Daily Devotional for January 29 – February 4
Continuing Navarre Commentary on Mary’s ‘Magnificat’ in Luke 1
“And his mercy is on these who fear him from generation to generation”: “At the very moment of the Incarnation, these words open up a new perspective of salvation history. After the Resurrection of Christ, this perspective is new on both the historical and the eschatological level. From that time onwards there is a succession of new generations of individuals in the immense human family, in ever-increasing dimensions; there is also a succession of new generations of the people of God, marked with the sign of the Cross and of the Resurrection and ‘sealed’ with the sign of the paschal mystery of Christ, the absolute revelation of the mercy that Mary proclaimed on the threshold of her kinswoman’s house.
“The proud”: those who want to be regarded as superior to others, whom they look down on. This also refers to those who, in their arrogance, seek to organize society without reference to, or in opposition to, God’s law. Even if they seem to do so successfully, the words of our Lady’s canticle will ultimately come true, for God will scatter them as he did those who tried to build the tower of Babel, thinking that they could reach as high as heaven (cf. Gen 11:4).
“When pride takes hold of a soul, it is no surprise to find it bringing along with it a whole string of other vices greed, self-indulgence, envy, injustice. The proud man is always vainly striving to dethrone God, who is merciful to all his creatures, so as to make room for himself and his ever cruel ways.
“We should beg God not to let us fall into this temptation. Pride is the worst sin of all, and the most ridiculous. . . . Pride is unpleasant, even from a human point of view. The person who rates himself better than everyone and everything is constantly studying himself and looking down on other people, who in turn react by ridiculing his foolish vanity” (J. Escrivá, Friends of God, 100).
Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace good will among men.
57 Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. 58 When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.
59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. 60 His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.”
61 But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62 So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called.
63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. 65 Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. 66 And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, “What kind of child will this be?” And the hand of the Lord was with him.
Circumcision was a rite established by God under the Old Covenant to mark out those who belonged to his chosen people: he commanded Abraham to institute circumcision as a sign of the Covenant he had made with him and all his descendants (cf. Gen 17:10-14), prescribing that it should be done on the eighth day after birth. The rite was performed either at home or in the synagogue, and, in addition to the actual circumcision, the ceremony included prayers and the naming of the child.
With the institution of Christian Baptism the commandment to circumcise ceased to apply. At the Council of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:1ff), the Apostles definitively declared that those entering the Church had no need to be circumcised.
60-63 By naming the child John, Zechariah complies with the instructions God sent him through the angel
Prayer: May the Strength of God guide us. May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us. May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us. May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us. – Against the snares of the evil one.
Prayer for the Faithful of St. Patrick Part 1
67 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David,
70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began,
71 That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
67 Zechariah, who was a righteous man (cf. v.6), received the special grace of prophecy when his son was born — a gift which led him to pronounce his canticle, called the Benedictus, a prayer so full of faith, reverence and piety that the Church has laid it down to be said daily in the Liturgy of the Hours. Prophecy has not only to do with foretelling future events: it also means being moved by the Holy Spirit to praise God. Both aspects of prophecy are to be found in the Benedictus.
68-79 Two parts can be discerned in the Benedictus: in the first (vv. 68-75) Zechariah thanks God for sending the Messiah, the Saviour, as he promised the patriarchs and prophets of Israel.
In the second (vv. 76.79) he prophesies that his son will have the mission of being herald of the Most High and precursor of the Messiah, proclaiming God’s mercy which reveals itself in the coming of Christ.
May Christ be with us! May Christ be before us! May Christ be in us, Christ be over all!
May Thy Grace, Lord, Always be ours, This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.
Prayer for the Faithful of St. Patrick Part 2
The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
74 To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the [j]Dayspring from on high [k]has visited us;
79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
80 So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.
NC: The “dawning”, the “dayspring”, is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, coming down from heaven to shed his light upon us: “the son of righteousness shall rise, with healing on its wings” (Mal 4:2). Already in the Old Testament we were told about the glory of the Lord, the reflection of his presence — something intimately connected with light. For example, when Moses returned to the encampment after talking with God, his face so shone that the Israelites “were afraid to come near him” (Ex 34:30). St John is making the same reference when he says that “God is light and in him there is no darkness” (1 Jn 1:5). and that there will be no light in heaven “for the glory of God is its light”.
Even when we live in this world, this divine light reaches us through Jesus Christ who, because he is God, is “the true light that enlightens every man” (in 1:9), as Christ himself tells us: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness” (Jn 8:12).
“Wilderness”: this must surely refer to the “Judean wilderness” which stretches from the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea to the hill country of Judea. It is not a sand desert but, rather, a barren steppe, with bushes and basic vegetation which suit bees and grasshoppers or wild locusts. It contains lots of caves, which can provide shelter.
Glory to Jesus Christ – Glory forever!
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed [a]wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a [b]manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
NC: Caesar Augustus was Roman emperor at this time, reigning from 30 B.C. to 14 A.D. He is known to have commissioned various censuses, one of which could well be that referred to by the evangelist. Since Rome normally respected local usages, censuses were carried out in line with Jewish custom whereby every householder went to his place of origin to be listed in the census.
Our hearts should provide Jesus with a place where he can be born spiritually: that is, we should he born to a new life, becoming a new creature (Rom 6:4), keeping that holiness and purity of soul which we were given in Baptism and which is like being born again. We contemplate the birth of our Saviour when we pray the third mystery of the Holy Rosary.
“First-born son”: it is usual for Sacred Scripture to refer to the first male child as “the first-born” whether or not there were other brothers (cf., for example, Ex 13:2; 13:13; Num 15:8; Heb 1:6). The same practice is to be found in ordinary speech; take, for example, this inscription dating from approximately the same time as Christ was born, which was found near Tell-el-Jedvieh (in Egypt) in 1922, which states that a woman named Arsinoe died when giving birth to “her first born son”. Christian Tradition teaches, as a truth of faith, that Mary remained a virgin after Christ’s birth, which is perfectly in keeping with Christ’s status as her first born.
For as many have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ…Alleluia
Luke 2:8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And [c]behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a [d]manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill[e] toward men!”
NC: These shepherds may have been from the neighbourhood of Bethlehem or even have come from further afield in search of pasture for their flocks. It was these simple and humble people who were the first to hear the good news of Christ’s birth. God has a preference for the humble (cf. Prov 3:32); he hides from those who consider themselves wise and understanding and reveals himself to “babes” (cf. Mt 11:25).
“other ancient authorities read peace, good will among men”;
Christ is in our midst – He is and always shall be
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made [f]widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
NC: The shepherds make their way to Bethlehem propelled by the sign they have received. And when they verify it they tell what they heard from the angel and about seeing the heavenly host. They are the first witnesses of the birth of the Messiah. “The shepherds were not content with believing in the happy event which the angel proclaimed to them and which, full of wonder, they saw for a fact; they manifested their joy not only to Mary and Joseph but to everyone and, what is more, they tried to engrave it on their memory. ‘And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.’
In very few words this verse tells us a great deal about our Lady. We see the serenity with which she contemplates the wonderful things that are coming true with the birth of her divine Son. She studies them, ponders them and stores them in the silence of her heart. She is a true teacher of prayer. If we imitate her, if we guard and ponder in our heart what Jesus says to us and what he does in us, we are well on the way to Christian holiness
Preserve O Lord while waking and guard us while sleeping that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace.