Advent: Waiting and Visit
(ZENIT.org) Archbishop Francesco Follo
Jer 33.14-16; Ps 25; 1 Thes 3.12 to 4.2; Lk 21, 25-28.34-36
1) Wait for a visit
The season of Advent has been chosen by the Church to prepare us to celebrate the incarnation of the Word of God. It is a waiting time that does not last long – four weeks in the Roman rite and six in the Ambrosian Rite – ending with the joy of Christmas, a day that celebrates the birth of Jesus among the songs of the angels: “Glory in heaven and peace to those whom God loves ” and the joy of the just (see Antiphon to the Magnificat – Second Vespers of Christmas Day).
Advent is the time that prepares the birth of Jesus. It is the time for Mary waiting for the birth. It is for us the time to educate our heart to a waiting that is real, daily, in constant tension toward the presence of the One who became man for us and saved our lives. But we don’t wait only for the birth of Jesus, we wait for his final return.
This is why the first Sunday of Advent projects us towards the second coming of Christ, when he comes in glory. This is the most important advent, the one to which we must all prepare.
This is why, in the Gospel of the First Sunday of Advent, Jesus tells us not to lose heart and not to burden it with fears and disappointments. “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down” (Lk 21: 34) then “Be vigilant at all times and pray, that you may have strength to escape all that is about to happen and to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk 21, 36).
In fact, it is simplistic to speak only of the Advent as a period of waiting for Christmas, because this liturgical season is also proposed to prepare us to appear before Christ and to meet the Lord that becomes our neighbor. The Christian walk is all aimed to welcome the newness of God that become our neighbor full of love and mercy. God is the Child who tends his arms full of tenderness, the Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep to bring it safe into the pen, the Father who runs to meet his lost son returning, the Samaritan who bends over the injured man, Jesus who died for us on the cross, dramatic cradle chosen to return to the heavenly Life.
For this reason we need to know how to live “waiting for him”, not only in the sense of waiting for God’s coming, but in the sense of tending toward God that bends towards us by sending His Son to visit us.
In fact the expression “advent” includes that of “visitatio (= visitation)” which means “visit”. In this case it is a visit from God”. He enters into our life and wants to come to us” (see Benedict XVI). The coming-visit of the Lord implies vigilance. We must be vigil as Christ says today “Be careful …” (see Lk 21, 34 and 36). Many times he has repeated it in parables, because the Lord comes like a thief in the night or as a Lord returning to see what happened to his assets entrusted to the servants.
2) Waiting for an encounter.
It is true that Advent means first of all waiting, but it is not a waiting vague, general and purely sentimental. It is the waiting for the personal encounter of light. An encounter that is especially clear in the day of the remembrance of His coming, but that can brighten every day and every moment of our lives. Advent is, therefore, the time when we must renew the decision to throw open the window of our heart and our mind to the Savior to enlighten us and illuminate all that we are.
How do we need to prepare for this meeting beside the fact that we keep vigilant our being stretched to Christ?
First of all, by trying to enrich our knowledge (which does not mean only knowledge but taste) of Christ, with honesty and humility. In fact, how can we recognize him when he comes, love him if we do not know him and know him if we do not “taste him”?
Second, by praying asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and support us in our search for the face of the Lord.
This time, therefore, educates the heart and the mind of everyone to a waiting that is real, daily and in constant tension to the presence of the One who became man for us and saved our lives: “The solemnities of the Church certainly recall events of the past, but are also present and alive realization because what happened once in history must be a continuously event in the life of the believer. Then the Lord came for all, but he must come again and again for each one of us “(Benedict XVI).
The three Gospels of St. Mark, St. Matthew and St. Luke speak of this coming just before the story of the Passion of Christ. It is his last preaching. The style is apocalyptic (as I have a briefly explained last Sunday): wars, devastation, natural disasters, destruction of the world. Let these dramatic descriptions not scare us. It is a style particularly used in the East to remind us that in front of Christ everything takes on a new meaning and even the world, which seems stable and eternal, will have an end when the Lord comes to give a new order to all things. So also in the Gospel of St. Luke, that we are going to read in the Year C, the Messiah uses apocalyptic words taking the opportunity from the praise that some were doing of the Temple of Jerusalem, but stating that this temple would be destroyed (Lk 21, 5 – 7) . There would have been warning signs, such as wars of one people against another, persecution of Christ’s disciples (Luke 21, 8-19) and the siege and the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 21,20 – 24). After the suffering caused by men, Jesus in today’s passage speaks of cosmic events and of his coming in glory. The holy fear that can come from listening to these words helps us to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ not only in a sentimental way, but aware that this is a decisive meeting for our existence.
In this the Virgin Mary can be of example. She is a role model in this waiting because Mary is “a simple country girl, who carries in his heart all hope of God” (Pope Francis). With her “yes”, with her “fiat”, the hope of Israel and the whole world became flesh. The season of Advent, which we begin today, gives us the horizon of hope, a hope that does not disappoint because is founded on the Word of God … It is a hope that does not disappoint simply because the Lord never disappoints! He is faithful! “(Pope Francis.).
