Second Sunday of Advent
Each Saturday at Lauds during the penitential periods of the year, we monks are treated to the second canticle of Moses, otherwise known as the Canticle of Deuteronomy, which you will find in ch. 32 of the Book of Deuteronomy. The canticle is a long meditation on the marvellous deeds of God towards His chosen people, but mixed with reminders of all its failings, and what happens to it when it turns away from God. One can easily apply it to oneself, passing in review all the wonderful things God has done for each of us, and humbly acknowledging that all too often we have acted as the Hebrews did, like spoiled children, unconscious of so many divine benefits and ungrateful for having been saved from so many ills.
But the canticle of course has first of all a literal meaning, and many of its utterances seem to apply uncannily to us today. They provoked him by strange gods, and stirred him up to anger, with their abominations. They sacrificed to devils and not to God: to gods whom they knew not: that were newly come up, whom their fathers worshipped not. Thou hast forsaken the God that begot thee, and hast forgotten the Lord that created thee. (Dt 32:16-18).
So God is clearly upset and hurt when His own children turn their backs on Him and run off to idols. What are our idols today? What false gods do we worship? There are a number. But the worst of them all, and the source of the others, is no doubt the religious indifferentism which is all-pervasive in our society. It consists essentially in considering that one religion is as good as another, that having no religion is as good as having a religion, that each person is entitled to absolute freedom of choice in what they will be believe or not believe and what or whom they will worship or not worship. This is sometimes presented as having been taught by the Second Vatican Council. Let’s be clear: The Council taught nothing of the sort. It taught with great clarity that there is but one God, and one True Religion which all must enter in order to be saved, and it restated the traditional teaching of the Church on the duty of States towards the one True Religion.
Returning to our canticle, it goes on: The Lord saw, and was moved to wrath: because his own sons and daughters provoked him. And he said: I will hide my face from them, and will consider what their last end shall be: for it is a perverse generation, and unfaithful children. They have provoked me with that which was no god, and have angered me with their vanities: and I will provoke them with that which is no people, and will vex them with a foolish nation (Dt 32:19-21).
Amazing: ungrateful children provoke God by going and prostituting themselves to false gods, and what does God do? You provoked me with “no god”; well, I will provoke you with that which is a “no people”. In the context what God is saying is that since they went off to worship one that is no god at all but has the appearance of a god, they will be punished with a people that is no people but which has the appearance of being a people. This brings to mind the observation of St Augustine, that a people that does not obey the natural law is no people at all, but simply a gathering of brigands.
So what is so uncanny about it? What is uncanny is that today we de facto find ourselves under the rule of brigands, people who hold power but for whom the natural law does not exist, and who by consequence arrogate to themselves the power to change the sacred laws received from tradition, and thus lead our world, step by step, into the dark, dismal abyss of anarchy.
The canticle goes on: They are a nation void of counsel, and without wisdom. O that they would be wise and would understand, and would provide for their last end (Dt 32:28-29)
A nation void of counsel: We have before our very eyes an example of the most extreme folly, so extreme that it defies belief. Men and women endowed with the authority of a nation who are not red with shame at deciding against the wisdom, not of a few decades or centuries, but of millennia, of the entirety of human history, as if all of a sudden we, in the 21st century are wise enough and smart enough and clever enough and courageous enough to kill the right people at the right time. We alone of all generations since the beginning of time can trust ourselves to deciding who can live and who is ready to die. The arrogance, the sheer stupidity of it really does defy belief. And yet it is happening before our very eyes. Thou art a nation devoid of counsel, a nation of fools. The mere sight of it is pathetic. If it does not move to tears, then something is seriously wrong with us too. That is the bad news of today’s world. Now for the good news.
Amidst so many evils, God does not abandon His people. He takes no delight in punishing, but He knows that it is sometimes what we need. He punishes His people by handing them over for a time to its enemies, but in the end He will chastise those enemies themselves. The canticle continues: The Lord will judge his people, and will have mercy on his servants: he shall see that their hand is weakened, and that they who were shut up have also failed, and they that remained are consumed. And he shall say: Where are their gods, in whom they trusted? (Dt 32:36-37). Yes, one day, we will wake up from our torpor, but probably not before having wiped out half of humanity. We will rise and turn back to our God, for we will realise that we had run off after a “no god” and were punished by a “no people”. And on that day He will turn back to us. Today we chant in the offertory verse: Deus tu conversus vivificabis nos – God will turn and give us life. He will turn Himself to us when we have turned ourselves away from idols.
And that is not all. The Lord announces to us the joy of His coming, joy which we will reflect more upon next week, but which really fills the entire time of Advent. The Lord is coming! And if His coming with power and majesty should rightly frighten us, that coming is also one that should fill those who love Him with immense joy. The Lord is coming. The Lord is coming! He will soon be here, and He will restore all things. If we love Him, if He is our all, then His return imminent return should give us great joy.
People of Sion, behold the Lord will come and save thee, we sang at the Introit. The people of Sion, that is to say the people who have not turned their back on God, who have turned away from false gods, who have not discarded or distorted the commandments. He will come and save those who listen to His prophet clothed in camel’s skin and eating locusts, that is to say, the one who lives a humble, mortified life, who is prepared to stand up to the modern Hitlers who parade under the guise of democracy and hide their perversity behind the cloak of the Vox populi, but in reality are like the reed shaken by every wind.
The people of Sion are those who stand firm with Christ amidst persecution, and merit to hear that word of the Lord: Blessed are you when men persecute and revile you, when they throw your name out as if it were something evil. Rejoice on that day, for your reward will be very great in Heaven. The people of Sion are those who look to the Daughter of Sion, the Immaculate Virgin, who hide themselves under her immaculate mantle, who strive to imitate her virtues, and who take part in her victory over Satan.
See ye that I alone am, and there is no other God besides me: I will kill and I will make to live: I will strike, and I will heal, and there is none that can deliver out of my hand… Praise his people, ye nations, for he will revenge the blood of his servants: and will render vengeance to their enemies, and he will be merciful to the land of his people (Dt 32:39, 43)