Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Third Sunday in Advent

The Third Sunday in Advent: Gaudete, a break in the penitential season. “Gaudete Sunday is … marked by a new Invitatory, the Church no longer inviting the faithful to adore merely "The Lord who is to come", but calling upon them to worship and hail with joy ‘The Lord who is now nigh and close at hand’.” The shattering that is promised is, for the moment, seen; in the first great song of praise in Luke’s Gospel, named for it’s Latin translation: the Magnificat. But is what is seen presence, or prophecy?
“My soul extols the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has shown consideration for the lowly stature of his slave. As a consequence, from now on every generation will congratulate me; the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name, and his mercy will come to generation after generation of those who fear him. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has put the arrogant to rout, along with their private schemes; he has pulled the mighty down from their thrones, and exalted the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, as he spoke to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-56, SV)

Quite a lot to claim on just the word of an angel; a lot of expectation for her child. But she doesn’t speak in the future tense; she sings about the present. She praise what God has done, not what God will do; she focuses on the fulfillment of the promise, not a new expectation.

And everything is shattered: thrones, wealth, worthiness; all mean nothing. Hunger and low estate are reversed, power and arrogance are defeated. All without firing a shot. All without anything yet having really happened. How can this be?

One other thing: this is not a political statement. This is not about a greater power than all others on earth, overwhelming what we know and wiping it out. If reason is really going to save us from ourselves, it can only do so by overpowering emotions; it will only do so when we all finally and fully think alike, and praise the same things, and damn the same things, and there is no deviation. It will only finally rule supreme when human emotion is wiped out, and desires and wants are expunged. Reason will only finally be our best and highest ruler when everyone is a slave and no one thinks unlike the rest, and the philosopher kings take their rightful place, and we all learn to bounce our ball in sequence on the coldly perfect planet of Camazotz.
The Magnificat is not a political song. It is not the Maccabees taking on Rome and precipating the slaughter of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. It is not the Pax Romana that finally fell, never to rise again. It is not the plea of the Populists, of New Deal Democrats, the Yippies, or the Green Party. The Magnificat is not about what will be, but about what is.

It is not about resistance, about plans to rule and overpower, either malicious or benign. It understand implicitly: there is no power without resistance. It is not a song of resistance, or a song of prediction.

It is a song of now.

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