Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by Bede

You shall conceive and bear a son. (Lk 1:31)

Today’s reading of the gospel calls to mind the beginning of our redemption, for the passage tells us how God sent an angel from heaven to a virgin.

He was to proclaim the new birth, the incarnation of God’s Son, who would take away our age-old guilt; through him it would be possible for us to be made new and numbered among the children of God.

And so, if we are to deserve the gifts of the promised salvation, we must listen attentively to the account of its beginning.

“The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”

What is said of the house of David applies not only to Joseph but also to Mary. It was a precept of the law that each man should marry a wife from his own tribe and kindred.

Saint Paul also bears testimony to this when he writes to Timothy: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel.” Our Lord is truly descended from David, since his spotless mother took her ancestry from David’s line.

The angel came to her and said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David.”

The angel refers to the kingdom of the Israelite nation as the throne of David because in his time, by the Lord’s command and assistance, David governed it with a spirit of faithful service. The Lord God gave to our Redeemer the throne of his father David, when he decreed that he should take flesh from the lineage of David.

As David had once ruled the people with temporal authority, so Christ would now lead them to the eternal kingdom by his spiritual grace. Of this kingdom the Apostle said: “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”

“He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever.” The house of Jacob here refers to the universal Church which, through its faith in and witness to Christ, shares the heritage of the patriarchs. This may apply either to those who are physical descendants of the patriarchal families, or to those who come from gentile nations and are reborn in Christ by the waters of baptism.

In this house Christ shall reign for ever, and “of his kingdom there will be no end.”

During this present life, Christ rules in the Church. By faith and love he dwells in the hearts of his elect, and guides them by his unceasing care toward their heavenly reward.

In the life to come, when their period of exile on earth is ended, he will exercise his kingship by leading the faithful to their heavenly country. There, for ever inspired by the vision of his presence, their one delight will be to praise and glorify him.

Homily 3 on Advent: CCL 122, 14-17

Bede (c. 673-735), who received the title of Venerable less than a century after his death, was placed at the age of seven in the monastery of Wearmouth, then ruled by Saint Benet Biscop. From there he was sent to Jarrow, probably at the time of its foundation in about 681. At the age of thirty he was ordained priest. His whole life was devoted to the study of Scripture, to teaching, writing, and the prayer of the Divine Office.

He was famous for his learning, although he never went beyond the bounds of his native Northumbria. Bede is best known for his historical works, which earned him the title “Father of English History.” His Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum is a primary source for early English history, especially valuable because of the care he took to give his authorities, and to separate historical fact from hearsay and tradition. In 1899 Bede was proclaimed a doctor of the Church.

 

 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson