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UNWRAPPING THE ‘NEW YEAR’ OF FAITH. A reflection for the Ist. Sun. of Advent
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sun, 03 Dec 2017

In organising the civic year into her ‘liturgical’ seasons and by celebrating the word of God in the events of the life of Jesus within the cycles of the liturgical year, the Church gives witness to Christ in all times and for all seasons. Our ritual year rightly commences before the civic calendar in order to make it a year of grace. Advent it is, which opens the Church’s year; and “Adventus” (i.e. Latin: to come; coming) is the term from which ‘Advent’ derives. Everything about the advent-coming centres on, and should revolve around Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

There is a two-fold character entrenched in the ‘coming’ which our Advent liturgy proclaims. First, Advent makes us ready for Christmas when Christ’s birth or first coming to us is remembered and relived. Second, Advent seeks to direct our lives in such a way that we actively await Christ’s final coming in glory at the Parousia. This is where the readings chosen during Advent become quite instructive.

Away from the legal language of Leviticus into the majestic poetry of prophecy, no one else unwraps the Advent season in the way that Isaiah does it. The words of prophecy invite us to be transformed, not only by the creative use of language, but through the intense voice which prophet Isaiah here provides for his dis-spirited people. There was then, a return to God who is ‘our father’: “Oh, that you would tear the heavens and come down...; You are the potter and we are the clay, why do you let us wander away from you.” (Is 63:19; 64:7)

All other alternatives had been exhausted. Israel was no longer in the habit of running after foreign powers, their idols or gods/goddesses for protection. They saw their true place, and spoke of themselves in the right manner. There was therefore, a willingness to allow God to shape them into the people and nation God intended them to be. This outburst of ancient Israel, nearing the end of a gruesome exile in Babylon, expresses an absolute longing and waiting for the Lord. Today, their words of penitence and repentance provide us the insight into the renewal that Advent demands from us.

From the prophetic voice of the Old Testament in its prayer for a saviour, we relive the voice of Jesus, challenging us to stay awake and remain alert. Interestingly, the disciples of the Messiah had inquired of him, when his second coming and the end of the world would be? They were right to be looking forward to the ‘Parousia’. But, in addressing the ‘readiness parable’ to them, Jesus equally addresses us to, ‘Stay awake’ for today, because ‘you do not know when the master is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn...; he must not find you asleep’ (Mk 13:35).

We cannot confine the joyful hopes of Advent to the past, or postpone our responsibility for Christ’s second coming to the unseen future. Each single moment of today’s waiting should have its eternal significance for us. In ways you do not expect contains the revelation that the most effective and practical way of realising this Advent season is to accept that Christ comes daily to us, and demands our response of daily opening ourselves and our hearts in a personal way to him.

We must be on our guard especially, of cheating Jesus of his own festival. The greatest guard to be against, is the one of joining any self-professed enemies of Jesus, who claim that ‘Christ’ has been removed from his ‘mass’; and that other reasons outside of Jesus – like holidays, have become the reason for Advent and Christmas. Against this false claim, prepare for Christ: the sole meaning for the season.

 

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