Thus was fulfilled.

JMJ

The Readings for Wednesday 3 Advent (Year 2):

Audite ergo, domus David. Numquid parum vobis est molestos esse hominibus, quia molesti estis et Deo meo? Propter hoc dabit Dominus ipse vobis signum: ecce virgo concipiet, et pariet filium, et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel.

Hear ye therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
Our verse from Isaiah says, ecce virgo concipiet, behold a virgin shall conceive. But St Jerome’s Latin Vulgate was working with, at first, the Greek text of the Septuagint, not the Hebrew text as we know it. In Greek, the word used for the person who will conceive is “παρθένος” parthenos which not only means “virgin,” but also caries echoes of Artemis and Athene, and includes the concept of virgo intacta, The Hebrew, however, uses only the word עַלְמָ֗ה almah. It means only “young woman” or the rather formal title of “Maiden” without meaning, specifically, “virgin”.

There is a story from the Church’s tradition that, when the LXX was being translated, a young worker came to this passage and wanted to write the Greek word for girl, νύμφη nymphe but the Holy Spirit intervened and said parthenos. The young man said, “But Lord, that word means young girl.” And the Holy Spirit said, “Write parthenos and I will show you the fulfillment of it.” This young man, so the Tradition states, was Simeon, who was kept alive to a great age to see the fulfillment of this promise when the Blessed Virgin presented Our Lord in the Temple at Candlemas.

But even so, the story discussed has nothing to do with Jesus or Mary, right? There’s a war going on, and the King wants to know if God is with us or against us in this war. Isaiah says, God is with David. And ask anything you want as a sign.  The king says he dares not tempt God – even though it is at God’s own command. But God says, “Fine, if you will not ask, I will show anyway…” This has nothing to do with Messiah or anything. But the Angel says it does. How is that?

For the early Church and for the Holy Spirit, for the Apostles and the Patristic communities, the entire world was pointing to Jesus. The quest was to find out how. The Old Testament must, in all its ways, prefigure Messiah. So we must meditate and pray to open the text. The same way that the Angel said this unrelated verse from Isaiah is a Messianic Prophecy, so also is the passage from Genesis about the head of the serpent, so also the making-mute of Zachariah is a sign that the Old Covenant is done, so also Samson is a sign of John the Baptist, Judith of the Blessed Virgin, Daniel in the Lions’ Den of Christ in Hell, the Red Sea of Baptism, Manna of the Eucharist, Egypt or Babylon a sign of “this world” and the escape therefrom a sign of our Christian growth… the list goes on.

The image at the top of the page is of the Welsh Poet, Taliesin. Taliesin seems a bridge between the pagan darkness in Wales and the Christian revolution of Arthur. In fact, the poetry of Taliesin (as we have it) weaves together the two Wales into a unified whole that allows us to the see the Christian truth foreshadowed in the past, a Pagan Old Testament, if you will, in the myths and stories the Cymry told each other in their camps and homes long before St David and the missionaries ever got there.

Certainly the ancient Bards of Wales never intended or imagined Christian context for their stories, but once the Truth was revealed, all could see He had been present all along in their quest.

So it can be in our lives: once Christ is revealed as not “a true story” but as “The Truth” then anything that was true before is, lo, a bit of Christ present and still true. Yet a fuller, deeper, and more complex meaning is revealed.

This was how the first Christians read the Bible. We inherit their readings in our Tradition, but the skill seems lost. It’s hard to look at a Biblical Story and not want to see the literal truth or untruth of the letters. If the Bible is not History what good is it? But the Bible is history. That’s just not all it is.  If that’s all it is, it might as well be any other history text.

But the Bible, to the Church Fathers, is more like a Tarot Deck than a History Book. Prophecies are Fulfilled not because they were literal predictions that literally came true in a verbatim, literal way. So boring. They are fulfilled, they are Made Full of the Holy Spirit and bring forth the Word of God like Mary.  They are signs that await the explication of their fullest meaning in Christ’s teaching, in the Church, in the action of the Holy Spirit, in the lives of the Saints.

