Advent: Time of Waiting in Joy
Paris, November 28, 2014 (Zenit.org) Monsignor Francesco Follo
1) The wait allows the meeting with the Beloved
Advent, the powerful liturgical time that in the Roman rite begins today, invites us to pause in silence to accept and understand the presence of Christ. It is an invitation to understand that everyday individual events are hints that God gives to us and signs of the attention that he has for each one of us. Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the ever present Lord. The certainty of his presence helps us to see the world with different eyes and to consider the whole of our existence as a “visit” of God that comes and stays near us in every situation. To make this happen “the liturgy constantly tells us that we need to wake up from the sleep of habit and mediocrity, we must abandon sadness and discouragement and we must lift up our hearts because ‘the Lord is at hand’ “(Benedict XVI).
If we live Advent in the way the Pope Emeritus suggests, Christmas will not only be a celebration to remember a fact of the past, but the present and living implementation of an event. In fact, what happened once becomes today an event in the life of the believer. As more than two thousand years ago the Lord came for everyone, He always comes again for each of us. For this reason, we must experience the wait and the arrival so that for each of us salvation is born.
The first characteristic that qualifies the season of Advent is the waiting. Normally we wait with joy for the coming of a person we know. This four-week period is given us to familiarize ourselves with the person of Christ, the real Savior. He comes as our best friend in the world: He is a true friend because he does not care for himself but for his friends.
We should live the expectation of the coming of the baby Jesus in the same way a mother waits for the child she is carrying: pondering the miracle of the imminent coming of a person desired but unknown, maybe even a little ‘dreaded‘, even if it is a little one that needs tenderness, the result of a love to be accepted with an open heart and without fear.
If the heart is not dull, it can and should be stretched toward Christ. We should have a keen attention to the Lord. He comes always, but often the meeting does not take place because we live a superficial and distracted spiritual life. Unfortunately we are rarely in a position to perceive this spiritual “coming” of God.
The important thing is to live Advent like the certain wait of the “coming” of God, as the Mother per excellence has lived the waiting of the coming of the Son, Jesus.
I think that, first, the Virgin Mary spent the months of waiting looking, thinking and reading everything that could have enriched her knowledge on the Waited by people, the Son of the Almighty conceived with humility and abandonment.
Second, the Mother of God prayed earnestly. She asked the Spirit of God to enlighten her in the search for the face of her Son and Lord. God then established between Himself and the Madonna a bond of loyalty, trust, agreement, in one word, of obedient faith.
Third, the Virgin Mother practiced to love the Son whom she was carrying in her womb. But how could she love One that she did not know? She put into practice what, years later, St. John the Apostle wrote in his first letter: “the one who does not love his brother, whom he has not seen, cannot love the God whom he has not seen”. Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, whose son received the visit of the Son of God. Mary loved, not with words but with the facts, not with feelings but doing, making herself a pilgrim of charity and of the mercy of God.
2) The joy of the presence of God who is near.
If we live the Advent of Christ like the Virgin Mary lived the expectation of his birth, we will educate our heart to a real daily wait, aware of the presence of Christ who became man for us to save our lives. And we will be in joy, because – like the Virgin Mary- we can be certain that God is at hand. He was in her and is in us always, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as a friend and faithful spouse. This joy remains even in trials and in suffering, not on the surface but deep in the person who puts himself or herself in the hands of God and trusts in him.
Jesus’ birth brought joy to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi, the people who welcomed him and therefore also to us. Nevertheless, this question arises: “Is this joy possible even today?” The answer is given by the lives of men and women of all ages and social condition who are happy to dedicate their existence to others for the love of Christ incarnated for us. Was not the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta an unforgettable witness of the true evangelical joy? She lived in daily contact with misery, human degradation and death. Her soul knew the trials of the dark night of faith, yet she has given to all the smile of God. Once she said: “We impatiently look forward to heaven, where God is, but it is in our power to be in heaven here on earth and from this very moment. Being happy with God means to love like him, to help like him, to give like him and to serve like Him. ”
Joy enters the hearts of those who put themselves at the service of the little and the poor. God takes home in those who love – as He did in the womb of the Virgin Mary, in the manger, in the house of Nazareth – and the soul is in joy. If happiness is made an idol we are on the wrong path, and it is really hard to find the joy of which Jesus speaks. This, unfortunately, is the proposition of cultures that put individual happiness in the place of God, a mentality that finds its emblematic consequence in the pursuit of pleasure at any cost. Even at Christmas we can go wrong if we exchange the real feast with the one that does not open the heart to the joy of Christ and becomes only an exchange of material gifts.
