Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent
(Song of Songs 2:8-14; Luke 1:39-45)
“Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?” Shakespeare begins a famous love poem (Sonnet 18) and continues, “Thou art more lovely and more temperate.” Although saints have experienced the love of God, they seldom express themselves more eloquently than human lovers. For this reason the Song of Songs was adopted from Hebrew love poetry to describe God’s love for Israel. Today’s first reading provides a sample of the exquisite love poem reframed to express divine passion.
The Church juxtaposes the passage from the Song of Songs with the gospel of Mary visiting Elizabeth to indicate the joy God brings to His people. Mary bears Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, into the presence of the not-yet-born John representing the expectant Israel. Unable to express his glee in words, the fetus leaps in his mother’s womb. Likewise, Israel can rejoice for at long last her lover has come to save her from disgrace.
We really should wait until the evening of the 24th to celebrate Christmas; however, like John in the gospel we cannot but anticipate Jesus’ actual birth. Still we should hold jubilation in tension with the watchfulness which Jesus called us to at the beginning of Advent. We need to attend to those who are losing their grip on hope before sitting too comfortably at our table of plenty.