On this bleak winter evening, during the darkest time of our calendar year, on this 12th day of December in the 2015th year of our Lord, our small community of monastic women has gathered in this sacred place to chant praises to the God who created us, who came to dwell among us, who reigns now in heaven and who will come again one day to call us into His kingdom. Before us hangs the reminder of the price by which this victory for us was won. To our right burn three of the four candles of our Advent wreath, each symbolically reminding us of a thousand years of patient longing borne by our forebears in awaiting the coming of our Savior. The third candle glows in the joyful color rose as the time of fulfillment draws nearer, both for our forebears and for us, for we too are in Advent, the coming of our great God. And we are to lift our heads and rejoice. Gaudete! * Of all the liturgical season, Advent is the most encompassing and clearest synopsis of our faith, for in the words of theologian Karl Rahner, Christianity is Advent, for our God is forever coming.
Outside the walls and silence of this chapel, there is the clamor of war and violence in all too many parts of our world. Even in the blessed abundance of our land, people are suspicious of one another, stockpiling weapons to protect themselves or kill one another. Leaders of nations are beginning to realize that through the abuse of our planet and its resources, our common home and even humanity itself is in danger of becoming an endangered species, like the thousands of species who have already become extinct due primarily through our plunder or neglect.
At the same time, scientists are discovering an ever expanding universe with new galaxies continually coming into being and others being swallowed in mysterious black holes as they seek to discover when and what was the driving force that has set this all in motion, holds it together and continues to develop.
How did human beings evolve as part of the development of the cosmos, for what reason, and in which direction is the human race headed? Both science and theology seek answers to the questions of why there are such aberrations in our environment and conflict among human beings so intricately and beautifully made. Why can we not live in peace and harmony with all life on this our common home?
Our Judaic-Christian faith tells us that with the coming of sin, death and evil came into our world, but that our God who out of love created all things good would never completely abandon us, but after a period of testing and trial, would one day come to redeem us.
Thus in tomorrow’s joyful mid-Advent liturgy, we will hear encouraging words from two of Israel’s ancient prophets who after years of preaching repentance to the Israelites could now assure them of God’s mercy: “Cry out with joy and gladness, for among you is the great and holy one of Israel” and “Fear not, Oh Zion, in your midst is a mighty Savior who will rejoice over you and renew you in his love.”
It was through the faithfulness and trust of this remnant of God’s chosen people, our forebears, that “when the fullness of time had come” God’s promise was fulfilled for us in the coming of the Messiah.
For weeks now, those words “when the fullness of time had come” have been resonating in my mind and I suggest that during Advent we might all ponder what they mean for us. As God’s redeemed children who through Christ’s death and resurrection and our faith have been granted the gift of eternal life, what constitutes for us earthlings “the fullness of time?”
When scientists postulate the origin of our earth and solar system as some 4.5 billion years ago; the existence of the first humans around 160, 000 to 200,000 years ago; the first written accounts of events in the Old Testament around 1,400 years B.C., the “fullness of time” of which we speak, when God our Creator chose to come and became one of us in order to save us occurred only some 2,000+ years or some 100 human generations ago.
Though we know that our universe is continually evolving and that the sun itself will one day burn itself out, the lifespan of a human being: “70 years or 80 for those who are strong“ is relatively miniscule and thus of extreme importance for us as it determines how we shall spend our eternity.
As we look at the situation of our world today, we can readily see that the forces working against God’s plan for the world’ s transformation are gaining ground and that the faith of many has grown dim. It is time for Christians to look deeply into our souls and discern if we are gathering with
Christ or scattering.
Our Holy Father has been demonstrating for us how today’s Christian is to relate to our world which truly resembles a battlefield of wounded souls. What will our answer be? We may plead that we are really too far removed from war zones, from the 69,000,000 homeless refugees or that we are too old, too poor, and too infirm to be of assistance, or we don’t know what we
should do. Similar questions were asked in by faithful followers of John the Baptist, Christ’s last prophet, as we heard in this Sunday’s Gospel passage from St. Luke. John’s answers were simple: be sincere in your dealings with one another and be satisfied with your lot. John’s response reminded me of a conversation I had last summer when visiting Father Datko. In his condition of being totally paralyzed from the waist down, he commented, “There is nothing I am able to do for anyone anymore except that I can smile and be kind to my caretakers.”
Let us remember: Our time is short. The Lord is near. Let us go out to meet Him. Our Advent prayer and our final life’s prayer should echo the last words of Revelation: “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Gaudete! Latin for “rejoice.”