The meaning of Advent


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, During this month of November, the month dedicated to relief of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, let us ask our Blessed Mother and our good Lord for the grace to show charity to our neighbors, including praying for the Faithful Departed. This Sunday we celebrate the 1st Sunday of Advent. I share with you a reflection on. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week: ―First Sunday of Advent - In Expectation of Our Lord: Keeping watch in the period before the coming of the Messiah. Almighty God, grant us the will to greet our Savior with our good works when He comes, so that we may be worthy to be on His right hand and possess the kingdom of heaven. (Collect of the Holy Mass) Everybody knows, even those of us who have lived most unadventurously, says Ronald Knox in a sermon on Advent, what it is to plod on for miles, it seems, eagerly straining your eyes towards the lights that, somehow, mean home. How difficult it is, when you are doing that to judge distances! In pitch darkness, it might be a couple of miles to your destination, it might be a few hundred yards. So it was, I think, with the Hebrew prophets, as they looked forward to the redemption of their people. They could not have told you, within a hundred years, within five hundred years, when it was the deliverance would come. They only knew that, some time, the stock of David would burgeon anew; some time, a key would be found to fit the door of their prison house; some time, the light that only showed, now, like a will-o’-the-wisp on the horizon would broaden out, at last, into the perfect day. This attitude of expectation is one which the Church wants to encourage in us, her children, permanently. She sees it as an essential part of our Christian drill that we should still be looking forward; getting on for two thousand years, now, since the first Christmas Day came and went, and we must still be looking forward. So she encourages us, during Advent, to take the shepherd-folk for our guides, and imagine ourselves traveling with them, at dead of night, straining our eyes towards that chink of light which streams out, we know, from the cave at Bethlehem. (R. A. Knox, Sermon on Advent, 21 December 1947) When the Messiah came, few really were expecting Him. He came unto His own and His own received Him not. (John 1:11) Most men of that time had been blind to what was most essential in their lives and in the life of the world. Watch, therefore, Our Lord tells us in today‘s Gospel. Wake from sleep (cf. Rom. 13:11), St. Paul echoes. For we too can forget what is most fundamental in our existence, what our life here on earth is about. Summon the nations, say to the peoples: See, our God and Savior is coming! Tell it, proclaim it; cry aloud. (Divine Office, Responsorial Psalm, Monday of the 1st Week of Advent) The Church reminds us of this with a four-week period of preparation, so that we can get ourselves ready to celebrate Christmas once more. And at the same time so that, with the first coming to the world of God made Man, we may be heedful of those other ‗advents‘ of God - first when we die, and then again at the end of time. The holy season is thus a time of preparation and of hope. Come, O Lord, and do not delay. Let us make straight His path… The Lord is soon to arrive. If we are aware that our sight is clouded and that we don‘t see clearly the radiance emanating from Bethlehem, from the infant Jesus, it is time to rid ourselves of whatever impairs our vision. Now is the time for a specially good examination of conscience and for a thorough interior purification which will befit us to receive and to welcome that expected guest who is God. It is the moment to take note of the things that separate us from Him, to loosen their hold and cast them from us. Our examination, then, must penetrate to the very roots of our actions and scrutinize deep down in our hearts the motives which inspire our actions. The principal enemies of our sanctity: the three concupiscences. Confession, a way of preparing for Christmas. As we really do want, not vaguely but seriously, to draw and be drawn closer to God at this time, let us look down into our souls in depth. There we will find the real enemies that sustain their unremitting warfare to keep us away from Him. There, in one form or another, are the main obstacles that obstruct and hinder the growth of our Christian life: the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. (1 John 2:16) The lust of the flesh is not confined only to the disordered tendencies of the senses in general or to the disorder of sensuality in particular. It also refers to that love of comfort, to that reluctance to stir ourselves or even to be alert, which drives us to seek that which is least uncomfortable, what is most pleasurable, the path offered us that seems the shorter and less arduous, even at the cost of our failing in faithfulness to God. The other enemy is the lust of the eyes, a deep-seated greed that sees nothing of value in what cannot be laid hands on. The eyes of the soul are dulled; reason thinks itself to be self-sufficient, dispensing with God as unnecessary. It is a subtle temptation supported by the dignity of the very intelligence our Father God has given us that we may know and love Him freely. Seduced by this temptation, the human intelligence regards itself as the center of the universe, reverting with delight to the words of the serpent in Genesis, ‘you shall be like Gods’ (Gen. 3:5) and, being filled with love of self, turns its back on God’s love. Our existence can, in this way, surrender itself unconditionally into the hands of the third enemy, ‘pride of life’. This is not merely a matter of ephemeral fantasies, the fanciful products of vanity or self-love: it is an all-embracing presumption. Let us not fool ourselves; this is the worst of all evils, the root of every conceivable deviation. (J. Escriva, Christ is Passing By, 5-6) Since God is coming to us, we have to get ready for Him, to prepare ourselves. When Christmas arrives, Our Lord should find us with everything in order and our soul fit to receive Him, just as He ought to find us in our final encounter with Him. We have to make what adjustment is required to correct the course of our lives and turn ourselves to God who also comes to us. Man‘s whole existence is a constant preparing to see God, Who draws ever closer. We have an appointment. But in Advent the Church helps us with this solemn consideration in mind to ask in a special way: Lord, make me know Your ways. Lord, teach me Your paths. Make me walk in Your Truth, and teach me: for You are God my Savior. (Responsorial Psalm, Cycle C, Ps. 24) Let us ready ourselves for this encounter in the Sacrament of Penance. Just before Christmas in 1980, Pope John Paul II was with over two thousand children in a Roman parish. And he began his catechesis with this dialogue: How are you preparing for Christmas? By praying, shout back the children. Very good, by praying, the Pope says, but also by going to Confession. You must go to Confession so that you can go to Communion later. Will you do that? In an even louder voice, those thousands of children replied: We will! And John Paul II tells them, Yes, you ought to go. Lowering his voice he whispers: The Pope will also go to Confession so as to receive the Child Jesus worthily. We too will do the same in the weeks between now and Christmas, with an ever greater love and deeper contrition. For we can always receive this Sacrament of the Divine Mercy with better dispositions as the result of a deeper examination of our souls. Remaining watchful through prayer, mortification and examination of conscience. At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time will come… Watch, therefore - for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning - lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch! (Mark 3:33-37) To maintain this state of alertness we need to struggle, for we all have a tendency to live with our eyes fixed on the things of the earth. Especially during this time of Advent let us not forget that our hearts are darkened by gluttony and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and so lose sight of the supernatural dimension which every action of ours should have as its milieu. St. Paul compares this guard over ourselves to that of the well-armed soldier who does not allow himself to be taken by surprise. (cf. 1 Thess. 5, 4-11) This adversary tries to wreak havoc in whatever way he can; and since he does not devise his tactics without attention to detail, neither should we. (St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, 19, 13) We will remain at the ready if we are attentive to our personal prayer, which enables us to avoid lukewarmness and the dwindling and cooling of our desire for sanctity. We will be constantly on the alert if we do not become slipshod about those little mortifications which keep us awake to the things of God. We will remain attentive through a refined examination of conscience, which makes us look to those points at which, almost without noticing it, we are departing from our path. Brothers, St. Bernard says to us, God reveals to you, as He did to the children, what is hidden from the learned and wise: the true ways of salvation. Meditate on them with the greatest attention. Steep yourselves in the meaning of these Advent days. And above all, pay heed to Him who is approaching; think whence He comes and whither it is He advances; consider His purpose in coming, the ripeness of the times, the route He may choose for His approach. Such speculation cannot but be good. Our curiosity is far from being an idle one. The Universal Church would not celebrate this Advent time with such solemnity of devotion did it not contain within it some great mystery. (St. Bernard, Sermon on the Six Aspects of Advent, 1) Let us go forth with a clean heart to receive the supreme King, for He is to come, and He will not delay, we read among the Advent Antiphons of the Liturgy. Holy Mary, our Hope, will help us to improve in this season of Advent. She awaits with hushed recollection the birth of her Son, who is the Messiah. All her thoughts are directed towards Jesus, Who will be born in Bethlehem. At her side it will be easy for us to dispose our souls in such a way that the arrival of Jesus will not find us distracted by other things which have little or no importance in the light of the coming of God.‖ (From In Conversation with God, by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, St. Joseph, St. Columbkill, and all the Holy Angels, may God grant us the grace to prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord at Christmas! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel


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