Where it All Began
November 24, 2021
Entering the Church, I glimpsed a small room, little more than a well-lit cave, where the inscription on the front of the altar read: “Verbum caro hic factum est”—”The Word became flesh here.”
Inside the massive, multi-tiered Church, we hurried down to the threshold of this small room, which had been a part of the house of a husband and wife named Joachim and Anne. The room had belonged to their daughter, Mary of Nazareth. Here, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with glad tidings of great joy; here, Mary gave her fiat; here, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived a Son; here, our loving Savior took on our frail human flesh and hope entered the world. We knelt down in rapt silence. This is where it all began…
“The Lord spoke to Ahaz, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.’ But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.’ Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.’” (Isaiah 7:10-14).
I had the gift of proclaiming this reading from the prophet Isaiah at the Church of the Annunciation, where this prophecy from hundreds of years prior was, quite literally, Incarnate. The mystery in this dialogue between King Ahaz and the Lord through the prophet Isaiah bespeaks something of the nature of our human heart before the riches God offers us. “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
Before such a great opportunity, to ask anything of the Lord no matter how great, what does Ahaz do? He tried to narrow his desire, closing the eyes of his heart, refusing to make his deepest hope and desire known to Him. We can look at his reaction with surprise, but are we really so different? Do we really want all the greatness the Lord wants to offer us?
If we are honest, I believe we are often afraid of hoping—afraid of living with eyes wide open—afraid of making ourselves vulnerable to God by genuinely allowing Him to answer our questing desires. We’re afraid of giving Him the opportunity to answer us because we’re afraid that He will let us down, that we may not measure up, that He’s really not the good and faithful Father who loves us.
But here, at Nazareth, God began a great work to confront these fears by seeking out the hidden, questing, and despondent heart of man. Here, God gave the sign for which Ahaz and each of us were too afraid to ask: hope. “And the virgin conceived and bore a Son: ‘Emmanuel,’ ‘God with us,’ Jesus Christ.”
Here, hope entered the world. And on our knees in rapt silence, in this little town of Nazareth, at the threshold of the room of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we gave praise and thanks to God who answered the question we were afraid to ask when He spoke His Word here, where it all began.
Deacon Tom Logue
Diocese of Joliet, Illinois