Our Advent journey is almost done. The prophets have spoken about the coming Messiah and the Spirit who will renew the world. Preaching a baptism of repentance, John the Baptist points to the coming to the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Now the time has come. It is the fullness of time. The time has come to send both Son and Spirit in a joint mission of mercy. The Father is now prepared to reconcile Himself with humankind.
In sending both the Son and the Holy Spirit, the concern of a dwelling place is brought up. Where shall he take his residence? King David offers to build a house for Him in thanksgiving for all that the Lord has done for him. But God sends word and asks: “Shall you build me a house to dwell in? …The Lord reveals to you that He will establish a house for you!” What house can we build that befits the Holy One? What Temple can we build to house the Word through whom everything was created and the Spirit by whose power all came to be? Can any human being build a house great enough, holy enough to befit the true God?
Knowing that none is worthy nor capable to create a dwelling for the powerful Word and the Creator Spirit, the Father Himself builds a house. He prepared the soul of the Virgin Mary as a dwelling for the Holy Spirit and her womb for His only begotten Son. So great was His desire to be merciful that the Lord Himself builds His own Temple.
Now that the temple is created, the Lord, through an angel, knocks at the door and begs to enter. He appeals to the Virgin that she accepts the dignity of being the Mother of the Most High. All she needed to do was to open the door of her heart and let God enter. All she needed to do was to consent…to say “Yes!” It will not be a violent intrusion but a gentle descent like dew from heaven above. Yes, He is God at whose word all things are made. But now, this All powerful God humbles Himself. He awaits the Virgin’s word. He awaits the Virgin’s consent. Will there be anything like this humility of the Divine Mercy? Has the universe seen anything like it? Will the universe see anything like it again? The Lord subjects His mercy to the Virgin’s will. Creation gasps in silence. All the universe appeals to the Virgin: Please be merciful to this weary world: Say Yes to Him who humbles Himself and asks for your consent. Your Yes will be the door that will let the Divine Mercy enter.
The Virgin responds: Behold the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” O gates lift up your heads, grow higher ancient doors: let Him enter the King of glory!
St. Faustina exclaims in her diary:
“Mercy has moved You to deign to descend among us and lift us up from our misery. God will descend to earth; the Immortal Lord of lords will abase Himself. But where will You descend, Lord; will it be to the temple of Solomon? Or will You have a tabernacle built for Yourself? Where do You intend to come down? O Lord, what kind of tabernacle shall we prepare for You, since the whole earth is Your footstool?
“You have indeed prepared a tabernacle for Yourself: the Blessed Virgin. Her Immaculate Womb is Your dwelling place, and the incoceivable miracle of Your mercy takes place, O Lord. The Word becomes flesh; God dwells among us; the Word of God, Mercy Incarnate. By Your descent, You have lifted us up to Your divinity. Such is the excess of Your love, the abyss of Your mercy. Heaven is amazed at the superabundance of Your love. No one fears to approach You now. You are the God of mercy. You have compassion on misery. You are our God, and we are Your people. You are our Father and we are Your children by grace. Praise be to Your mercy, that You have deigned to descend among us.” (Diary, 1745)
Thank you, O merciful God. Thank you, O Virgin of mercy!
We ought to get back the dimension of the sacred in the liturgy. The liturgy is not a festivity; it is not a meeting for the purpose of having a good time. It is of no importance that the parish priest has cudgeled his brains to come up with suggestive ideas or imaginative novelties. The liturgy is what makes the Thrice-Holy God present amongst us; it is the burning bush; it is the Alliance of God with man in Jesus Christ, who has died and risen again. The grandeur of the liturgy does not rest upon the fact that it offers an interesting entertainment, but in rendering tangible the Totally Other, whom we are not capable of summoning. He comes because He wills. In other words, the essential in the liturgy is the mystery, which is realized in the common ritual of the Church; all the rest diminishes it. Men experiment with it in lively fashion, and find themselves deceived, when the mystery is transformed into distraction, when the chief actor in the liturgy is not the Living God but the priest or the liturgical director. - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Chile, 1988)
Do we still need sacred space, sacred time, mediating symbols? Yes, we do need them, precisely so that, through the "image," through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven. We need them to give us the capacity to know the mystery of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified. - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Spirit of the Liturgy )