And was it ever a cold walk to Mass this morning! Seriously, I thought a saw a couple of these walking up to St. Mary's:
The First Reading of the Mass today is one of the more memorable, especially to those familiar with Händel's Messiah, in which it serves as the first accompagnato.
"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God
Speak ye comfortably unto Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for her all sins.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: "Prepare ye the way of the LORD! Make straight in the desert a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it." Isaiah 40:1-5
It's fascinating to look at all the different threads the Prophet Isaiah is pulling together. From the first, he speaks of God's comfort to the besieged people of Zion. And while this is a season of penance, necessarily so, it is good to be reminded of the love and comfort of our Lord, the rock who saves us. That we are engaged in a battle is potent spiritual imagery: Satan has laid siege to God's city, to His people on Earth. This is the same Israel, mourning in lonely exile, that we hear of in the great Advent hymn "Veni, veni, Emmanuel". We are a people at war with Satan and his minions, and with sin. And how often we fall!
And in thinking of that, I can't help but think of the ride of the Rohirrim. If we were left to ourselves, we couldn't win. The foe is too strong, and we are too weak. Our strength is too far spent. But Isaiah gives his people Israel, both the historical Israelites and the spiritual people of Israel, the Church, the good news: the Lord Himself is coming to lift the siege! The night will be over, and day will come again. And here also is the reminder that the gift of God's mercy and grace is so much greater than our transgressions. And the voice announcing this all is to be John the Baptist, greater than whom none of those born of woman has arisen.
What is spoken of next is the evening out of the physical aspects of the world. Seeing this in a spiritual sense is a valuable exercise. When Isaiah says that the mountains and hills will be made low, could he not be speaking of the mountains and hills of our pride, our imagined self-sufficiency, all the human constructs we have built up against God. The low places are our sins and failings, which the Lord not only forgives, but in response to which He gives us grace to resist them and overcome them in the future. The straightening of the paths can refer to placing us back on the path of righteousness.
And finally, we are told of the coming glory of the Lord and reminded that this is God's promise- it is the word He has spoken. We may take comfort in that the God gave both His word and His Word- indeed, the Word of God is His promise.
Just some reflections. Enjoy the day!