MALACHY 3:1-4, 23,24 ; LUKE 1:57- 66

JOHN THE BAPTIST, PRECURSOR OF CHRIST, was the last of a long line of witnesses to God's providential care for His people.  Hundreds of years before John's birth and ministry, earlier prophets had spoken of a plan hidden in God's inscrutable Providence that was devised for the benefit of His chosen people.  Mary herself understood well that her child was the realization of ancient prophecies.  In her song of praise, her Magnificat, she proclaimed that God "has taken up his servant Israel remembering his mercy as He promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children for all ages."  A prophet known under the name of Isaiah and one of his successors had proclaimed: "Listen to the word of the Lord you who tremble at his word. . . Long before being in labor she gives birth, before labor pains come upon her she delivers a boy." (Isaiah 66:6) So sure was this conviction that it amounted to a reliable promise of a time of prosperity.

As herald that the time for realization of this hope that gave Israel a basis for continuing trust on the part of a faithful remnant repeatedly given encouragement by chosen prophets, John the Baptist came.  He was born just six months before Jesus so that in time as well as in ministry he went before the Lord preparing his way by a life of total dedication and austerity.  Eventually Jesus himself bore witness to John's outstanding holiness in a remarkable and deeply mysterious statement. "Amen, I say to you there has not arisen among those born of women anyone greater than John the Baptist.  Yet, the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Matthew 11:11)

These words of our Lord confront each of us today as we strive by our Advent observance to prepare the way for our Lord's birth anew among us and challenge us acutely in the measure that we enter into their message.  We who welcome our Lord as Savior are being called to a life of a transcendent holiness.  This communion that is to be realized at this Eucharist is the celebration of a union with God rendered more intimate than the Baptist typified, by virtue of the death and resurrection of the beloved Son of the eternal Father.  May the grace of God's Holy Spirit supply for our weakness and failures that in us, even now, the promises made to our fathers in faith may be fulfilled in each of our heart.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger