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Advent Reflection: Prepare to Enter Into the Paschal Mystery

By F. K. Bartels
December 6th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

There is an ancient Roman proverb, audaces juvat fortuna: fortune favors the bold. The Christian life, one in union with the Paschal Mystery of Christ, requires a certain amount of courage. Yet we draw our strength from the Risen One who died for us and who never fails us. Therefore we have every reason to hope we shall attain our eternal destiny.

GLADE PARK, CO (Catholic Online) -- During the celebration of the First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI reflected during his homily on what Advent means for each one of us: "We should ask ourselves what does 'coming of the Lord' mean? In Greek it is parousia, in Latin adventus, advent, 'coming.' What is this 'coming'? Does it involve us or not?"

The question of whether "I" am involved in the Lord's coming is in reality at the very core of the Christian life. It is a foundational question, asked repeatedly, day in and day out. It is an intensely personal and revealing question, inextricably bound up in the daily activities of the life of the Christian, one which is inseparable from repentance and conversion -- two ongoing and repeating elements of the Christian earthly life-journey, manifested through a willingness to give of ourselves unreservedly to Christ and thus courageously follow him despite our failures.

Often when we ask ourselves if we are involved in the Lord's coming, we think of the second coming at the end of time, that hour when "all who are in the tombs will hear [Christ's] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment" (Jn 5:28-29); that moment in which "creation itself will be delivered from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God" (Rom. 8:21). Nevertheless, Pope Benedict reminds us of the importance of the here and now:

"Yet there is not only the final coming at the end of time: in a certain sense the Lord always wants to come through us. And he knocks at the door of our hearts: are you willing to give me your flesh, your time, your life?"

The Paschal Mystery: Paradigm of The Christian Life

That simple, profound statement by our Holy Father gets at the heart of Christian discipleship. As Christians, we do not simply stand from afar and look upon Christ as merely a wonderful example of kindness and moral excellence which we ought to hold in high regard; nor do we simply seek to imitate Christ in the sense of a student who desires to please a greatly admired instructor. Ultimately, the meaning of Christian discipleship is to enter into Christ's life, to become one with Christ through whom "all things were made" and whose life is "the light of men" (Jn 1:3-4).

Advent calls us to prepare our hearts for Christ's entry within, into the mysterious depths of our being, in order to "receive him" and thus be given by him the "power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (Jn 1:12-13). We are to make of ourselves as a living "door" that, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, gradually widens upon an infinite world of Light.

By virtue of Baptism we are incorporated into Christ, born into the Church and given the gift of the Spirit; yet there is nevertheless the constant requirement to respond to God's grace -- a gift of Love which Itself calls us to enter all the more deeply into Infinite Love as we make the Paschal Mystery of Christ our own life and our own story.

Let us delve a little deeper into the concept of "entering" into the Paschal Mystery of Christ. First, recall that the Paschal Mystery is Christ's passion, death, and resurrection. The Paschal Mystery "stands at the center of the Good News" proclaimed by the Church to the world; through it God's "saving plan was accomplished once for all by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ" (CCC 571). For the Christian, the Paschal Mystery is the keystone of our hope.

"The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life. This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God's grace, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (CCC 654).

Called to Supernatural Life in The Divine Family

We know by the light of faith that God created man as "an intelligent and free being" who is called as sons and daughters "to intimacy with God and to share in his happiness" (Gaudium et spes 21). We are called to a new life, an existence which far transcends what is naturally possible for man, one in which we share in God's divinity and are thus caught up in the life of the Holy Trinity Itself. We are to become children of God and members of the divine family who are destined to share in God's own supernatural life! There are no words in which it is possible to describe such a gift. It is only in the depths of silent adoration, in the mysterious realm of human, heartfelt emotion in union with the Spirit that we are enabled to communicate something of the meaning of this astonishing love of God.

The Father himself provided us with the means and the grace to become his children, a sublime feat he accomplished by sending his Son into the vineyard who, within the holy tabernacle of the Virgin Mary's womb, became man by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord Jesus assumed humanity in order to deify humanity; by assuming human flesh the Son of God re-created humanity through his redemptive suffering and death on the Roman cross. In Christ we become fully human as members of his one Body, our Lord who is "the way and the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6).

Therefore, as Vatican II teaches, "it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. . . . Christ the new Adam," continues the Council Fathers, "in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling" (Gaudium et spes 22).

In the Person of Jesus Christ we find every single answer to the question of who man is: for what he is created and for what he is destined; how he is to give, offer and receive; how he is to act and live and suffer and love. The Paschal Mystery is the paradigm of our life as fully human persons. We are to become "little Christs." The story of Jesus is to become the story of myself. The life of "I" as a person is to be merged into perfect union with the life of Christ as a member of his Body. It is in becoming one with the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth's life that we attain to the heights of the incomparable beauty and mystery of the Christian life as members of the divine family.

"Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him" -- Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospel of John (14:23).

Thus Advent is a time in which we brace ourselves for a divine experience. This experience does not equate to material prosperity; nor does it mean we are here and now freed from tension or tragedy or illness or sadness. It is an experience far beyond these things. It is a demanding experience of both sacrifice and love; one which is realized as we give Christ our "flesh," as Pope Benedict suggested in his statement above.

There is an ancient Roman proverb, audaces juvat fortuna: fortune favors the bold. The Christian life, one in union with the Paschal Mystery of Christ, requires a certain amount of courage. Yet we draw our strength from the Risen One who died for us and who never fails us. Therefore we have every reason to hope we shall attain our destiny:

"Advent, therefore, is a favorable time for the rediscovery of a hope that is not vague and deceptive but certain and reliable, because it is "anchored" in Christ, God made man, the rock of our salvation" -- Pope Benedict, First Sunday of Advent, 2007

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F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at catholicpathways.com

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