Let us be numbered among those who stay awake, living at the ready, saying “yes” to all of the invitations of grace given to us during this wonderful season of Advent.
This icon entitled 'Our Lady of the New Advent' is relatively new. However, it is one of a myriad of beautiful icons of our Lady whose life 'at the ready', always listening for the Lord and open to His comings is the heart of this season.
Our Liturgical readings will orient us toward the experiential essence of this season, joyful expectation and preparation for the coming(s) of the Lord. Our Bishops, Priests and deacons will wear purple, a color associated with the royalty of the One whom we will commemorate as condescending to be born as one like us, in a manger. The shade is to be a bit different than that which is used for Lent in order to symbolically express that Advent, though “penitential”, is much more preparatory in nature. The emphasis is on clearing the way for the Lord by leveling all the hills caused by our sins, our wrong choices, and making straight the path that leads to the center of our lives. Then, welcoming the King of Glory to enter in and take up His residence within us.
The First Gospel reading of our Advent Liturgy from this years cycle B, is taken from St. Mark, chapter 13: 33 – 37: “Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
This short but poignant Gospel passage captures the heart of Advent; we who bear the name Christian are to live our lives always “on the ready”. Another translation of the passage says “Stay Awake”. In Baptism, we died with Christ and we were raised with Him. We entered into a relationship of communion in the Church which is His Body, a true participation in the Trinitarian communion. We are entrusted with continuing His redemptive mission until he comes again. How? By the living of our lives in Him, with Him, and for the sake of the world. Thus, how we treat those whom he brings into our lives, how we receive and administer the goods of the earth which have been entrusted to us and how we understand the purpose of our existence is different now, because He has come, He is coming and He will come again.
The readings in the Liturgy of the Hours throughout this Advent season will orient us to prepare for the coming(s) of the Lord. They will challenge us to examine our lives and clear out any obstacles to the working of His grace within us and then through us in the lives of others. This time of preparation for the Nativity, the First coming and time of anticipation of the Parousia, the Second Coming, is to be lived by us as men and women signed with the Cross who are wide awake, at the ready, always looking for His coming. The excerpts from the treasury of writings in the Christian Tradition will emphasize this theme of watchfulness. We begin on the First Sunday of Advent with an excerpt from an ancient homily from St. Cyril of Jerusalem entitled “The Twofold Coming of Christ: “We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom.
“In general, whatever relates to our Lord Jesus Christ has two aspects. There is a birth from God before the ages, and a birth from a virgin at the fullness of time. There is a hidden coming, like that of rain on fleece, and a coming before all eyes, still in the future. At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels.
“We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. At the first coming we said: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. At the second we shall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
“The Savior will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom he was judged. At his own judgment he was silent; then he will address those who committed the outrages against him when they crucified him and will remind them: You did these things, and I was silent.
His first coming was to fulfill his plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of his kingdom by necessity.”
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