Rereading A Reading

Obviously, it doesn’t happen every year that the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception gets bumped, and certainly not because it would conflict with the celebration of the Sunday Mass. Some have pithily quipped that it’s very Marian that her feast would step aside, giving precedence to the Lord’s Day.

It certainly does muddy the waters a bit when a “solemnity”—the highest rank of liturgical celebration on the calendar—lands on a Sunday, but when that solemnity is concurrent with a Sunday of Advent or Lent, the solemnity gives way to the Sunday.

This weekend, we have a beautiful glimpse at why this is the case, as these readings are pregnant with enough fuel for meditation and contemplation for whole lifetimes.

For example, today’s first reading from Isaiah just throws a relentless torrent of metaphors at us to describe the coming of Christ. How can we come to understand such a thing, aside from simply grabbing onto one of these descriptions and sticking with that image to understand what Advent is actually about?

Of course, the first section of the reading is a prophecy of the birth of Christ. He being born of the “stump of Jesse,” and anointed with the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, and fear of the Lord (this should sound eerily familiar to those of us who have been, or are about to be confirmed!), surely this is the Christ, or promised Savior: our true Messiah, and the Lamb of God—Jesus, by name, for whom we hope!

The heart can and should thrill at this description of Jesus in Isaiah 11:2.

The prophet continues, describing the hallmarks of his reign: justice and faithfulness. Hope for the afflicted and terror for the afflicter, the Lord will judge the heart of each.

After this mighty description of the Savior’s presence, follows this mystifying string of juxtapositions in which predators and prey shall be at peace together in mutual safety. The wolf as guest of the lamb? This is when it struck me that it is precisely thus with God and man.

We shall become the guest of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. How often we are like wolves: killing or harming for our own gain. How often we are a leopard with designs on chasing down the kid goat in our own midst, but now we will be guided by a child—and not just any child, but the Son of God in flesh and blood, born a baby of the Virgin Mother, Mary.

Who else but Jesus will lay his hand on the snake’s lair unharmed? Of course, the Eternal Son will not be harmed by the “Ancient Serpent.”

Lastly, “the earth will be filled with knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea (Isaiah 11:9).” But the sea isn’t merely filled with water; the sea is the water itself, so it is that knowledge of the Lord is everywhere around us. All we need in order to know God more deeply, or to entrust ourselves more purposefully and personally to Jesus, is available to us.

Only recently, for some reason, has it dawned on me that each metaphor, every phrase is speaking of Christ himself. It isn’t only that Jesus will make earthly life like that, but that Jesus on Earth is that.

This root of Jesse was truly set up as a signal for the nations (that’s us, just to be clear). That when we look upon it, we should know that the time of the Lamb’s dominion is at hand. The Kingdom, the glorious reign of God is ready to be birthed in our day.

It is, then, upon us to be transformed from ravenous wolves, dangerous bears, and unwise young lions. Lord make us attentive to the Holy Spirit, that we would be instruments of the dawn of God’s Kingdom even now, even here.

David Dunst
Director of Music and Liturgy


Leave a Reply