Do Not Be Afraid

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent
December 20, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122022.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray the O Antiphon:

“O Key of David,
come and bring forth
from his prison house
the captive.”  

We might not think of ourselves as captives. But simply by virtue of our humanity, we are probably inhibited in some way – by fear, pride, ignorance, prejudice, self-doubt… 

Paula D’Arcy puts it like this: “Who would I be, and what power would be expressed in my life, if I were not dominated by fear?”
(Or maybe anger, some type of “ism’, greed, pride, and on and on.) 

Let us pray this prayer together, dear friends, for all held captive in both visible and invisible ways. May we pray especially for those captured by drugs, alcohol, or any other addiction. Pray also for those held in any kind of oppression through poverty, political manipulation, war and disregard for human rights.

O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.


Our Gospel is the cherished passage of the Annunciation, a scripture we pray so often when we say the Hail Mary. Different lines and thoughts may strike our hearts as we pray these familiar verses. One stood out for me today:

Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.

It’s such a tender exchange! It reveals Mary’s honest humanity in that, of course, she was stunned and a little fearful when an angel jumped into her bedroom! And the message wasn’t too easy to comprehend either!

The words also reveal the great sensitivity of Gabriel, the fearless angel who noticed, understood, and comforted Mary’s uneasiness.


When we feel God speaking to us, particularly in challenging situations, it might ease us as well to think of these words. “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God.” Indeed, every one of us has found favor with God through the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.


Poetry: Annunciation – Denise Levertov

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
courage.
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

____________________________

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
uncomprehending.
More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

______________________________

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –
but who was God.
This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,
                                Spirit,
                                          suspended,
                                                            waiting.

______________________________

She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
                                                       raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
                                  consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
                               and the iridescent wings.
Consent,
              courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

Music;  Michael G. Hegeman

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