The Fourth Sunday of Advent
In John Collier’s Annunciation, a pony-tailed Mary stands in saddle shoes on a welcome mat. Paved roads and a modest 1950s bungalow are visible in the background. Without the traditional features Collier includes--lilies, dove, book, angel, blue garment, threshold--the painting could depict any ordinary schoolgirl. Yet one feature of the scene is out of joint with the overall emphasis on Mary’s ordinariness: her house is palatial. The house is not a literal representation of Mary’s house, but an image of the character of Mary’s soul; full of grace, her soul is a beautiful and capacious dwelling place for her Lord, even as her body will be.
In the first reading today, King David decides it is not right to live in a fancy “house of cedar” while the ark of God is housed in a tent, and he plans to build a house for the LORD. But the LORD responds: “Should you build me a house to dwell in?” It was the LORD who transformed David from a shepherd into a king, and it is the LORD who will establish a house--a lineage--that will endure forever. Christ is born into that lineage, the Gospel reading tells us; the LORD finds a place to dwell within the house of David. That house is built by the LORD, and it is more magnificent than David could have imagined.
I long for the Lord to come and dwell with me. Yet I know I am inadequate to prepare a place for him. My desire for God is shadowed by my knowledge that the house of my soul is too small for my Creator; my capacity for love is too meagre. “Yet the presence of his glory walks among us, if love finds room.” So I make Augustine’s prayer my own as I prepare to welcome Christ: “The house of my soul is too small for you to enter: make it more spacious by your coming.” Through your coming, O Lord, build me a house, a soul where you can dwell.
Director, Master of Arts in Catholic Studies
 Augustine, Sermon 163
 Augustine, Confessions 1.5.6.