As the first season of the new liturgical year, Advent possesses a twofold character. Having just ended the liturgical year celebrating the solemnity of Jesus Christ reigning over the universe in glory, we begin the cycle again with a dynamic thrust into preparing for our glorious King’s return. At the same time, since we are beginning another year ordered to the historical life of the Savior, we look back and remember the first coming of Our Lord, not in manifested majesty but in simplicity. By understanding this first coming, we properly prepare for the coming of Christ at the end of time.
Of that first coming, the angels cried, “Gloria in excelsis Deo!” We, humble followers of Christ, pray, “O great mystery, that the Second Person of the Divine Trinity should choose to live among us, taking upon himself our fallen human nature, should fill us with awe. O great mystery, that the Lord of the Universe does not come in manifest glory but rather in the silence and simplicity of a newborn child. Who would recognize the Savior of the world in such a guise as this?”
As the salvific plan of God, known from all eternity, was revealed to mankind, we were caught off guard by the love and wisdom of God. We are dumbfounded in the presence of the simplicity of God’s glory. When Joseph and Mary brought the Christ Child to the Temple, only two people recognized the Messiah while everyone else passed him by: two just Israelites who kept vigil in the Temple day and night waiting for the salvation of Israel. As the psalmist sings:
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Our Lord comes in simplicity. He constantly presents himself to us, in prayer and contemplation, works of mercy, and, most especially, in the Mass. As we prepare to celebrate the mystery of the coming of the Son of God in the flesh, he wants to give himself to us even more, but will we recognize him? If we do not recognize him now as he presents himself to us, will we recognize him as our Savior and Redeemer at the end of time when he comes in the full revelation of his glory? May we spend this Advent in silence and contemplation, recognizing Jesus Christ working in our lives and preparing us for his coming in glory.
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (used with permission)