Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.
Twice this Advent, this well-known text from the prophet Isaiah has been the Scripture reading during Lauds. Together with the immediately following verse which no one has ever heard: He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. But that is only a triviality, to be casually dropped during a Christmas dinner or something of that sort; in any case, beside the point.
I am enamoured of Isaiah 7:14 because it challenges our insidious evolutionism, the reigning assumption (whose tyranny even rebels feel) that everything in this world is a product of natural forces, and every positive development a slow-paced unfolding of what one possesses within, flourishing under prosperous natural conditions. The way pregnancies usually develop. And there is nothing wrong with that.
But Mary shows us a higher alternative, the alternative of the People of God. For as Kierkegaard said, God is that all things are possible. A woman who becomes a mother without a man (proximate or remote – the latter possibility technology allows) is a miracle indeed. But if the natural conditions do not obtain, will the fruit survive? Will it be healthy? It stands in need of careful scrutiny, this Child; it might be born half-human, half-void (for God is nothing to nature): stunted, crippled. But no! Not only is the Child as healthy as any other, but He is already the Health-bringer of the world.
Similarly, God gives the Church a hundredfold of what She gives to Him in prayer, sacrifice and love. It sometimes seems that all these things are vain. But at other times it does not seem so, as at Christmas. We are Christ-bearers; that is enough. We are really and truly filled because – I speak as a fool – because the void overshadows us.