“The Name of the Lord cometh from afar…. I look from afar, and behold I see the power of God coming…. Go out to meet Him, and say, ‘Tell us if You are He who shall rule….’” These words are taken from the liturgy for Advent, and in reply, it invites us, “Come, let us adore the King, the Lord who is coming!…” (old Roman Breviary).
When she was a child, Mary was waiting, in the midst of her people Israel, for the coming of the Messiah, who had not been announced by just one prophet, but by a long line of men, predicting and completing their prophecies, one after the other over several centuries.
Mary was waiting at the heart of a small nation, buffeted by history, which had survived confrontations with neighbouring empires and eventually became the only nation to survive the dissolution of the ancient world, keeping its identity intact, and always holding on to the unwavering certainty of being the instrument of an eternal destiny, as large as the world itself.
The many prophecies surrounding the arrival of the Messiah trace a surprisingly accurate portrait of the Expected One: His Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection and mission, as it was witnessed by Christ’s contemporaries and recognised by the Christians who followed Jesus.
This expectation of the Messiah was especially high at the beginning of our era, at the time of the Virgin Mary, as evidenced by the Gospel and several Jewish and pagan writings, because some prophecies explicitly and specifically talked about the time of His coming.
The Gospel testifies to the ever-present character of this special expectation that seized everyone. As “the people were waiting expectantly” (Lk 3:15), when John the Baptist appeared, all were asking him: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”(Lk 7:19).
It was an absolutely unprecedented context, and, in the opinion of many historians, the exceptional character of Christianity’s appearance alone is enough to place it apart in the religious history of the world.
The expectation of the fullness of time had become so strong and precise, in that particular period of history, that more than 100 Messiah candidates were identified by historians! Gamaliel alludes to them in his speech in the defense of the Apostles before the Sanhedrin.”
From “Foi Chrétienne” – (abbreviated)
The Lord Cometh from Afar
This coming was expected for long ages; it was foretold by the prophets and desired by all the just who were not granted to see its dawn. The Church commemorates and renews this expectation with each recurring Advent, expressing this longing to the Saviour who is to come. The desire of old was sustained solely by hope, but it is now a confident desire, founded on the consoling reality of the Redemption already accomplished. Although historically completed nineteen centuries ago, this longing should be actualised daily, renewed in ever deeper and fuller reality in every Christian soul. The spirit of the Advent liturgy, commemorating the age-long expectation of the Redeemer, will prepare us to celebrate the mystery of the Word made Flesh by arousing in each one of us an intimate, personal expectation of the renewed coming of Christ to our soul. This coming is accomplished by grace; to the degree in which grace develops and matures in us, it becomes more copious, more penetrating, until it transforms the soul into an alter Christus. Advent is a season of waiting and of fervent longing for the Redeemer: “Drop down dew, ye heavens, and let the clouds rain the Just One!” (old Roman Breviary).
O my God, Word of the Father, Word made flesh for love of us, You assumed a mortal body in order to suffer and be immolated for us. I wish to prepare for Your coming with the burning desires of the prophets and the just who in the Old Testament sighed after You, the one Saviour and Redeemer. “O Lord, send Him whom You are going to send…. As You have promised, come and deliver us!” I want to keep Advent in my soul, that is, a continual longing and waiting for this great Mystery wherein You, O Word, became flesh to show me the abyss of Your redeeming, sanctifying mercy.
O sweetest Jesus, You come to me with Your infinite love and the abundance of Your grace; You desire to engulf my soul in torrents of mercy and charity in order to draw it to You. Come, O Lord, come! I, too, wish to run to You with love, but alas! my love is so limited, weak, and imperfect! Make it strong and generous; enable me to overcome myself, so that I can give myself entirely to You. Yes, my love can become strong because “its foundation is the intimate certainty that it will be repaid by the love of God. O Lord, I cannot doubt Your tenderness, because You have given me proofs of it in so many ways, with the sole purpose of convincing me of it. Therefore, trusting in Your love, my weak love will become strong with Your strength. What a consolation it will be, O Lord, at the moment of death to think that we shall be judged by Him whom we have loved above all things! Then we can enter Your presence with confidence, despite the weight of our offences!” (Teresa of Jesus, Way of Perfection, 40).
O Lord, give me love like this! I desire it ardently, not only to escape Your stern eye at Judgment but especially in order to repay You in some degree for Your infinite charity.
O Lord, do not, I beseech You, permit that this exceeding great love which led You to become incarnate for my salvation, be given in vain! My poor soul needs You so much! It sighs for You as for a compassionate physician, who alone can heal its wounds, draw it out of its languor and tepidity, and infuse into it new vigour, new enthusiasm, new life. Come, Lord, come! I am ready to welcome Your work with a docile, humble heart, ready to let myself be healed, purified, and strengthened by You. Yes, with Your help, I will make any sacrifice, renounce everything that might hinder Your redeeming work in me. Show Your power, O Lord, and come! Come, delay no longer!
(Meditations from Divine Intimacy)