December 24th Morning Mass

Late Advent Weekday — December 24
II Samuel 7:1-5,8-12,14,16  +  Luke 1:67-69
December 24, 2016

“‘…the dawn from on high shall break upon us….’”

This morning’s Scriptures are beautiful in their simplicity.  The Gospel passage is a prophecy.  We’re so familiar with the Benedictus from praying Lauds each day that we might forget the words by which St. Luke the Evangelist introduces this hymn:  “Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying….”

Zechariah, remember, was a priest “of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron” [Lk 1:5].  Zechariah and Elizabeth symbolize the priestly power of the Old Testament, and God’s transformation of it into prophecy within the New Covenant.  Zechariah the priest prophesied.

Also, Zechariah here was “filled with the Holy Spirit”.  St. Luke the Evangelist uses this phrase throughout his infancy narratives purposefully.  When the angel appears in Temple to announce to the priest Zechariah, who was burning incense, the conception of his son, the angel proclaims that “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” [Lk 1:15].

Six months later at the Visitation, “when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry” [Lk 1:41-42].  Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and thereby exclaims a prophecy about Mary and her Son.

Likewise, in today’s Gospel passage, the Old Covenant comes to an end.  Zechariah, “filled with the Holy Spirit”, prophesies about his new-born son, John the Baptist.  The canticle concludes with imagery of a morning, which is fitting on this morn that lies on the threshold of Christmastide:  “In the tender compassion of our God / the dawn from on high shall break upon us, / to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, / and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”