3) Advent is the coming of Jesus.
How many centuries of waiting and how many souls consumed in the desire of the waiting! May Jesus come! “The Church bride waits for her groom! We must ask ourselves, however, with great sincerity, are we really sparkling and credible witnesses of this expectation, of this hope? Do our communities still live in the sign of the presence of the Lord Jesus and of the passionate waiting for his coming, or do they appear tired, numb, under the weight of fatigue and resignation? Do we also run the risk of running out of the oil of faith and of the oil of joy? Be careful! Let us invoke the Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope and the Queen of Heaven, to be kept always in an attitude of listening and waiting, so that we can be already permeated by the love of Christ and can participate one day in a joy without end, in full communion with God. Do not forget, never forget: “And so we will be forever with the Lord! ‘” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) “(Pope Francis, October 14, 2014).
Another question arises: “How to discern the signs of the” Coming “?”The Pharisees and Sadducees came and, to test him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He said to them in reply, “In the evening you say, ‘Tomorrow will be fair, for the sky is red’; and, in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to judge the appearance of the sky, but you cannot judge the signs of the times “(Mt 16)”. (Mt 24, 33).
The rebuke is also true for us, because the Christian sensibility, incarnated and redemptive, is decreasing. We look for exciting facts and do not recognize the exceptionality of the real presence of Christ in the consecrated Host. Many of us want to see crowds kneeling and praying and miracles of all kinds. These are facts that have their significance, but are not the only signs of the “One who is coming”. We must have a heart stretched forward to the most delicate and almost imperceptible voices of our generation who, alongside violent detachments, knows the ineffable pangs of a waiting that, if it has not even a name, gives great hope to those who can see.
The consecrated Virgins in the world, imitating the Virgin Mary, are called to embody the spirit of Advent, which involves listening to God’s , deep desire to do his will and joyful service to others. Let us be guided by their example, so that the God that is coming doesn’t find us closed or distracted, but can, in each of us, extend a bit of his kingdom of love, justice and peace.
With their example they proclaim to a world often disorientated but increasingly in search of meaning, that God is the Lord of life and that his “love is greater than life” (Ps 63.4). By choosing obedience, poverty and chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven, they demonstrate that any attachment or love for people and things is incapable of definitively satisfying the heart and that earthly existence is a longer or shorter period of waiting for the “face to face” encounter with the divine Bridegroom It is a wait to be lived with a vigilant heart to be ready to recognize and welcome him when he comes. By its nature, therefore, the consecrated life is a definitive, unconditional and passionate response to God. (see Consecrated Life, 17)
Finally, do not forget to pray for all the people of the consecrated life because in this first Sunday of Advent 2014 the Year of Consecrated Life opens (it will end on February 2, 2016). In this year all the faithful are invited to rediscover the importance of this form of life for the life of the Church. For the approximately 800 000 consecrated it will be an opportunity to deepen the sense of their commitment to be Gospel, Prophecy and Hope for the Church and for the entire world.
Patristic Reading – From the GOLDEN CHAIN
Theophylact: The Lord wishing to prevent His disciples from asking about that day and hour, says, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
For if He had said, I know, but I will not reveal it to you, He would have saddened them not a little; but He acted more wisely, and prevents their asking such a question, lest they should importune Him, by saying, neither the Angels, nor I.
