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Be Vigilant and pray: Congregation for the Clergy on the First Sunday of Advent

By Congregation for the Clergy
December 2nd, 2012
Catholic Online (

How do we prepare ourselves for this Day?  How can we live this time of waiting without anguish or fear? How do we live this time enjoying the abundance of love of which the Apostle speaks

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - "Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man" (Lk 21:36)  Christ's recommendation introduces us to Advent, the Church's new Liturgical Year and a time of grace in which we will be guided to meet, to know and to recognise the Mystery! 

The Mystery that, in less than a month, we will adore as a Child in the arms of a young Israelite, the Blessed and ever Virgin Mary.

Why, at the dawn of this new Year of grace, does the Church make us listen to such a Gospel passage?  In fact, the Lord Jesus addressed us in a way that, to many, would seem to have little to do with the delicacy and harmony of the Christmas Mystery. 

They are words that, if we take them seriously, would 'terrorise' us because they herald the end of the things of this world and therefore the end those daily things to which we pay care and attention.  They are words that remind us that the end of time, which is known to God alone, will come like a trap that "will assail everyone who lives on the face of the earth."  (Lk 21:35) 

What does this indicate to us?  "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."(Lk 21:27)  At that moment, everything that was just a "reflection" will fade to leave room for the true Light!  The shadows will give way to Day, time will give way to Eternity, and our hearts will always remain exactly as they were at the moment before all this happened. 

If you were directed to the Light, you will be delivered from all your troubles and will belong only to Christ, in the eternal embrace of the Paradise.  If, instead -and God forbid that this is the case-, you had turned to the "reflection", rather than the Light source from where the reflection originated, when Son of Man appears, you will be covered in shadow and so will not welcome Christ's merciful embrace.

How do we prepare ourselves for this Day?  How can we live this time of waiting without anguish or fear? How do we live this time enjoying the abundance of love of which the Apostle speaks: "May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones." (1 Thess 3:12)  

How do we live like this?  Let us listen once more to the words of our Saviour:  "Be vigilant at all times and pray." (Lk 21:36)  The Lord indicates the way:  to be vigilant and to pray!

Firstly, He calls us to be "vigilant" in every moment which means to say "awake".  In what way?  Within the Church there are monks and nuns, men and women, who "materially" "keep vigil" by sacrificing hours of sleep to devote themselves to prayer in the middle of the night and thus intercede for all men. 

In addition, there are many precious hidden lives who offer their prayers and sufferings and are like "flames of faith" in the darkness that keep that kind of vigil to which Christ calls us.  The one who keeps a vigil doesn't sleep, nor does he live a life that is enclosed in himself and therefore separated from reality.  The one who keeps vigil lives without fleeing real life, even if, at times, this means welcoming sorrowful or undesirable events.  

Moreover, Christ shows us how to keep vigil:  by praying!  Praying helps us to look at the heart of reality, to the Mystery from whom all things were made and towards whom all things tend and so we make a vigil by imploring Him who "comes" to us.  In prayer we encounter the Mystery that shows us His face and takes us by the hand.

No artificial dream, or no pale reflection and no false concern can really match the intimate desire of our hearts.

Let us keep vigilant and pray!  In this way we will be counted amongst those that will hear the Angel's words: "I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David a saviour has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord." (Lk 2:10-11)  Then we will be taken by the Shepherds to the manger in Bethlehem where we can immerge our hearts in the contemplation of the Mystery made into a Child. 

With that Child we can grow and entrust ourselves to Him, without ever losing sight of Him until the day on which He will come in His Glory, with all the Saints, and take us to be with Him forever. 

Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was the first amongst all creatures to live this daily prayerful wait, for the grace not to become weighed down with the drunkenness and cares of this life (c.f Lk 21:34) but to become solid and holy before our God and Father, upon  the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (c.f 1 Thess 3:13)  Amen!

Citations of:

Jr 33,14-16:    
1Th 3,12-4,2:  
Lk 21,25-28.34-36: 

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