See the Lord coming from afar; His splendor fills the earth (Antiphon, Evening Prayer Advent Week 1).
Rejoice! The sacred season of Advent has begun! As Holy Mass was celebrated for the First Sunday in Advent, we began a new year. This New Year’s celebration was not heralded with the din of pop-stars bellowing, nor glitzy ball-drops; no noise-makers, champagne, nor party streamers were utilized in celebration. For much of the secular world, this salient transition passed without notice. Yet, for members of the Body of Christ, the initiation of the new Liturgical Year is significant. As the old year passes away, the new begins – pregnant with promise and possibility. The First Reading for Holy Mass on the First Sunday of Advent was from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah:
The days are coming says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the House of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot, he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall be secure; this is what they shall call her: “The Lord our justice (Jeremiah 33: 14-16).”
Thus, we embark on a journey of faith. Over the next four weeks we are called to prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In an authentic manner we are invited to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ in two distinct ways; both the arrival of the Infant King, and the return of the Just Judge. For the first two weeks of Advent, we focus upon the Apocryphal coming of Christ, the Parousia, and thus, we prepare our hearts for the ultimate encounter with the Risen King. During the second two weeks, our focus shifts toward the birth of the Incarnate Word, and the salvific power of the Birth of Divine Love.
This week’s Gospel Reading directs our hearts to prepare for the return of Our Savior as Just Judge:
Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, and on the earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.
Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36).
Each and every human person will one day stand before the throne of God. We will be judged. Whether we believe we will one day be held accountable for our lives is truly irrelevant: the judgment will occur whether we believe in it or not. Scripture affirms that there will be a particular judgment at the moment of death, and later – after the second coming of Christ – there will be a Last Judgment. The Book of Life will be opened in the presence of all the assembled nations of the world, and Jesus will separate those whose have embraced His Merciful Love, and whose deeds have permitted them to spend Eternity comprehending the Beatific Vision, from those who have willingly rejected His Love, and who will spend Eternity in the absence of God.
I don’t know about you, but every time I truly contemplate standing before the Throne of Almighty God, I become acutely aware of the deficits in my own character. I experience a keen sense of contrition, and resolve to amend my life. I find it to be a veritable speed bump on the road of life. Advent offers each of us the opportunity for a “progress check.” We are each invited to contemplate Eternity, and to make the corrections that are necessary. It is as if we switch on a Celestial Global Positions System (CGPS) focused toward Heaven, listen to the directions, and make those U-turns that are indicated.
During this First Week of Advent, we are called to embrace Sunday’s Readings, as well as those of daily Mass. We are invited to take stock of our present situation, and make genuine resolutions that will lead to progress along the path of life, and begin the journey anew.
Safe Travels and Blessed Liturgical New Year,
Ad Jesum per Mariam,