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Second Sunday after the Nativity

Second Sunday after Christmas

Basilica Hymn
My heart will speak words of wisdom (Ps 45:1)
He will sprout from his city like the grass of the earth (?)
A comely and lovely plant; it produces leaves and forms almonds (?)
Like the staff of Aaron which blossomed, so is the Virgin who conceived, O unbelieving Jew! That which was neither planted nor watered, sprouted; the Virgin, then, without husband and seed conceived by the command of God. The staff showed a wonderful fruit; and the power of the Most High came and rested upon her who is full of grace, and promised that she would give birth to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, whom we adore and to whom we say: Great, O Lord, is the mystery of your gracious providence; glory to you!

Precedence & Novelty

God is at once eternally ancient and ever new; he existed from eternity, before time began, and yet he has not aged a day, but is the constant Source of vitality and renewal. Thus are also all his works – while being always unexpected wonders, surprises which we could never have guessed, they have been prepared for from the beginning of salvation history. Thus while Christ’s death for the sins of the world was a completely new reality, God prepared for it – that is, he prepared the mind of man to understand and accept it – by establishing a context for it, namely, here, a context of temple and sacrifice in which lambs and other animals were slain. This reality was in turn prepared for by the sacrifice of Isaac during which he asked his father Abraham, “Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Throughout every moment, every significant even of history, God is preparing to do something ever greater, and this all culminates in the person of Jesus Christ.

But Christ, like all men, is not an island; he also is found within a context, within a family, and all those surrounding him are affected by all that affects him. And so, they also are prepared for; they also are given a precedent in a way similar to Christ himself. Thus John the Baptist was announced by the prophet: “a voice crying out in the wilderness;” thus the Gentiles who heard Christ’s preaching were made known to us: “the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light;” thus even Judas the betrayer was hinted at in Psalm 41: “even my close friend, whom I have trusted, who ate my bread, has risen his heel against me.”

Intimacy

During this Christmas season, we gaze into the scene of the nativity of Christ, and it is there that we realize that because Christ is central, Mary is as well; if he is the middle of the scene, Mary is all around him; she is herself his context. How then could it be possible for Mary also to not have some preparation in salvation history? We hear the Gospels quoting the prophet Isaiah, “a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son.” This is an announcement; but the Fathers of our Church point out to us a mystical symbol as well, in order to answer an intellectual objection against this possibility, even this reality, that a virgin should be with child and give birth to the Savior of the world:

Like the staff of Aaron which blossomed, so is the Virgin who conceived, O unbelieving Jew! That which was neither planted nor watered, sprouted; the Virgin, then, without husband and seed conceived by the command of God. The staff showed a wonderful fruit; and the power of the Most High came and rested upon her who is full of grace, and promised that she would give birth to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, whom we adore and to whom we say: Great, O Lord, is the mystery of your gracious providence; glory to you!