March 25, 2008

Sweet has Christ made the bitter waters

Thoughts on today's Feast of the Annunciation:

At the Easter Vigil, we heard again how our spiritual fathers crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. The readings for the days immediately following Easter continue the narrative; freed from bondage, on the other side of the Red Sea they found themselves in a wilderness. They grew thirsty, but the waters they came to were bitter. They called the place Marah – Hebrew for “bitter.”

The people complained, blaming Moses and Aaron for their problems. But the Lord showed Moses a tree. When the tree was cast into the bitter waters of Marah, the waters were made sweet.

That event was a type, a biblical foreshadowing of what we celebrate today on this important, but often neglected, feast – the Annunciation. Marah—bitter waters—are made sweet by a tree. The blessed virgin to whom Gabriel comes is named Mary. Like every woman, her maternal waters are bitter, for every child born of woman is born under the law, born under the curse; we are sinful from the time we are conceived in our mother’s bitter womb.

But Mary – the woman of bitterness – is not like other women in her childbearing. Her Child is not born of blood, nor of the will of a husband, nor of the will of the flesh; her Child is born of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Her bitter waters are made sweet by grace, by the Word of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit that overshadows her and brings about the conception, the incarnation of the Son of God.

He was born for the purpose of coming to that tree, to bearing the awful load of the cross. By that wood, by that wonderful tree, the bitter waters are made sweet; human nature is in Him redeemed, restored. It was for this reason that He was born – that He might take man’s bitterness, lostness, sinfulness, anger, sorrow, and dismay, and by means of that tree, convert the bitterness to sweetness. The sweet thing about Easter is not the chocolate and candy, but the resurrection. By the wood of the cross, human nature is brought to the resurrection, prepared for the Ascension, where our own High Priest goes with His blood into the Holy Place, and our human nature is brought into the presence of the Heavenly Father, the Living God.

So they all hang together – conception, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension. All actions by our loving God designed to turn the bitterness of our world, the bitterness of our lives, the bitterness of our hearts, into sweetness. That sweetness we taste in the blessed Sacrament. In that holy, wondrous food and drink, the wood of the cross is cast upon the bitter waters of our souls, and they are made sweet – cleansed, restored, forgiven.

Happy annunciation day! Merry Christmas! Blessed Easter! Alleluia! He is conceived! He is born! He is crucified! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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