This homily was given on the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Old Saint John’s, Silver Spring, Maryland:
There is a profound beauty in our celebration of this feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady in the midst of the season of advent. Nine months before her birth, which the Church celebrates on 8th September, there is a deeper and richer spiritual truth being communicated to us by the Church’s calendar than simply the physical growth of Our Lady in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne. What might this be?
One of the principle themes of the season of advent is prophecy. We hear the prophet Isaiah, for example, quoted extensively in the readings and propers at Mass, and we see his language and analogies drawn on, to show Christ as the fulfillment of all that is foretold by the old testament. Just as during Holy Week we see Christ in the suffering servant of Isaiah, so in this season we see the babe in the manger in the anticipated king of the prophets. It is for this reason, perhaps, that Isaiah’s prophecy is referred to by the fathers as ‘the fifth gospel’. Indeed, Saint Jerome attributed the title ‘evangelist’ to Isaiah because, he said, “he describes all the mysteries of Christ and the Church so clearly that you would think he is composing a history of what has already happened rather than prophesying about what is to come” (Nn. 1.2: CCL 73, 1-3).