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By F. K. Bartels

12/8/2011 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

If we look deep within ourselves, we will often notice a covert struggle between pride and humility; between our own misguided confidence, and confidence properly placed in Christ

"The hope expressed is that each one may be made holy by God and preserved irreproachable in his entire person -- "spirit, soul and body" -- for the final coming of the Lord Jesus; the guarantee that this can happen is offered by the faithfulness of God himself, who will not fail to bring to completion the work he has begun in believers" -- Pope Benedict XVI, Homily in Celebration of the First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent; November 26, 2005.

Advent is a time for hope

Advent is a time for hope


By F. K. Bartels

Catholic Online (

12/8/2011 (3 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: advent, Christ Child, Christ's coming

GLADE PARK, CO (Catholic Online) -- Fr. Jean C. J. d'Elbee, in his book titled I Believe In Love, selects these words from St. Therese of Lisieux to express the confidence we ought have in Christ our Savior, the Good Shepherd who walks among the fields of exile and, with unwavering love, gathers his little ones into his sheepfold of joy:

"[I would] like to find an elevator to lift me up to Jesus, for I am too little to climb the rough stairway of perfection. So I have looked in the books of the saints for a sign of the elevator I long for, and I have read these words proceeding from the mouth of eternal Wisdom: 'He that is a little one, let him turn to me' (Prov. 9:16). So I came, knowing that I had found what I was seeking, and wanting to know, O my God, what You would do with the little one who would answer Your call, and this is what I found: 'As one whom the mother caresses, so will I comfort you' (Isaiah 66:13).

"Never have more tender words come to make my soul rejoice. The elevator which must raise me to the heavens is Your arms, O Jesus! For that I do not need to grow; on the contrary, I must necessarily remain small, become smaller and smaller. O my God, You have surpassed what I expected, and I want to sing Your mercies."

Although the "rough stairway of perfection" is a concept nearly entirely foreign to contemporary society, it is indeed a reality for those who have been wounded by the divine arrow of Love: for those whose hearts are pierced by the sweet, consoling voice of Christ set out upon this arduous "stairway": the path of holiness which ends in the Ocean of Love.

Along this path of holiness, as the desire for abandonment, self-sacrifice, and manifold acts of love increase, human frailties and weaknesses are experienced all the more, which serve as a constant reminder of our finite nature. For instance, in moments of grace infused strength, we feel as if we could easily rush ahead into whatever trial Christ might place before us for our profit, and thus climb higher on the stairway of perfection. Yet, to our dismay, stamina wanes, and we soon wonder how long we must endure such a precipitous climb. Consequently, we come face-to-face with our smallness, with our dependence on Christ, and with our urgent need of his life-sustaining grace. We can be certain that our Lord is teaching us in these moments of enlightened discovery.

If we look deep within ourselves, we will often notice a covert struggle between pride and humility; between our own misguided confidence, and confidence properly placed in Christ. How often pride stealthily snakes its way to the surface of our thoughts and actions, and, though we strike it repeatedly, it refuses to die! How often we think of flying ahead on the stairway of perfection as if it were merely a challenge easily overcome by our force of will; as if sanctity were a life-long prize won at the end of a short but furious battle with vice. Yet the stairway of perfection, as St. Therese noted, is indeed rough -- it is not something we ourselves conquer.

Our weakness can also give birth to frustration. For before us stands the great majesty of God: burning love, joy, peace and happiness. It is there we long to be: for we are eager to "leave the body and go home to the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8), as St. Paul writes. Yet we must wait; we must climb. Thus we imagine that if only we could free ourselves of the hindrances of this "static" which surrounds us, immerse ourselves in the vast quiet of contemplation and be drawn away into the depths of the Christ Child's eyes, we would, then, arrive at the heights. We might even begin to listen to the temptation which tells us our state of life itself is not conducive to the holiness we seek: we think we are in the wrong place. It is in moments such as these that we acutely experience the longing of St. Therese: "Where, O Jesus, is the elevator which will raise me to the heavens!"

"I Must Necessarily Remain Small, Become Smaller And Smaller"

How easily we forget these words from St. Paul: "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified" (Rom 8:28-30).

The meaning of Advent is preparation. Let us enter into the mystery of the Christ Child who is soon to be on his way to Bethlehem in the sweet Virgin's womb. Let us prepare our hearts to accept the Word made Flesh, who himself became small enough to be laid in a manger in an unknown cave. Yet if we are to accept this Child who is at once small and infinitely great, we must be prepared to place all our confidence in him, becoming ourselves smaller and smaller in abandonment before his greatness, that he may accomplish in us his desire -- which will be for us the very greatest of things. Our Savior knows we yearn deeply to be with him in glory -- and he will not deny those who love him this end.

After many long days or years on the rough stairway of perfection, when we become weary and impatient, perhaps laden with those questioning doubts which occasionally plague us all, let us place all our faith, hope and love confidently in the Christ Child whose tender compassion knows no limits. The arms of Christ will be our elevator to the heavens, for he will lift us beyond our weaknesses, making us holy and irreproachable that, burning with the light of sanctity, we may shine in his love for eternity.

"The hope expressed is that each one may be made holy by God and preserved irreproachable in his entire person -- "spirit, soul and body" -- for the final coming of the Lord Jesus; the guarantee that this can happen is offered by the faithfulness of God himself, who will not fail to bring to completion the work he has begun in believers" -- Pope Benedict XVI, Homily in Celebration of the First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent; November 26, 2005.


F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic faith is one of the greatest treasures a man could ever have. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.


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