Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent
When I was recently at my home parish, the priest asked me if I could recommend a book explaining some basic Catholic art because he feared people did not understand what was in the church. Unfortunately today we have access to much information yet are illiterate when it comes to Christian symbols. A consequence of our growth in scientific understanding has made us superficial when it comes to art, poetry, and thus the spiritual realities beyond what fleshly eyes see.
We probably feel uncomfortable reading the Song of Songs. Let’s face it: it is erotic poetry. How is this in the Bible? For starters, we know that God made man and woman in His own image and likeness holy and His first commandment was to be fruitful. The gifts of human sexuality were created by God, and their proper ends are therefore good.
Yet, on a deeper level mystics like Sts. Bernard and John of the Cross read beyond the steamy text to a spiritual reality. This is the Messiah’s longing for His beloved, the Church, and indeed one’s soul. St. Paul tells us that the best image of Christ united to His Church is the married couple.
The Gospel of the Visitation tells us that we are fools if we do not acknowledge God at work hidden from our eyes. When Mary comes straight from the Annunciation to attend Elizabeth, the infant in the older woman’s womb jumps for joy. John the Baptist prophesies in utero! And immediately his mother understands that the God she knew to be everywhere was also present bodily there.
Many were disturbed by the Pew Foundation survey that came out a couple of years ago showing three-fourths of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ present in the Eucharist. It is a challenge to believe that a God who is above, around, and sustaining all that is should also come to us in simple gifts. Elizabeth asks how the mother of the Lord should, ought, is duly right to come to her. Jesus is God-with-us so that human and divine will be united forever – not in proportion to what we merit but according to our faith.
Reflection by Fr. Pachomius Meade, OSB