Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent: journeying from present to future

According to most dictionaries of standard modern English, the word "advent" means "the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event." Even from a theological perspective, I am perfectly content with that definition. Liturgically, the First Sunday of Advent is so full that it overflows, making it impossible to take it all in.

If I have one regret about my homily for yesterday, it's that I didn't find a way to work in even a passing mention of the saints. It seems to me that the second antiphon of First Vespers (i.e., Evening Prayer I for the First Sunday of Advent) says it well:
Know that the Lord is coming and with him all his saints; that day will dawn with a wonderful light, alleluia
I don't know about you, but this for me is reassuring. I don't find it reassuring because I have achieved perfection by the grace of God or otherwise, but because I trust in the Lord, in His goodness, His mercy, and, yes, His justice, which is perfect.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, we enter the cold, darkest days of the year. This why Advent is so important to me at an existential, that is, at an every day, where the rubber hits the road way: "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5).

The vast majority of human history is constituted, not by passive waiting, but journeying towards, or away from, the light. In his lovely book, the capstone of his triology on the life of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Pope Emeritus Benedict, writing about Abraham, our father in faith, had this to convey:
He is a wayfarer, not only from the land of his birth into the promised land, but also on the journey from the present into the future. His whole life points forward, it is a dynamic of walking along the path of what is to come (5)
I suppose an alternative title for this post could be- "Random thoughts for the start of Advent and December." Happy journeying to all pilgrims. Let's remember- for a journey to be a journey there must be a destination. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews stated it:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God (Heb 11:8-10)

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