In our relation to the ‘God who is to come’ how do we wait? What is the interior demeanor that is asked of each of us if we are to receive this new manifestation of God’s life within us and in our midst? With our liturgy we have taken the first step into Advent; we are blessed to have these days to quiet down inside, to listen, to let go, to wait with our deepest longing.
The ancient patristic writers tell us of the ‘three comings’ of the Lord: the first being the historical birth of Jesus; the second is his coming in this, the present of our lives; and the third at the end of time where the Lord will come in glory. It is always striking to me that the universal Church chooses the apocalyptic gospels in all three of the liturgical cycles to open Advent. There is one thing for sure that these gospels do and that is to wake us up. In Luke’s gospel for this First Sunday of Advent we hear: ‘Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life’. Well if we say I don’t carouse; I don’t get drunk; still I do think we all become drowsy from the anxieties of daily life. So the Advent call is there: ‘beware’ of this, don’t let it pull you away from the moment of God’s new gift of life for you!
Indubitably the spirit of Advent calls us to interior quiet, to prayer, where in the words of Jean Daniélou, “we must not only deepen certain spiritual attitudes but also affirm our convictions” (Prayer, p.31). I would say that the most essential spiritual attitude that needs to deepen in this Advent season is a faith-filled waiting. We already ‘know’ experientially something of ‘the God who is’ and ‘the God who was’; in fact this experienced ‘knowing’ is what anchors our faith and keeps us open to the new ‘gesture’ of God’s love. A faith-filled waiting, a faith-filled openness leans us into what is to come! ‘Waiting’, with this level of faith and conviction, overshadows us with expectancy. It is not a fearful waiting for some possible bad news, but a waiting that brings us back to our ‘yes’, a ‘yes’ that says we need this new birth and we are ready to receive it and to carry the new Christ life fully into our daily lives, no matter the cost involved.
Jean Daniélou further states: “The Christian does not have to break free from time in order to enter eternity…but is rather required to assume a state of waiting for the entry of eternity into time…”(p.33). Dear sisters, this is the spirit of Advent: the eternal God coming once again into the present history of our lives: the commingling of God and humanity…the Christ of God becoming even more flesh of our flesh…Love becoming more present and expansive in and through each human life, each human life with her tiny seed of faith receiving the gift freely given, the gift of God’s beloved Son. And ‘the Word was made flesh’…and the Word is still becoming flesh of our flesh. Let us not lose sight of this Christian reality: the eternal God meets us, encounters us in the present history of our lives. In this Christmas birth eternity and time unite. Pope Francis in one of his commentaries on the Advent apocalyptic gospels says: “The Gospel does not want to scare us, but to open our horizons to another, greater dimension, one which, on the one hand puts into perspective everyday things, while at the same time making them precious, crucial. The relationship with the God-who-comes-to-visit-us gives every gesture, every thing a different light, a substance, a symbolic value” (Angelustalk-2016). This is the outcome of Christ’s new birth in our lives this Christmas: everything becomes fresh and new, touched, overshadowed by the breaking in of God’s eternal gift. The horizon of our lives will not be the same…they will be expanded…how we see, how we feel will be different….Imagine: the same old stuff being transformed by this birth.
To underline this last point, here is what Pope Francis says: “In this season of Advent, we are called to expand the horizons of our hearts, to be amazed by the life which presents itself each day with newness. In order to do this, we must learn to not depend on our own certainties, on our own established strategies, because the Lord comes at a time that we do not imagine. He comes to bring us into a more beautiful and grand dimension” (Angelustalk-2016). This, sisters, is the ‘entry of eternity into time’, of the Christ life being born in the humble stable of our personal history and the present history of our world.