Virginity is the means chosen by God to give a new start to the world. As in the first creation, even now God creates “out of nothing”, that is from the void of human possibilities, without any help and any support. This “nothing”, this emptiness, this lack of explanation and of natural causes is precisely the virginity of Mary.
In this Advent let’s contemplate Mary’s virginity for a meditation on the perfect chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven.
St. Cyprian wrote to the first Christian virgins “You have begun to be what we all one day will be” (Virgins, 22, PL 4, 475). Such a prophecy, far from being against the married, is instead primarily for them, for their benefit. It reminds them that marriage is holy, beautiful, created by God and redeemed by Christ and the image of the marriage between Christ and the Church, but that’s not all. Christ is everything.
With their “yes” without reserve to God, with their life humble, simple, poor, obedient, and faithful like the one of Mary also in trials and hardships, they make Christ visible. With the gift of their life they hasten the coming of Christ and His Kingdom. With consecration the consecrated women become for all people sign of the love of God and of the eternal blessings that He gives us.
THEOPHYL. Our Lord declared above the fearful and sensible signs of the evils which should overtake sinners, against which the only remedy is watching and prayer, as it is said, And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time, &c.
BASIL; Every animal has within itself certain instincts which it has received from God, for the preservation of its own being. Wherefore Christ has also given us this warning, that what comes to them by nature, may be ours by the aid of reason and prudence: that we may flee from sin as the brute creatures shun deadly food, but that we seek after righteousness, as they wholesome herbs. Therefore said He, Take heed to yourselves, that is, that you may distinguish the noxious from the wholesome. But since there are two ways of taking heed to ourselves, the one with the bodily eyes, the other by the faculties of the soul, and the bodily eye does not reach to virtue; it remains that we speak of the operations of the soul. Take heed, that is, Look around you on all sides, keeping an ever watchful eye to the guardianship of your soul. He says not, Take heed to your own or to the things around, but to yourselves. For you are mind and spirit, your body is only of sense. Around you are riches, arts, and all the appendages of life, you must not mind these, but your soul, of which you must take especial care. The same admonition tends both to the healing of the sick, and the perfecting of those that are well, namely, such as are the guardians of the present, the providers of the future, not judging the actions of others, but strictly searching their own, not suffering the mind to be the slave of their passions but subduing the irrational part of the soul to the rational. But the reason why we should take heed He adds as follows, Lest at any time your hearts be overcharged, &c.
TIT. BOST. As if He says, Beware lest the eyes of your mind wax heavy. For the cares of this life, and surfeiting, and drunkenness, scare away prudence, shatter and make shipwreck of faith.
CLEM. ALEX. Drunkenness is an excessive use of wine; crapula is the uneasiness, and nausea attendant on drunkenness, a Greek word so called from the motion of the head. And a little below. As then we must partake of food lest we suffer hunger, so also of drink lest we thirst, but with still greater care to avoid falling into excess. For the indulgence of wine is deceitful, and the soul when free from wine will be the wisest and best, but steeped in the fumes of wine is lost as in a cloud.
BASIL; But carefulness, or the care of this life, although it seems to have nothing unlawful in it, nevertheless if it conduce not to religion, must be avoided. And the reason why He said this He shows by what comes next, And so that day come upon you unawares.
THEOPHYL. For that day will not come when men are expecting it, but unlooked for and by stealth, taking as a snare those who are unwary. For as a snare shall it come upon all them that sit upon the face of the earth. But this we may diligently keep far from us. For that day will take those that sit on the face of the earth, as the unthinking and slothful. But as many as are prompt and active in the way of good, not sitting and loitering on the ground, but rising from it, saying to themselves, Rise up, be gone, for here there is no rest for you. To such that day is not as a perilous snare, but a day of rejoicing.
EUSEB. He taught them therefore to take heed to the things we have just before mentioned, lest they fall into the indolence resulting therefrom. Hence it follows, Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all those things that shall come to pass.
THEOPHYL. Namely, hunger, pestilence, and such like, which for a time only threaten the elect and others, and those things also which are hereafter the lot of the guilty for ever. For these we can in no wise escape, save by watching and prayer.
AUG. This is supposed to be that flight which Matthew mentions; which must not be in the winter or on the sabbath day. To the winter belong the cares of this life, which are mournful as the winter, but to the sabbath surfeiting and drunkenness, which drowns and buries the heart in carnal luxury and delight, since on that day the Jews are immersed in worldly pleasure, while they are lost to a spiritual sabbath.
THEOPHYL. And because a Christian needs not only to flee evil, but to strive to obtain glory, He adds, And to stand before the Son of man. For this is the glory of angels, to stand before the Son of man, our God, and always to behold His face.
BEDE; Now supposing a physician should bid us beware of the juice of a certain herb, lest a sudden death overtake us, we should most earnestly attend to his command; but when our Savior warns us to shun drunkenness and surfeiting, and the cares of this world, men have no fear of being wounded and destroyed by them; for the faith which they put in the caution of the physician, they disdain to give to the words of God.
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