The following is a preview from the Comprehensive Catholic Lectionary, a project by women priests Jane Via and Nancy Corran that aims to include every significant story about women in the bible, eliminate exclusive language for God and humans, and bring a spectrum of Biblical theologies to readers and communities.
Advent reflections (below the readings) will be posted on the Table. Download the complete Advent and Christmas section of the Lectionary to access the entire offering including background notes, alternative readings, and responsorial psalms.
Call to Prayer (from our psalm from Isaiah): I will rejoice heartily in God; in God is the joy of my soul! As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will God make justice and praise spring up before all peoples of the earth. We will rejoice heartily in God; in God is the joy of our souls!
Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1a, 2, 4-7, 12, 14a, 17; Psalm: Is 61:1-3a,b, 10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; Luke 1:26-38
A Reading from the Second Book of Samuel 7:1a, 2, 4-7, 12, 14a, 17
After the ruler, David, was settled in his palace, he confessed his concern to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” But that night the word of God came to Nathan, saying: “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what God says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I called to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar? Now, when your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, your own flesh and blood, through whom I will establish a dynasty. It will be that one who will build a house for my Name; and I will establish that reign and house forever. I will be the mother of the one I raise up. I will be the father, and the one-to come will be my child.” Nathan reported all the words of this revelation to David.
A Reading from Paul’s 1st Letter to the Thessalonians 5:16-24
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the desire of God’s heart for you in Jesus the Christ. Do not quench the spirit nor despise prophetic utterances. Test everything. Retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil. May the God of Peace make you complete, holy; May the God of all make you whole. And may you be preserved entirely blameless in spirit, soul, and body at the coming of Jesus the Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and will accomplish it in you.
A Reading from the Gospel attributed to Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a young maiden betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the House of David. The maiden’s name was Mary. The messenger came to her and said, “Hail, favored one! God is with you.” Mary was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this sort of greeting might mean. The messenger said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a child, whom you will name, ‘Jesus’.” Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I do not yet know man?” The messenger said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Holy One will cover you with its shadow, and so the child will be holy, and be called One Born of God.” And I tell you this too, your cousin Elizabeth, in her old age, has conceived. She, whom people called barren, is now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible for God.” Then Mary said, “Here I am, a servant of God. It shall be with me according to your Word.” Then the messenger departed from her.
First Reading: David wants to build a house for God. (It is questionable for whose glory!) The ark held the Law which was understood as God’s own Word among us; effectively God’s presence on earth with us (“Immanuel”). When David laments his failure to build a house for God, God insists that God is fine without shelter, that God was pleased to live among the people as a “tent-dweller”.
“Shekinah” is a female concept/image of the Divine who dwells among earthlings. Shekinah, as a manifestation of God, was born of early rabbinic literature, rooted in the Hebrew word “to dwell.” “Shekinah” was a word and a way of understanding God’s nomadic, tent-dwelling presence among us, where, like Wisdom, this divine presence is female.
Through time, many have sought to build a dwelling place for God with varying success. Like an expanding universe, like a pregnant woman’s womb, God cannot be contained, and yet will ever be as near to us as our own flesh, breath, and words.
Second Reading: Paul calls us to a life that is prayer; we are called to the mystery of thanksgiving in all things; and we are called to joy, and to recognize that joy is a sign of our God.
Gospel reading: As people who support women, we must live into questions that the Bible does not ask of itself, but we yet (and must) ask of it for our own times: Was Mary chosen or overcome? Did she have a choice, or was it a fait accompli. Remembering Denise Levertov’s poem entitled, “Annunciation,” Levertov is clear: “God waited./She was free/to accept or to refuse, choice/integral to humanness.” In traditional theological language, one might call it “free will.” At the same time, we remember, in these readings, the women who are overpowered, who do not have choice, who cannot rejoice or give thanks, or perhaps who cannot even pray when faced with a grief or an in injustice thrust upon them. Precisely into these circumstances, God will be born.
David longs to build a House, a Temple, a home for the ark of the God. As Jane Via (RCWP Bishop) has noted about this pairing of readings, “as the ark would dwell in the Holy of Holies of the Temple, Mary would be the human ark, carrying God in her womb.”
As winter’s darkness and the yet fecund, fallow earth nourishes us and cradles us when things look bleak, so we hope that justice and peace will spring up yet again from our very earth, our very selves.
What can we do to erase the stigma against young women who are pregnant and don’t want to be? What can we do to counter the rape culture of our times?
What can we do to transform our own faith institutions which claim to “house God,” (again, for whose glory?), but which perpetuate injustice?
What can we do to care for the earth, who cares for us, – who carried us into evolutionary existence?
What can we do to attune ourselves to the joy in and around us, and magnify it?
Waiting and Preparing
With Paul, refrain from evil and rejoice always.
With John, know the Spirit has anointed you to bring good news.
Like the ark, like Mary, know that you are a vessel of the Holy.
Like the darkness of space, like the darkness of the womb, like the darkness of winter, like the darkness enveloping the seed in fallow ground, this season is the cradle of new life: Let silence and mystery nourish us as we await new birth.