Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent1
Roráte caeli, désuper, et nubes pluant iustum. . .
“Drop down dew from above, you heavens, and let the clouds rain down the Just One; let the earth be opened and bring forth a Savior” (cf. Isaiah 45:8).
The prophet Isaiah greets us in today’s Entrance Antiphon and helps us to prepare for Christmas. Dr. Pius Parsch writes that “(Isaiah’s) cry must become our own. Before God comes to us, He demands preparation. He will not force His gifts upon us. We must desire them, we must be spiritually hungry.” Parsch makes this great statement: “Advent desire means that we must cultivate a fruitful soil for the seed of grace, that we become receptive to God’s kingdom” (The Church’s Year of Grace, Vol. I: Advent to Candlemas, p. 134). This applies directly to these words from the prophet Isaiah: “Drop down dew from above, you heavens, and let the clouds rain down the Just One; let the earth be opened and bring forth a Savior.” This prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled with the coming of the Divine Child. By analogy, we can say that He has come down from heaven as a drop of dew from the clouds.
Though this is an analogy, this imagery is quite accurate. Remember the Gospel of the Annunciation. The Angel Gabriel said to Mary: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” She is full of grace. She is filled with the Holy Spirit to overflowing. Because the Lord is with her in a singular way, she is the soil that is receptive for the dew which drops down from the clouds of heaven. In fact, it is a cloud from heaven that dropped down upon her. The angel announced: “The Holy Spirit will descend upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” It was the glory cloud of the Holy Spirit. That same cloud descended upon the Holy of Holies in the Temple. When the cloud descended, God took His seat on His throne upon the Cherubim. And when that cloud descended upon Mary, God claimed His throne in the Immaculate cloister of her womb. The drop of dew which is the Word of God, found a receptive soil in her. “Drop down dew from above, you heavens, and let the clouds rain down the Just One; let the earth be opened and bring forth a Savior.” Mary was the Immaculate rich soil which brought forth the Savior.
The Eternal Word entered into human flesh. That is really the meaning of the word ‘Advent’. Ad means ‘into’ and vent from the verb ‘venir’ means to come. So, the Eternal Word came into this world, into human flesh, into the womb of Mary, so that He could come into our hearts.
The consequence of the Eternal Son of God entering into human flesh, is that He has entered into time. Time is fleeting. So, the moment Mary has heard these words, she begins planning her journey. She sets out in haste. Immediately, the Word of God sends out His Holy Spirit to those around Him. From the womb, Jesus sends His Holy Spirit to the infant John in the womb. “St. Augustine is even of the opinion that the unborn Baptist was miraculously endowed with the use of reason and will so that he could joyfully recognize, believe in and say Yes to his Lord” (Saward, Redeemer in the Womb, p. 25). Whether this is true or not, the Church has not defined; but it is certain that this event fulfills the prophecy made by the angel Gabriel to Zechariah promising that “[John] will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). “The grace of the Holy Spirit flows from Jesus through Mary to John and from John to Elizabeth” (Saward, 26).
And where does this happen? It happens on a mountain. Mary hastens to the hill country. She ascends the mountain in order to meet the Just One in the clouds whence He came, having dropped down like dew from above. He has come to her from heaven and she now goes to be near heaven to prepare and to be of service to her Son’s first disciple, still in the womb himself.
Mary makes haste. We too must make haste. Time is short and God has given us these last days of Advent to prepare. In those days, Mary came to the mountain. This day we have come here to this holy mountain: the altar of God; as near to heaven as we can come in this life. Mary received the Word of God and she conceived and bore fruit in her womb. We have received the Word of God in this Mass. Let our souls now be prepared as rich soil for the Word of God that will drop down like dew from the clouds of heaven.
“Let the earth be opened and bring forth a Savior.”
1. A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, OR December 23rd, 2012, Dominica IV Adventus, Anno C ↩