1st Sunday of Advent
Keep watch, the Lord is near. Such is the great lesson of this season of Advent into which we enter today – a season of preparation, of watchfulness, of penance, of intensified prayer, a time of grace which is given to us to make ready the way of the Lord.
During this time the Church celebrates three comings of the Lord. The first was that of His coming in the lowliness of the flesh He had assumed. It took place 2,000 years ago, and is relived each year at Christmas. This coming, in humilitate carnis assumptae, is the subject of the Church’s meditation throughout the liturgical year. It is also the favourite subject of contemplation of the saints. St Ignatius in particular gives us some precious insight as to how to unite ourselves with those mysteries through imaginative contemplation. These saving events of our history will never be exhausted in their capacity to bring us light to know how to serve God and grace to achieve it.
The second coming evoked by Advent is the final coming of Our Lord at the end of time, that unknown day, which looms closer and closer, that dies irae, on which the heavens will be moved and the earth transformed, and the Son of Man, who had first come in humility, will now come in the power and majesty of His Divine Sonship to judge the living and the dead and to inaugurate His eternal reign. The whole of the life of the Church is placed between these two comings. We look back at the first with gratitude and affection. We look forward to the second with fear and trembling, but also, if we are friends of Jesus, with joyful anticipation.
But there is a third advent celebrated during this time of the year, and that is the advent of grace in our souls. We are invited to consider how God reaches out to us here and now. We can lovingly contemplate how He has come into our lives, bringing the gift of faith through baptism, offering the gift of spiritual healing and forgiveness through the sacrament of penance, the most sublime gift of all which is His own Body and Blood in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and more generally, the gift of inspirations to fulfil His will. In this sense, the coming of the Lord is an ongoing event, according to the mystery of His love, pouring forth grace in untold ways into the lives of those who truly seek Him.
Advent is also a time to consider the countless souls out there to whom Christ longs to come – the legions of souls who do not know Him, or having known Him have abandoned Him, souls without God and without purpose in life, blown around by every wind of false teaching and self-seeking. Advent is the time to plead with God to be Emmanuel – God with us – for all these souls. When we pray, for example: Veni ad liberandum nos, Domine Deus Virtutum – Come to set us free, Lord God of Hosts –, we can apply this verse to those who are trapped in the prison of error, of self-seeking, of idolatry. We can beg the Lord Jesus to come to them, to open up the floodgates of His grace to them, that they may see and come to the light and be saved.
We know from the prophet Habacuc (ch. 3) that God will come from the south – Deus ab Austro veniet. Let us ask Him that the humble beginnings of our community may truly be a grace here in the south of the world. My His glory cover the heavens and the earth be full of His praise, may His splendour be as the light, that light which enlightens every man who comes into the world.
Let us ask Mary Immaculate, whose novena we are now offering up in preparation for her coming solemnity, to smile down once again on our fledgling community, so that the trickle of grace now flowing from it, may become a torrens in Austro, a torrent of grace flooding all the lands of this island and all of Australia, bringing the light of truth, the joy of faith, the certitude that God is indeed with us. Let us also ask her for the grace to be touched by the plight of so many souls who are in the dark, so that no one may ever meet us without receiving a bit of the light of Christ, and being made ready for the coming of the Lord.
To thee we lift up our souls, O Lord, we wait for Thee, for none of those who wait for Thee shall be put to shame. Come, Emmanuel, and be with us forever.