The liturgy today presents a series of images all of which basically fall into two categories – from above and from below, the divine and the human, heaven and earth.
- clouds rain down the just one - earth brings forth a Saviour (Entrance Antiphon)
This is a wonderful nuptial image, a marriage of heaven and earth, an impregnation of the rain into the earth which then brings forth life, in this case a Saviour.
Mary is the earth, the cloud is God, the rain is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit overshadows her and she conceives.
It is the earth (Mary’s womb) that brings forth a Saviour, the Word of the Father. As we say in the Angelus: and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. It was God’s will that Jesus should take on our human nature because, as Preface III of Sundays of Ordinary Time tells us: He wanted us to be saved by one like us…
- Ask … a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above (First Reading)
Ahaz was told to ask for a sign but he refused; a sign from above or below. The Lord gave him both.
The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign. It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel, a name which means "God-is-with-us”.
The sign given to Ahaz was both from above and from below – a maiden with child who would be called God-is-with-us. To Ahaz at that point of salvation history the prophecy is not clear. It will become clear as time goes on. Heaven will live on earth in a human child who is truly God.
- Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? The man with clean hands and pure heart who desires not worthless things. (Responsorial Psalm)
Now we have another image but this time from below to above. From Man to God, from earth to heaven. It is the image of the mountain. The man who climbs the mountain is first of all Christ; he alone has pure hands and clean heart; he alone desires not worthless things. But with Christ are all those who follow him.
The mountain is the Christian life, the mountain of discipleship, which every disciple must climb. Its paths are steep and rocky and dangerous and only purity of heart and blameless life will see us through. If we desire worthless things we will be trapped below and never arrive at its summit.
- He shall receive blessings from the Lord and reward from the God who saves him. Such are the men who seek him, seek the face of the God of Jacob (Responsorial Psalm)
We, too, are called to climb the mountain on which God reveals himself to us, the mountain on which we seek the face of the God of Jacob. If we do this we shall receive blessing from above, reward from God who dwells on high.
- He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of God appeared to him in a dream … and said … do not be afraid … (Gospel)
Joseph was called to climb the mountain of faith and he ascended without faltering. The divine help he received came at precisely the right time. He trusted in the one who never fails the lowly and his trust was rewarded.
The final consequence of the communication between heaven and earth, the final line of the Gospel, is perhaps the lesson we should take to ourselves as Christians:
- When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.