First Sunday of Advent – November 29, 2015
Br. Christophe’s words in his journal entry for the First Sunday of Advent (1994) are these: “To finish this liturgical year (well), I ask and receive the grace of forgiveness. You put me back on my feet to walk, to run, upright, toward you who are coming.He comes
and every eye shall see him.
He comes: his face, and that is infinitely everything” (Born From the Gaze of God, p.117)
He comes: and will we be open enough, awake enough, present enough to receive his ‘face’ that is infinitely everything? For this face is Mercy, this face is unconditional Love…this is what is coming….this is what longs to be born in each of us, in this community, in our Church, in our world. I dare say never have we needed this mercy and love so much in the heart of our world today. We are, all of us, together part of his body, a living body ready to expand to all the corners of the earth…his incarnation needs our ‘yes’, it needs our lives to be manifested.
Many times I wonder how do we celebrate these mysteries of God’s life, specifically this season of the mystery of God’s Advent and Incarnation, so that it stirs us up anew, it stirs us up so that we want change in our own lives, that we are ready to do whatever God asks of us for his life, his healing life to be born. Each of our lives matters to God…each of our lives matters for the life of our world. Luke’s gospel for this Sunday of the ‘end time’ warns us “not to become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life” (Lk 21:34). If you remember from my talk last week: a monastic eschatology is about the ‘God who is coming’…here and now, not in some future end time scenario. This was encapsulated in Fr. Christian’s profound expression: ‘A Beyond Under the Banner of Time’ (A Theology of Hope, p.127)…The Beyond is seeking us out, is coming with hope…hope for our salvation, hope for Divine mercy and love to become flesh of our flesh.
Jean Danielou, the Jesuit scholar and cardinal, has these profound thoughts on time: “Our understanding of time is one of the most important things in life…if we are held captive to the past, either by what was good or bad, if we are branded by our failures, if we believe that our sins cannot be redeemed, if we are slaves of memory in the face of the mystery of death,” then we are living in opposition to faith (Prayer, The Mission of the Church, p.36). Danielou speaks of a faith that “allows us to overcome the past and respond to the call of the Spirit” (p.36). These remarks on time are in his essay on “Advent” (p.31-41). If we are held captive by our past or slaves of memory, how can we be ready for the God who is coming in the here and now? Danielou emphasizes that the antidote is ‘faith’. His understanding of advent faith is expressed in these words: “One who truly believes that the love of others and the service of God passes from miracle to miracle, and who accepts the successive deaths and renunciations that are included in this, is obedient to the law of spiritual growth. Such a person will move continually forward…” (p.36). Christian de Cherche parallels this thought of Danielou when he writes: “Jesus is inviting us to be born. Our human identity progresses from birth to birth, from beginning to beginning” (A Heritage Too Big, vol. 2, p.20). To repeat: we grow spiritually, our true identity develops and unfolds as we accept those deaths and renunciations that create space for God to do God’s work in our lives. If we remain imprisoned by our past or caught up in the present anxieties of life, how can we receive God’s new gesture of love in our lives? The Spirit hovers over Mary at her Annunciation….the Spirit hovers over our lives as we enter this Advent. But will we have enough faith, enough daring to ask the grace to let go of all that blocks us from receiving the gift of God’s life, a gift that awaits our ‘yes’, our willingness to be converted from whatever is in the way of the Divine being born again in our lives? Mary’s Annunciation happened in the present moment of her life. She ‘pondered’ what the angel’s intrusion in her life could mean. Her faith was stronger than her doubts: it was a faith-opening moment….her faith helped her sense the hovering Spirit of hope asking her to be a vessel of God’s life, the gift of his Son. Her faith dispelled her fears, the past and the future retreated…it was simply ‘now’, this here and now of her life where she was met…and she gave her ‘yes’ not knowing where it would lead, what it would ask of her in the days ahead. She entered the ‘miracle’ of the now moment of her life…We are invited to do the same in the ‘here and now’ of our lives. Let us hang on to our ‘mustard seed of faith’; let the anchor of our faith dispel the worries of past and future and take in the Spirit, which is overshadowing our lives, waiting to gift us with the gift of God’s life in his Son