exist today?
We are called to be still, to contemplate the Christmas story with a new heart…and to say “yes,” so that God’s word can be fulfilled in us. Sit silently; say the word “yes.” How did you feel? Does anything prevent you from giving all?
This reflection is from The Birthing of Justice: Advent 1988. Doris Donnelly is a theologian, author and former member of the Pax Christi USA National Council.