Advent has always been one of my favorite times of year growing up as a child. I remember being taught how to light the Advent candles and their significance and symbolism in the Advent wreath in St. Sylvester’s Catholic School in Staten Island, NY. I remember the rich symbolism of the different colors along with the biblical lessons learned from the “Jesse Tree” or the charitable witness of the Advent “giving trees.” It is a season so overlooked in today’s modern world, not just by the “secular” society, but also unfortunately by many in the Church today, including clergy. In a world caught up in frenzied activity and busyness, the season of waiting makes no sense. In order to understand the importance of Advent, one must understand the importance of humility and the beauty of waiting for something special. In a world of “instant gratification,” to wait for something seems pointless. As a matter of fact, it can feel down right irritating and a waste of good, valuable, productive, earning time. Advent is a season to wait, ponder, reflect, and to be ready and vigilant. But, wait for what or for whom?
Advent is truly about preparing for the “two comings of Christ” which is reflected in today’s preface at Holy Mass: the coming of Christ in the flesh (Incarnation and Christmas) and the second coming of our savior (the escaton). He came in History (Christmas), He comes in Mystery (the sacraments) and He will come in Majesty (His Second Coming.)
The first reading at Holy Mass is from (who else) the prophet Isaiah and he talks about the love our Father has for us and our desperate need for Him, so that we do not get hardened hearts and stray form Him. Isaiah is asking God to “rend the heavens and come down,” because we are waiting for you. This reading from Isaiah reminds me of the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 8:19-24 when Paul tells us all creation groans in labor pains, not only creation but we “ourselves groan inwardly as we await as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Even the Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 80) asks God to rouse His power “and come to save us.” One of the most beautiful songs during Advent is “O Come Emmanuel” and states that we are a people in exile who need to be ransomed, captive Israel. The gospel reminds us to be patient, watchful, vigilant and alert for we do not know when he is coming!
In his beautiful catechesis, “Theology of the Body,” St. John Paul II quotes St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 8:19-24, about awaiting with Advent-like inner groaning for the redemption of our bodies, in no less than twenty audiences. This “redemption of the body” will only take place when Christ comes again. All the desires and cravings of our hearts can only be satisfied, not by twinkle lights and presents, but only by the one who is the Light of the world and the greatest gift to the world-Jesus Christ. Our infinite cravings and desires cannot be satisfied by finite, earthly things but only by the one Isaiah (His 1st Coming) and St. Paul (His 2nd Coming) are waiting for-the Christ. We are helpless in the sense that we cannot will our own total happiness and certainly cannot will the redemption of our bodies and we cannot control Christ’s Second Coming and this teaches how helpless we truly are. We need the Father and the redeemer, Jesus Christ to “rend the heavens” come down to us and let “us see Your face and we shall be saved.” “O Come Emmanuel and ransom us-captive Israel.” Have a blessed and prayerful Advent season, a season of holy preparation and humble waiting. Amen.
by Fr. Tom DeSimone