We need to believe that the Light of Christ is capable and ready to pierce our own particular darkness, to illuminate our hearts and give us a steadfast hope by allowing Him to come near to us, welcoming Him anew . such that we entrust ourselves to Him and feel His presence with us, accompanying, supporting, and helping us. Finally, just as a Christmas tree is full of many lights, we are challenged to carry a little of this light we have received to the places where we live
RICHMOND, VA (Catholic Online) - Gaudete in the Lord always; again, I say, Rejoice! (Phil 4.4) The Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, marked a period of great rejoicing throughout Christendom as Christians prepare for the imminent coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Advent wreaths throughout the world -- adorned commonly with three purple candles and one rose candle -- signify how the Light of Christ begins to pierce the darkness of a world all too often forgetful of Him.
As with all of the candles on our Advent wreath, we are invited to light them daily in our families and our religious communities. The rose candle of the third week of Advent is meant to remind Christians of the reason for our preparations during this holy season: "The voice of one crying out in the desert [proclaims], 'Make straight the way of the Lord" (Jn 1.23).
During Advent, we are called to ponder the voice of the great prophet Saint John the Baptist's, to ready our hearts and homes to receive the newborn King anew at Christmas. We rejoiced on Gaudete Sunday (from Latin gaudeo, gaudere, meaning "to rejoice") because we know that Jesus is coming.
When a King is to visit our home, especially coming to our families and even into the heart of our own being, we need to "make straight the way of the Lord", removing any obstacles that would prove as barriers to our Lord's saving grace and desire to renew us in this holy season, cleaning our homes and hearts to receive Him.
Advent is a time of preparation, a precious gift from the Church when we await patiently the Lord's saving power in the desert of our lives, which cry out for a savior to provide rescue from the darkness of a secular world all too often permitted to capture our focus.
During this week of Gaudete, two powerful Biblical themes intersect: Listening to the voice of God speaking through His prophet calls us to make ready a way to welcome our King, and knowing with the eyes of faith that this greatest King ever known to mankind will be visiting my own home, even the home of my own personal heart, gives me due cause to rejoice abundantly.
Such an attitude will be mine, that is, if I truly believe in Jesus as my Lord, as my King. What a desert our homes and hearts can be if we fail to welcome the newborn Christ, Him Who is the reason for the world's celebration this Christmas.
To prepare for Christmas through embracing a certain penitential spirit of "cleaning house" -- personally and as a family -- is a naturally loving response to hearing the voice that the Lord comes to visit us, indeed desiring to dwell with us always. When a King comes to visit, we want everything to be absolutely perfect as the dignity alone of such a worthy visitor merits the most perfect of grateful responses in return.
An authentically loving heart is always grateful for the Lord's visit, where Jesus wishes to be born in each of our hearts just as He was when conceived within the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Annunciation.
Mary, in hearing the Archangel Gabriel's prophetic voice proclaiming that the Son of the Most High would be conceived in the heart of the Blessed Virgin's very being, responds obediently by welcoming the message in a heart she already had prepared to receive God's Word, and she immediately conceives of our Lord as a result of her great act of faith, her fiat in saying"yes" faithfully to God.
Mary immediately goes to visit her relative Elizabeth, who has conceived in her old age of the prophet John the Baptist, the person of the "voice of one crying out in the desert", and Elizabeth's pregnancy confirms the authenticity of Gabriel's message to Mary. Elizabeth receives confirmation of the Lord's presence in Mary upon the active rejoicing of the prophet who leaps in her womb upon hearing Mary's greeting.
Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaims with great joy that the Mother of the Lord has visited her and in response confirms Mary's vocation as Mother of the Lord. Mary declares her Magnificat of rejoicing in this greatest gift: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior"! (Lk 1.46)
As Christians, it is vital for us not to forget the source of such joy, that which was spoken by Elizabeth just prior to Mary's great Magnificat: "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Lk 1.45). When we believe the message of God's salvation, the natural consequence is that our spirit will rejoice in God.
Likewise, if we do not have joyful hearts, we have not allowed the Good News of God's salvation to pierce our personal darkness, our hearts still closed off to the joy and peace in Christ. We then need more fully to prepare our hearts, clearing further obstacles, making straight the way for God to enter into our hearts . that is, if we desire to receive Him.
When a person receives the joyful message of Christ in his heart, there is a transformation of being which takes place. We become reflections of the Light of Christ within our darkened world and shine brightly within it.
This week, when lighting the largest Christmas tree in the world found at Gubbio, Italy, Pope Benedict expressed his three wishes this Christmas: First, that the gaze of our minds and hearts would not remain solely at the horizon of this world but instead would ascend on high just as the Christmas tree does.
Secondly, each one of us needs the Christ Child to illuminate the path of our life in the midst of our difficulties, problems, and sufferings. We need to believe that the Light of Christ is capable and ready to pierce our own particular darkness, to illuminate our hearts and give us a steadfast hope by allowing Him to come near to us, welcoming Him anew . such that we entrust ourselves to Him and feel His presence with us, accompanying, supporting, and helping us.
Finally, just as a Christmas tree is full of many lights, we are challenged to carry a little of this light we have received to the places where we live: in our family, at work, in our neighborhood, in our homelands and cities and towns.
Being willing to carry forth this kind of light will help us and others to pay a little more attention to other people, opening our hearts to others instead of living egotistically with closed hearts only focused on ourselves.
When we give love from ourselves through each little act of kindness, in the words of Pope Benedict, we become "as a light of this great Tree: Together with other lights, it is capable of illuminating the blackness of night, even the very darkest."
Fr. Gregory Gresko, OSB, is a Benedictine Monk at Mary Mother of the Church Abbey in Richmond, Virginia. He earned his S.T.B. from the Pontificial Athenaeum of Sant'Anselmo in Rome and his S.T.L. magna cum laude in Moral Theology (Marriage and Family Studies) in 2008 from the Pontifical Lateran University, John Paul II Institute (Vatican City). Fr. Gregory is working on his doctoral dissertation for the same Vatican institute.
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