Hilary, de Trin., ix: This ignorance of the day and hour is urged against the Only-Begotten God, as if, God born of God had not the same perfection of nature as God. But first, let common sense decide whether it is credible that He, who (p. 270) is the cause that all things are, and are to be, should be ignorant of any out of all these things. For how can it be beyond the knowledge of that nature, by which and in which that which is to be done is contained? And can He be ignorant of that day, which is the day of His own Advent? Human substances foreknow as far as they can what they intend to do, and the knowledge of what is to be done, follows upon the will to act. How then can the Lord of glory, from ignorance of the day of His coming, be believed to be of that imperfect nature, which has on it a necessity of coming, and has not attained to the knowledge of its own advent?
But again, how much more room for blasphemy will there be, if a feeling of envy is ascribed to God the Father, in that He has withheld the knowledge of His beatitude from Him to whom He gave a foreknowledge of His death. But if there are in Him all the treasures of knowledge, He is not ignorant of this day; rather we ought to remember that the treasures of wisdom in Him are hidden; His ignorance therefore must be connected with the hiding of the treasures of wisdom, which are in Him.
For in all cases, in which God declares Himself ignorant, He is not under the power of ignorance, but either it is not a fit time for speaking, or it is an economy of not acting.
But if God is said then to have known that Abraham loved Him, when He did not hide that His knowledge from Abraham, it follows, that the Father is said to know the day, because He did not hide it from the Son. If therefore the Son knew not the day, it is a Sacrament of His being silent, as on the contrary the Father alone is said to know, because He is not silent. But God forbid that any new and bodily changes should be ascribed to the Father or the Son.
Lastly, lest He should be said to be ignorant from weakness, He has immediately added, “Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is.”
Pseudo-Jerome: For we must needs watch with our souls before the death of the body.
Theophylact: But He teach us two things, watching and prayer; for many of us watch, but watch only to pass the night in wickedness; He now follows this up with a parable, saying, “For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave his servants power over every work, and commanded the porter to watch.” (p. 271)
Bede: The man who taking a far journey left his house is Christ, who ascending as a conqueror to His Father after the Resurrection, left His Church, as to His bodily presence, but has never deprived her of the safeguard of His Divine presence.
Greg, Hom in Evan, 9: For the earth is properly the place for the flesh, which was as it were carried away to a far country, when it was placed by our Redeemer in the heavens. “And he gave his servants power over every work,” when, by giving to His faithful ones the grace of the Holy Ghost, He gave them the power of serving every good work.
He has also ordered the porter to watch, because He commanded the order of pastors to have a care over the Church committed to them. Not only, however, those of us who rule over Churches, but all are required to watch the doors of their hearts, lest the evil suggestions of the devil enter into them, and lest our Lord find us sleeping.
Wherefore concluding this parable He adds, “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.”
Pseudo-Jerome: For he who sleeps applies not his mind to real bodies, but to phantoms, and when he awakes, he possesses not what he had seen; so also are those, whom the love of this world seizes upon in this life; they quit after this life what they dreamed was real.
Theophylact: See again that He has not said, I know not when the time will be, but, “Ye know not.” For the reason why He concealed it was that it was better for us; for if, now that we know not the end, we are careless, what should we do if we knew it? We should keep on our wickedness even unto the end. Let us therefore attend to His words; for the end comes at even, when a man dies in old age; a midnight, when he dies in the midst of his youth; and at cockcrow, when our reason is perfect within us; for when a child begins to live according to his reason, then the cock cries loud within him, rousing him from the sleep of sense; but the age of childhood is the morning. Now all these ages must look out for the end; for even a child must be watched, lest he die unbaptized.
Pseudo-Jerome: He thus concludes His discourse, that the last should hear from those who come first this precept which is common to all; wherefore He adds, “But what I say unto you I (p. 272) say unto all, Watch.”
Augustine, Epist., 199, 3: For He not only speaks to those in whose hearing He then spake, but even to all who came after them, before our time, and even to us, and to all after us, even to His last coming. but shall that day find all living, or will any man say that He speaks also to the dead, when He says, “Watch, lest when he cometh he find you sleeping?”
Why then does He say to all, what only belongs to those who shall then be alive, if it be not that it belongs to all, as I have said? For that day comes to each man when his day comes for departing from this life such as he is to be, when judged in that day, and for this reason every Christian ought to watch, lest the Advent of the Lord find him unprepared; but that day shall find him unprepared, whom the last day of his life shall find unprepared