By Deacon Keith Fournier
One of the greatest of the Hebrew Prophets, Isaiah proclaimed the coming of the promised Messiah in great detail and in some of the most beautiful prose in the entire Old Testament of the Bible. The Church looking back upon his inspired words, of course sees them, as she does the entirety of the Old Testament, in the light of the Incarnation, Nativity, Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of the Father who came into our midst to fulfill all that was foretold and to form the New Israel, the Church.
This Prophets' inspired proclamations have made their way into the fabric of the beautiful liturgical readings and hymns of this great season of joyful expectation called Advent. The Lord had called the Nation of Israel to be His very own people. He entered into a Covenant with them. They were to be His special possession, the ones through whom He would reveal his universal and loving plan of salvation for all men and women.
During the second half of the eighth century B.C., the Northern Kingdom had collapsed under the horrid and relentless attacks of Assyria and Jerusalem the Holy City had been besieged by the armies of Sennacharib. The forces of darkness had arrayed against the People of God and they cried out for deliverance to the Lord who had promised to protect them.
In 742 the King of Judah Uzziah died. The great Hebrew Prophet Isaiah received his commission from heaven. He had an extraordinary vision which is recounted in this Prophetic book of the Old Testament. He also gave his own "Fiat" of surrender to the Father's invitation to be His messenger. In words recorded in this powerful text we can see into Isaiah's heart. We hear the response of a man with an honest self assessment, well aware of his own sin and unworthiness, but willing to give himself to God's service:
"At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said, "Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. "See," he said, "now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged. "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" "Here I am," I said; "send me!" (Isaiah)
Those last few words have echoed throughout the ages in the response of millions of Christians who have said "Yes" to the Lord's call in their own lives.
He was allowed to see the great Liturgy of heaven and hear the song of the Angels, heard by the prophet Isaiah, is still sung by the faithful at every Eucharistic Liturgy, the Thrice Holy Hymn. "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!" they cried one to the other. "All the earth is filled with his glory!"
To this wonderful Servant of God was also revealed the great plan of the Father to send His Son, the Messiah, in these familiar words which we will proclaim in the beautiful Liturgical celebrations of the nativity of the Lord:
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as men make merry when dividing spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, And the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian. For every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for flames. 1 For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, From David's throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains By judgment and justice, both now and forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this! (Isaiah 9)