First Sunday in Advent
Appropinquat redemptio vestra.
Your redemption is at hand. (Lk 21:28)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,
The first Sunday in Advent opens a time leading us through an admirable crescendo towards the feast of Christmas, the Advent time, the time when we wait for the Emmanuel. During these days, we shall share in the hope for the coming of the Messiah promised to the Jewish people, whom they are still awaiting.
Yet, the word ‘wait’, which for many is characteristic of this time, may well obfuscate the true meaning of these days.
‘Waiting’ too often implies a negative note. One waits for some- thing, for an event because it’s not yet there, because it’s dragging on: a delayed train, the water or gas bill with a potentially worry- ing amount, the monthly wage... He who waits is never far from showing impatience. Very often, he who waits spends his time, and finally squanders it, since what he considers is himself, more than the thing or the event he’s waiting for.
What then of the wait proper to the time of Advent? Even though the feast of Christmas tends nowadays to be tempered down under the more neuter and global name of ‘festive season’. Many of our contemporaries yearn during these weeks for family gatherings and the exchange of presents.
Don’t let us mistake the true meaning of this liturgical time. In Latin, Adventus doesn’t evoke a wait, but a coming, an arrival, an accession. During these days, the Church awaits her Saviour who is to come. Here is a true mystery. God is He who is, and for us, from the very first moment of creation, He also is He who is to come.
The Book of Apocalypse reveals Him under this name:
Behold, He cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him: and they also that pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth shall bewail themselves because of Him. Even so. Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’
The seer of the Apocalypse also remembers the moment when he witnessed the heavenly liturgy and heard the four living creatures in the middle of the throne and around it proclaiming:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.’
How could God reveal Himself that way, without making clear the deep love He has for those He wants to visit? God not only created us, but He comes and visits His creation, He even comes and redeems this same creation, whereas it had cast off the vital links uniting it with the Author of every gift. How could we not in return prepare ourselves for such a visit? The time of Advent invites us to do so.
If the Lord is called ‘He who is to come’, we are well aware of the fact that He is also already there, present in the tabernacle, and in a few moments, after the consecration, on the altar. There again He is, under the sacred species, ‘He who is to come’, He who wants to overcome the resistance of our hearts, to make straight the paths of our souls.
The feast of Christmas will soon remind us that God came more than two thousand years ago in a poor stable in Bethlehem, taking flesh from the Blessed Virgin Mary’s most pure womb. From this first advent, let us remember that many passed very close to Him, but very few acknowledged Him. He came hidden under the guise of Mary and Joseph, two poor people knocking on obstinately closed doors. He came hidden under the guise of a child.
Even today, God still wants to come into each one of our souls. Hidden, he knocks on the doors of hearts. How could we spend these days without fear, without a holy worry, without a persevering vigilance? Who could proudly claim to have always answered Him in this second advent? Let us recollect our hearts and thoughts. Let us appease as much as we can our passions. Let us make our lives welcoming to Christ.
Let us also await with a firm hope His third advent, promised by faith at the end of time, the day on which He will appear to the eyes of all in His glory and majesty.
Today’s Mass isn’t conducive to slumber. ‘To Thee have I lifted up my soul, in Thee I put my trust... Show, O Lord, Thy ways to me, and teach me Thy paths’, sing the introit and the offertory.
The Apostle Paul warns us that time is now pressing. ‘It is now the hour for us to rise from sleep... The day is at hand.’
What then should we do?
Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in con-tention and envy. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
As for every child, it is from our heavenly Mother that we should learn to put on our garments of light, to put on Christ. It is not a mere surface garment, which we might merely don rapidly, to shed it at the first hardship. Putting on Christ means allowing ourselves to be suffused by His message; it means living of His life; it means unmasking every hypocrisy which might make us proclaim Christ while we live according to the world, without taking the means of conversion.
Madame Cécile Bruyère, first Abbess of St. Cécile of Solesmes, invites us to take advantage from the coming days:
We are once again going to enjoy our beautiful Advent liturgy. We should put ourselves entirely under the guidance of the Church, for there is no safer guide than her. The soul thus avoids many quagmires, for it is wrenched away from all kind of self-introspection. Don’t let us look at ourselves, let us look at the Lord, He is the model we should reproduce in our lives.
During Advent time, let us allow the sweet savor of Christ to permeate our lives. Let us make our moments of communion with our baptism, to carry out everything that is necessary to renew the Lord more regular, our reading of the Gospel deeper. Holiness is the key to mission.
Let us make our own the powerful clamor rising from the earth towards heaven, echoed by the Book of Apocalypse in its last lines: ‘Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.’
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