Advent 2017

Feast of St. Ambrose - December 7th

Is 26: 1-6 // Ps 118: 1, 8-9, 19-21, 25-27 // Mt 7: 21, 24-27

These readings about cities and foundations, about walls and gates, brought to mind a book we read with our children when they were young: Talking Walls, by Margy Burns Knight. The book takes the idea from the classic phrase “if these walls could talk” and shares stories of people and history told by some walls around the world: from the Great Wall of China, the Lascaux Cave walls in France, and the Great Zimbabwe walls in southern Africa, to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC, and Nelson Mandela’s prison walls in South Africa.

In Isaiah 26 we find a song of joy and praise to God, who gives us a strong city with walls and ramparts to protect us. The very next line brings a call to open the gates, to the just, to the faithful, to those of firm purpose, to keep them in peace.

The Psalmist echoes the call to open the gates of justice, for refuge, for mercy, for light. The walls are sheltering, yet with open gates that are inviting. The strength of the walls lies in their foundation.

As in the Gospel reading, the walls of the house built on sand will not withstand the rains and floods and winds that life offers, but the house with walls built on solid rock will survive, will thrive.

In Isaiah, God is our eternal Rock, who “humbles those in high places” and brings down “the lofty city.” Perhaps the lofty city has lost its firm connection to its strong foundation. If it “is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor,” perhaps it loses that connection through denying its accompaniment of the needy, walking no more in the footsteps of the poor.

In this season of Advent, remember the setting of the advent: the humble manger. Fling wide the gates of justice and of joy! Hear the story of the stable walls! And praise the Solid Rock!

Douglas Norton
Mathematics and Statistics