My word for this Third Sunday is prayer.  Prayer is the life of spirit and soul.

 

The antiphon is “My soul rejoices in my God.”

 

The Visitation is the pertinent decade of the Rosary, the second of the Joyful Mysteries.

 

A closer examination of my pray, pay, and obey phrase needs the modification, unrequited.  The arrogant clergy would never pray, pay, and obey to serve the Faithful; although the humble clergy do so frequently.  Correctly, all of the Faithful do need to pray, pay, and obey, but hardly in the sense would arrogant clergy have it.

 

Fifty years ago, Catholics were not able to find anyone to write a pamphlet on how to pray.  The following comments are still of rare order.  Prayer may be divided into oral, mental, and contemplative.  The following comments are about mental prayer.  Within the soul is a third voice, a voice not audible to the ear and not the voice of the pray-er, but a third voice.  This third inner voice is controllable.  Just as the first voice, that of the pray-er, the audible voice, can control whom it addresses, so the inner voice can chose with whom to dialogue.  When that inner voice directs itself at God, prayer results.  Not only can the pray-er control the direction of voice, the pray-er also has some control over the fantasies and dreams that go with the dialogue.  Once pray is in place, pay and obey can get involved.

 

Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11

 

Isaiah 61:1 is the key to Third Isaiah.[1]  First Isaiah is about being forced into exile because of lack of prayer.  Second Isaiah is about praying to return from exile.  Third Isaiah is about praying to lead a better life.

 

Isaiah 61 is used in three places in this liturgy: (1) First Reading; (2) Responsorial Psalm, and (3) Alleluia.

 

verse 1a        The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

                               because the LORD has anointed me;

 

This spirit of the Lord GOD is the spirit of prayer.  Anointing is a sign of the democratization of the Covenant.  Anointed refers to those who seek to carry out the ideals of Deutero-Isaiah.[2]  In Third or Trito-Isaiah, the Covenant is not simply with the royal household or with the clergy, but with the people themselves, as the next part of the verse shows.  Isaiah 61:1 are the introductory words to Trito-Isaiah’s fifth Servant Song.[3]

 

verse 1b        he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,

                               to heal the broken hearted

 

The poor and the broken hearted or poor in spirit are the people.  This message is not that voluntary poverty and poor in spirit are rewarded with the presence of the Father, but that the Father is going to reverse the fortunes of the beat up remnant that has returned from exile into Jerusalem.[4]

 

The Latin[5] for broken hearted is contritis, from which contrite is derived.  A contrite heart with a firm purpose of amendment seems like the appropriate way to incorporate this verse into one’s prayer life.

 

verse 10a      I rejoice heartily in the LORD,

 

The Latin uses Gaudens gaudebo, alliteration, a sort of emphasis by repetition.  This is the verse repeated under a different translation in the antiphon.

 

verse 10b                in my God is the joy of my soul;

 

verse 10c      for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation

                               and wrapped me in a mantle of justice

 

Saint Jerome renders his Latin translation of Isaiah into verse.  The Latin for clothed and mantle are derived from the same literary stem.  Clothed with justice is the idea, an idea suited for prayerful dialogue.

 

From Ezekiel the Faithful learn that God uses nature to draw close to humans, to show his presence, up close and personal.  That idea, useful for prayer, is contained in

 

verse 11        As the earth brings forth its plants,

                               and a garden makes its growth spring up,

                     so will the LORD GOD make justice and praise

                               spring up before all nations.

 

The Latin has the stem for germinate in three places: (1) brings forth, (2) spring up and (3) spring up.  Prayer germinates justice within the souls of the Faithful.

 

Isaiah 61:11 has been quoted extensively in October 6, 2002, for The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.[6]

 

Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54 (Isaiah 61:10b)

 

This is the Magnificat, Mary’s prayer at the Visitation.

 

verse 46-47   My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

                               my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

 

verse 48a      for he has looked upon his lowly servant.

 

Lowly servant looks different from the poor in Isaiah above.  Saint Jerome has Mary use ancillae in the Latin.  Ancillae carries with it the notion of maidservant.  In other words, this verse is pertinent to the misery of sexism.

 

verse 54a      He has come to the help of his servant Israel.

 

Saint Jerome has Mary use puerum suum in the Latin.  Especially in these days of sexual scandal, there would be sexual connotations with an overly literal translation, his own boy.  Why not pray with both sexism and child abuse in dialogue?  The politically correct English smooths over the challenge to the abuses the status quo perpetuates against women and children.  Would a dynamic equivalence or a formal literal equivalence improve the translation?  I lack the technical skills to have an opinion about the translation, but I know how I can pray the matter to include sexual and child abuse.

 

verse 50        He has mercy on those who fear him

                               in every generation.

 

The Latin brings out the notion of germinate, at least in my imagination.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:116-24

 

verse 16        Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.

 

verse 19        Do not quench the Spirit

 

verse 23        May the God of peace make you perfectly holy

                               and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body,

                               be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Isaiah 61:1 (cited in Luke 4:18)

 

verse 1          The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

                     because he has anointed me

                               to bring glad tidings to the poor.

 

John 1:6-8, 19-28

 

There is a lot of audible dialogue here from John the Baptizer, dialogue reflective of his inner prayer.

 

These verses are an answer to prayer, prayer for the Messiah.  Scholars tell us that the emphasis used for John to say that

 

verse 21        I am not the Christ

 

was an early Christian formula meaning that Jesus is the Christ.[7]

 

These readings are about prayer, prayer for a better life in Isaiah; prayer of rejoicing in the Magnificat, prayer without ceasing in Thessalonians, and prayer with John the Baptizer as he is questioned about  the Messiah.  This is mental prayer in dialogue with the Father, contemplating material things compounded into the Messiah himself during this Advent Season.



[1] Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., The Spirituality of the Psalms (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2002) ISBN 0-8146-2599, page 33.

 

[2] Adrian M. Leske, “Context and Meaning of Zechariah 9:9," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 4 (October 2000) 666.

 

[3] Richard J. Sklba, “`Until the Spirit from on High Is Poured out on Us’ (Isa 32:15): Reflections on the Role of the Spirit in the Exile," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 1 (January 1984) 14.

 

[4] Mark Allan Powell, “Matthew’s Beatitudes: Reversals and Rewards of the Kingdom," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 58, No. 3(July 1996) 463, 465.

 

[5] Nova Vulgata: Bibliorum Sacrorum Editio: Sacrosancti Oecumenici Concilii Vaticani II ratione habita Iussu Pauli PP, VI Recognita Auctoritate Joannis Pauli PP, II Promulgata Editio Typica Altera (00120 Citta Del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979, 1986, 1998) ISBN 88-2209-2163-4

 

[6] Bernard F. Batto, “The Covenant of Peace: A Neglected Ancient Near Eastern Motif," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 2 (April 1987) 202-203.

 

[7] Bernard F. Batto, “The Covenant of Peace: A Neglected Ancient Near Eastern Motif," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 2 (April 1987) 206.