You would think that we should today hear something about the great Feast which we shall celebrate in two days. You would think that we should hear about the announcement by the archangel Gabriel or the Blessed Virgin Mary. And if we had been able, we would have heard of these things since they were the focus of Masses last Wednesday and Friday. And our Byzantine brothers and sisters are today hearing about the visit of St Gabriel to St Joseph, and the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel.
We, however, get to hear another prophecy from Isaiah. We hear not about a virgin, but about a voice; not about a barren virgin with child, but about a voice crying out in the barren wilderness. And we hear not the news about the birth of Emmanuel, but rather the exhortation to prepare the way of the Lord by repentance; which means by fasting from sin and by restraining and suppressing the desires of the flesh.
As we hear such a stern exhortation, as we hear the voice seemingly dampen our mood, we must remember why the voice cries out, why the prophet prophesies, why the Forerunner urges us to set our hearts and minds straight. The voice cries out not to scold but to refocus our soul, to reset our heart’s desire—all so that we might take comfort. For what does the prophet Isaiah say?
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double [forgiveness] for all her sins.