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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Rejoice, Daughter Zion

The joy of the Mother of God, in these days drawing close to the nativity, opens up new depths of the Advent Mystery. She personifies the New Jerusalem, and the title Daughter of Zion applies to her in astonishing ways. She is an icon of the Church, the Bride for whom the Bridegroom comes. Mighty divine relations of Father, Son and Spirit impact frail human relations in her, not to destroy or diminish, but to renew in love. And in her womb, the Word made flesh is become her joy, and Her soul, in response, declares infinite magnitudes that this world cannot hold.

How can any frail human words proclaim the Almighty Word? How can this finite creature express infinite meaning and communion? Even still, something in her maternal heart explodes into action and no power in heaven or hell can hold her back. And because she personifies the Church, we who are members of Christ's Body are part of this very jubilation. We are, each of us, words of the Word made flesh. Because God draws close to us, our lives in their very particularity and limits are implicated in the joy of magnifying the infinities of Divine love. Who could have guessed that the Lord's promises would be fulfilled in this way? The prophet Zephaniah commands the Daughter of Zion to shout for joy, and the Handmaid of the Lord exclaims, "My spirit rejoices in God my savior." He declares that the Lord, the mighty Savior, is in her midst, and she foresees that "all generations shall call me blessed." He foretells that the Mighty God "will rejoice" over her and "sing joyfully" because of her, and she exclaims, "My soul magnifies the Lord." To magnify the Lord, we must welcome Him with the surrender of our whole existence. We must make ourselves vulnerable as He has become vulnerable to us. This means whole mountains of sluggishness must come down and valleys of indifference filled with empathy for others. John the Baptist's message help us make the crooked ways of our hearts straight. He knows that the Lord is close at hand and answers the anxious questions of those who know they were not yet prepared. If even he once asked "Are you the One?", do we have any hope of responding to the truth and light of the Word who comes to us? The Daughter Zion is not discouraged or afraid of such anxieties, and she know the assurance that we need as the Word is conceived in our hearts. For she knows the question of the Baptist and the questions in our hearts have an answer. She knows this answer is not a puzzling proverb to quiet our minds or any clever technique by which we surmount anxieties. The answer is her Son, the Word of the Father who speaks into the whole earthly existence of our very being. She knows a simple act of trust in Him is greater than all fears no matter the threat we face. Her hope is grounded in the Word's triumph over evil and lives in the Holy Humanity that He has won on the Cross. This means Mary's hope lives in the Body of Christ, the Church. The Daughter of Zion knows that the Lord has come to forgive sin and to defeat the enemies of holy humanity. She ponders the words of the Word that live in His Body as His members These same words echo the Word made flesh in the world. Each saint is a new expression of the Word who has come, not to condemn, but to save. And we, the members of His Body are born as was He, not into a welcoming world, but into one in which we are not received. The Virgin is not dismayed by this and Advent invites us to see what she sees. Mary ponders the greatness of the Lord in the hearts of those who are obedient to the Word. Betrayal, denial and abandonment in the Church are no more than the stammered syllables through which the Father whispers His mysterious love into our pain. The story that He entrusts to us does not end in misfortune. In the limits of time and space and in the brokenness of human misery, new joy fills the Virgin as the words of the Eternal Word are born anew in our midst.

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