Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son."
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
"A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more." (ESV)
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The New Age
Holy Innocents, Martyrs
28 December 2015
Everyone is waiting for the new age. In the 1960s it was the "age of Aquarius." In the 1990s it was President George H. W. Bush's "new world order." Before that, Karl Marx promised an era in which an utopia of an idyllic, leaderless, and unrestrained society would come to pass. But already those promises of newness are fading and have themselves become old, even antique. All human claims to the new age presuppose that humans will bring it about by their own efforts or works. It's no wonder then that these much-vaunted announcements of new ages, eras, or times all fail to bear fruit. We have plenty of the "same old, same old," because we humans are prisoners of our old birth from primeval Adam.
The new age can only arise from God Himself. And it arises not from human effort, but from divine and decisive action. The world was re-made by the birth of one Man, when he was born in a way the world had never seen. Unsullied by the corruption of the Fall, He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary. He is the new Adam. He who grieved when His Word was rejected in the Garden, came as the Word in flesh, to restore the Word of Life to all the sons and daughters of Adam. In the re-creation of the age, the garden of perfect fellowship with God was restored by the birth of that one solitary Child born of Eve's daughter. The Word which Adam doubted in the old age and the serpent tried to un-say in the new age, God said again, this time through enfleshment. Virginal nativity makes the new order in that one Life.
How improbable such a rescue is! How impossible to conceive that the corpus of death becomes pristine through the incarnation of the Virgin. Humanity is made fully new in Mary by Mary's Son. In her womb humanity is re-created. So the angel says to Mary: "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" (Lk 1:31, 32, 35). The Garden of Eden is replanted when the divine messenger breathes upon her the message of the Life in his promise that the holy One to be born of her would be the Son of the Most High. Mary becomes the new Eve, and Christ the new Adam. Her womb is the ark of the Lord.
The old Adam had been cast out and the world came all undone. The Garden was now surrounded by the tangled and thorn infested hedge of nature run wild groaning under the weight of human perversity (Rm 8:20). The death-dealing angel bars the way to the Tree of Life until Mary's new Eden is opened to the Life. The seed of her womb plants the fruit of life again among men. The angel who once blocked the way of life speaks it again into the world telling into Mary the world's second true fruitfulness. Creation is re-created. The old Garden's life now becomes the new Life of the world. Because this Son of God is the fruit of her womb, Mary is mother of us all. Fair Eden's door stands open through the birth of her Child. No wonder that in faithful anticipation of what is now ours through faith in this Life, heaven and nature sing Joy to the world. The new age has come in Christ.
"Most of the holy fathers, and patriarchs, and prophets desired to see Him, and to be eye witnesses of Him, but did not attain it. And some of them by visions beheld Him in type, and darkly; others, again, were privileged to hear the divine voice through the means of the cloud, and were favored with sights of holy angels; but to Mary the pure virgin alone did the archangel Gabriel manifest himself luminously, bringing her the glad address, 'Greetings, O favored one' (Lk 1:28). Thus she received the word, and in the due time of the fulfillment according to the body's course she brought forth the priceless pearl. Come, then, let us chant the melody which has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, 'Arise, O LORD, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might' (Ps 132:8). For the holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary. 'Arise, O Lord, go into your resting place.' Arise, O Lord, out of the bosom of the Father, in order that You might raise up the fallen race of the first-formed man.
"Setting these things forth, David in prophecy said to the rod that was to spring from himself, and to sprout into the flower of that beauteous fruit, 'Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father's house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him' (Ps 45:10-11). Hearken, O daughter, to the things which were prophesied before about you, in order that thou may also behold the things themselves with the eyes of understanding. Listen when I announce things beforehand to you, and listen to the archangel who declares expressly to you the perfect mysteries. Come then, let us fall back on the memory of what has gone before us; and let us glorify, and celebrate, and laud, and bless that rod that has sprung so marvelously from Jesse."
Gregory Thaumaturgus, First Homily on the Annunciation
Collect for Holy Innocents
Almighty God, the martyred innocents of Bethlehem showed forth Your praise not by speaking but by dying. Put to death in us all that is in conflict with Your will that our lives may bear witness to the faith we profess with our lips; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For Elizabeth Linn, who is recovering from surgery, that she would rejoice in the gift of healing
For Leslie Roch, who has completed her chemotherapy, that she would recover fully
For those who are resting and relaxing this week, that they would be rejuvenated in body and soul
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Nativity c. 1515
© Scott R. Murray, 2015