04 December 2009

Advent: the Expectation of the Eternal

Now that we’ve entered into the season of Advent and a new liturgical year, if you haven’t read this already, here are some of our Holy Father’s words he spoke when he kicked off the Advent season for the Church with First Vespers. His homily speaks of presence, that is, the presence of the Lord – “to contemplate the Lord present.” For those with a monastic heart, most appealing are Pope Benedict’s words about pausing “in silence to understand a presence.” He also spoke of keeping “an interior journal” every time one gets a glimpse of our Lord’s love. Monastic hearts are listeners, and our Holy Father reminds us that our Lord “speaks to us in many ways,” and also important in that relationship, “He always listens to us.” As Advent is the “expectation of the eternal,” it is thus a period of “an interiorized joy.” Here is an excerpt of Pope Benedict’s homily.

The meaning of the expression "advent"… includes that of visitatio, which simply and specifically means "visit"; in this case it is a question of a visit from God: He enters my life and wishes to speak to me. In our daily lives we all experience having little time for the Lord and also little time for ourselves. We end by being absorbed in "doing". Is it not true that activities often absorb us and that society with its multiple interests monopolizes our attention? Is it not true that we devote a lot of time to entertainment and to various kinds of amusement? At times we get carried away. Advent, this powerful liturgical season that we are beginning, invites us to pause in silence to understand a presence. It is an invitation to understand that the individual events of the day are hints that God is giving us, signs of the attention He has for each one of us. How often does God give us a glimpse of His love! To keep, as it were, an "interior journal" of this love would be a beautiful and salutary task for our life! Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the Lord present. Should not the certainty of His presence help us see the world with different eyes? Should it not help us to consider the whole of our life as a "visit", as a way in which He can come to us and become close to us in every situation?

Dear brothers and sisters, let us experience intensely the present in which we already receive the gifts of the Lord, let us live it focused on the future, a future charged with hope. In this manner Christian Advent becomes an opportunity to reawaken within ourselves the true meaning of waiting, returning to the heart of our faith which is the mystery of Christ, the Messiah Who was expected for long centuries and was born in poverty, in Bethlehem. In coming among us, He brought us and continues to offer us the gift of His love and His salvation. Present among us, He speaks to us in many ways: in Sacred Scripture, in the liturgical year, in the saints, in the events of daily life, in the whole of the creation whose aspect changes according to whether Christ is behind it or whether He is obscured by the fog of an uncertain origin and an uncertain future. We in turn may speak to Him, presenting to Him the suffering that afflicts us, our impatience, the questions that well up in our hearts. We may be sure that He always listens to us! And if Jesus is present, there is no longer any time that lacks meaning or is empty. If He is present, we may continue to hope, even when others can no longer assure us of any support, even when the present becomes trying.

Dear friends, Advent is the season of the presence and expectation of the eternal. For this very reason, it is in a particular way a period of joy, an interiorized joy that no suffering can diminish. It is joy in the fact that God made Himself a Child. This joy, invisibly present within us, encourages us to journey on with confidence. A model and support of this deep joy is the Virgin Mary, through whom we were given the Infant Jesus. May she, a faithful disciple of her Son, obtain for us the grace of living this liturgical season alert and hardworking, while we wait. Amen!