Divine Office Reflections | Fourth Sunday of Advent
O Clavis David
O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.
As Christmas nears it is easy to get lost in the sentimentality of the season. While we should certainly enjoy this time with our families and be grateful for the many traditions that we celebrate during these days, we must not lose sight of the reality into which our Lord came when He was born of Mary. He came to a people who were being oppressed under the tyranny of an empire, enslaved within a system of excessive taxation and imperial control. The days had become quite dark with little hope for the dawning of a new light.
However, the political realities during this time were but a symptom of much deeper spiritual realities. People were not just enslaved to an imperial force; they were enslaved to sin and held captive by the fear of death and corruption. So, when God assumed our flesh and became man, he did not come to simply free us from bad government. He came to free us from idolatry so that we might offer right worship to the one true God. In doing so, he would indeed break down the prison walls of death and lead His captive people into freedom.
In today’s Office of Readings, we have a powerful image of how all this would come about. In a homily by St. Bernard, we see the patriarchs and prophets gathered at Our Lady’s annunciation, begging her to give her fiat to the angel so that she may conceive and bear a son – one who will be the long awaited “comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed salvation for all the sons of Adam.”
When we reflect on this event in salvation history, we see that the Key of David, the royal Power of Israel, beholds in a lowly virgin the very gate of heaven and the portal through which light would pierce the darkness and God would deliver His people into true and everlasting freedom. In other words, in the midst of the darkness, sin, and corruption so prevalent at the time, it is in Mary that we contemplate one who had been set free to give her consent to all that God willed and thus became the vessel through whom the world would meet its Divine liberator.
During these days, let us become like Mary. Let us not despair of the darkness that surrounds us. Instead, let us be humble and lowly and offer our hearts to God in total freedom so that He might break down the prison walls of our hearts, shine His radiant light into our deepest darkness, and lead us from our sinful passions to true interior freedom. In doing so, perhaps we like Mary can become holy vessels through whom the royal power of Israel leads other captives into the freedom of the sons of God.