Sunday, December 1, 2013

First Sunday in Advent

From Isaiah 2:1-5 NAB:

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come,
The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.
O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

What is Advent? Advent is the beginning of the Christian liturgical year. It’s a season of preparation for the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. “Advent has a twofold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight” (Roman Missal, p. 114, §39). In the words of the Catechism, “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming” (CCC 524; cf. Revelation 22:17).

From Romans 13:11-14 NAB:

… [Y]ou know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

Advent’s general character is that of a season of penitence and reform. Why is that? Because, in calling to mind Jesus’ birth, we must ultimately be reminded of the reason behind the Incarnation: the separation of Man from God by sin, and the consequent need for reconciliation (Matthew 3:2: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”).

Golgotha, not Bethlehem, is the central fact of the Gospel story: God submitted as sacrifice to Himself in atonement for the sins of humanity. The center of our worship is the re-presentation of the Good Friday sacrifice in the Eucharist (Luke 22:19: τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διδόμενον, “This is my body which is given for you”); this is where the road from Bethlehem leads, and through which the road to Easter morning must first pass. “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24; emphasis mine).

From Matthew 24:37-44 NAB:

[Jesus said to his disciples,] “For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.
Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

Saint Peter reminds us, “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and one thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). God is and acts outside of Time, and the Second Coming is from His perspective already an established fact of history; we simply haven’t reached the time when that action is manifest.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! … Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation (ibid., vv. 10-12, 14-15).

And so Advent is a time of preparation not only to celebrate what has already come to pass but also in anticipation of that which is still to come: not so much the end of history but of its consummation in the moment for which all things and all events have been a prelude.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved (Romans 8:19-24).

In Advent we return ourselves in spirit to the mind in which we are all “captive Israel”, languishing in exile from the Garden of Eden and crying unto the Lord, “Veni, veni Emmanuel! Fulfill the promise of the prophets; reconcile us to Yourself, and bring about the rule of righteousness, justice and mercy!”

For this we wait. For this we prepare. Maranatha!

SUNDAY SNIPPETS: A Catholic Carnival