I said Tarot Deck and I mean no scandal: anyone can go out and buy a book of “the meanings of the Tarot Cards” and learn that the Ace of Cups means a new love affair, but a proper reading of cards, of stars, of the I Ching… of anything, really… is not just “fortune telling” but rather visual meditation. Done right any discussion of any set of Symbols should lead us to Christ (if we’re telling the Truth). This is why those who Translate the Bible to be “inclusive” are missing the point. We’re not the message, the subject, or topic of the Bible: Jesus is.

Like Taliesin wove his text of Pagan Past into a Christian Future, the Church has done the same with the Old Testament, missionaries have done where ever the Gospel has gone, and you need to do the same with your life in the Church. Where has God acted that brought you to the Faith you now have? If you are not in the faith, how has your life brought you at all to reading these words? Here God is acting.

The music is playing all around us, and all we need to do is sing.

A translation of Deus Duw Delwat

O God, the God of formation,
Ruler, strengthener of blood.
Christ Jesus, that guards.
Princes loud-proclaiming go their course
For a decaying acquisition.
The praising thy mercy.
There hath not been here;
O supreme Ruler;
There hath not been; there will not be,
One so good as the Lord.
There hath not been born in the day of the people
Any one equal to God.
And no one will acknowledge
Any one equal to him.
Above heaven, below heaven,
There is no Ruler but he.
Above sea, below sea,
He created us.
When God comes
A great noise will pierce us,
The day of judgment terribly.
Messengers from the door,
Wind, and sea, and fire.
lightning and thunder
A number without flattery.
The people of the world groaning
Will be concealed.
Kings will shudder [that] day,
Woe awaits them!
When the recompenser shall appear,
Let the heaven appear below.
A ruddy wind will be brought
Out to the cinder,
Until the world is as desolate
As when created.

Do not thy passions counteract
What thy lips utter?
Thy going in thy course into valleys,
Dark without lights.
The love-diffusing [Lord] will separate us.
The land of worldly weather,
A wind will melt the trees:
There will pass away every tranquillity
When the mountains are burnt.
There will be again inhabitants
With horns before kings;
The mighty One will send them,
Sea, and land, and lake.
There will be again a trembling terror,
And a moving of the earth,
And above every field,
And ashes the rocks will be;
With violent exertion, concealment,
And burning of lake.
A wave do ye displace,
A shield do ye extend
To the travelling woe,
And violent exertion through grief.
And inflaming through fury
Between heaven and earth.

I have not been without battle.
Bitter affliction was frequent
Between me and my cousins.
Songs and minstrels.
And the hymns of angels,
Will raise from the graves,
They will entreat from the beginning.
They will entreat together publicly,
On so great a destiny.
Those whom the sea has destroyed
Will make a great shout,
At the time when cometh
He, that will separate them.
Do not thy passions counteract
What thy lips utter?
Thy going in thy course into valleys,
Dark without lights.
And mine were his words.
And mine were his languages.

The lance was struck
And my side was pierced.
It will be struck to you also…
I have not been without battle.
Bitter affliction was frequent
Between me and my cousins.
Frequent trials fell
Between me and my fellow-countrymen.
There was frequent contention
Between me and the wretched.
Those that placed me on the cross
I knew when young.
That drove me on the tree,
My head hung down.
Stretched were my two feet,
So sad their destiny.
Stretched with extreme pain
The bones of my feet.
Stretched were my two arms,
Their burden will not be.
Stretched were my two shoulders,
So diligently it was done.
Stretched were the nails,
Within my heart.
Stretched was the spiking,
Between my two eyes.
Thick are the holes
Of the crown of thorns in my head.
The lance was struck
And my side was pierced.
It will be struck to you also,
As your right hand (struck me).
To you there will be no forgiveness,
For piercing me with spears.
And the Ruler we knew not
When thou wert hung.
Ruler of heaven, Ruler of every people!
We knew not, O Christ! that it was thou.
If we had known thee,
Christ, we should have refrained from thee.

Do not the brave know
The greatness of their progeny?
Ye have committed wickedness
Against the Creator.
A hundred thousand angels
Are to me witnesses,
Who came to conduct me
After my hanging,
When hanging cruelly,
Myself to deliver me
In heaven there was trembling
When I had been hung.
When I cried out Eli!
Do not the brave know
The greatness of their progeny?
A country present will meet thee,
And while it may possibly be yours,
Three hundred thousand years save one,
A short hour of the day of everlasting life.

Author: Huw Richardson

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He has worked in tech (mostly) since 1999 and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.