Bulletin: December 20, 2020
Fourth Sunday of Advent
“Where does God dwell?” is a question on the minds of many as we continue to adjust to the pandemic. David wanted to build an ornate dwelling for the Ark of the Covenant, but God said, “No, that’s not what I had in mind!” The reading from Romans teaches us that God is present in the Word, and in Luke’s Gospel passage today, Jesus is residing in the womb of Mary. We know that Jesus is present in the assembly gathered, the Koinonia, as well as within the Eucharistic species. But no matter how one experiences the presence of Jesus, these days are challenging. In many places, only limited numbers continue to be allowed in church, while others are only able to worship via live stream. None of the pat answers to where God dwells really fit. We need to try and answer this with new eyes and ears and heart.
A CLASSIC IMAGE
When we think of today’s Gospel, the image of this meeting between the Angel Gabriel and Mary by Fra Angelico (1440–1445) likely comes to mind. In this fresco, Gabriel and Mary are outside sitting among the columns, and Gabriel, with his big wings and hands crossed, gazes upon Mary and gestures towards her. She is well dressed in a traditional blue garment, and though her face shows shock, her folded hands model submission and humility. This work of art is so beautifully executed that we can miss some of its finer details. Similarly, because the Gospel scene is so familiar, we can forget to take in its small details. A few years ago, this author found a children’s book called “The Nativity” illustrated by Julie Vivas. Because her drawings were so fresh and charming and simple, she invited new perspective on the story.
Luke says that Mary “was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” She asks, “How can this be?” These questions don’t fit with how Fra Angelico positioned Gabriel and Mary. In the Vivas illustrations, the Angel Gabriel sits down with battered wings and a balding head and has a cup of coffee with Mary as the two of them try to figure it out together. The text is the same, but the message conveyed is different. There is a different degree of comfort and familiarity to these illustrations.
This “having a cup of coffee” is something we need to learn to do with the scriptures and with our lives. After this event, pregnant Mary traveled into the hill country to be with Elizabeth; an older, wiser, mentor—a mother figure. She spent three months there reflecting and preparing for the birth of her child. In this final week of Advent, take a few moments to find a Gabriel/Mary or an Elizabeth/Mary moment and read the Christmas readings again to see what you might have overlooked, and to find a new way for Christ to dwell in you.