Prepare ye the way of the Lord.
The musical Godspell had many catchy songs, one of which was the above, Prepare ye the way of the Lord. This was the vocation of St. John the Baptist whose life was dedicated to the One who will come after, the promised Messiah. When John was asked “who he was”, he was definite that he was not the Messiah. He knew that his ministry would be superseded by the One greater than he. “I baptize in water” but He will “baptize in the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 1. 21 - 26, 33).
In his ministry John uttered one of the most important truths for living the Christian life, “He must increase but I must decrease” (Jn. 3. 30). This is an excellent start for us who want to take the time each day for meditation and grow in our knowledge and love of that promised Messiah.
As this book begins with Advent it presents a preparation for the great feast of our dear Saviour’s coming at Christmas that culminates with Midnight Mass. That way we can kneel in adoration and awe at the crib after that wonderful Midnight Mass and welcome the holy Infant as the humble shepherds did on that first Christmas night.
Advent is a time of hope and anticipation, not a time for partying. It is also a time for letting God mould us more in His image. He is the potter and we are but clay. Let Him shape us this Advent as we surrender ourselves into His hand and be content with this. Then we shall look forward to Christmas with great joy as that precious moment in time when God’s plan for man’s redemption came to fruition with the birth of the Christ Child.
Christ took upon Him our earthiness in order that we might be fashioned like God. As St. Anthony of Padua reminds us, “Christ’s love for us so bound him to us, that it motivated him to descend down to our wretchedness, as if he could not have lived in heaven without us.” Thus we have the Twelve Days of Christmas in which to celebrate this most wonderful event. As well as looking forward to greeting the Christ Child, Advent also enables us to look forward to meeting Christ as our King and Judge. On that Last Day we shall be judged on how much we have loved God by serving others. Christ will also claim His kingdom as His own and His rule will be complete. If that expectant flame has died “down in our sleeping hearts” then it “must be revived at all costs. At all costs we must renew in ourselves the desire and hope for the great coming,” wrote Pierre De Chardin. Advent is thus a time for us to ponder on our whole dependency on God, for without Him we are nothing. There is “really not one true thought or good feeling” we can have without Him. There are no good works without Him. We even cannot “drive away ... any sinful feeling or any inclination to vice” without Him. “It is the Lord who accomplishes every good thing” we ever “think, feel and do.” Of course we cannot think of Advent without a word about prayer. It is the living water to quench each soul. It is the “golden link” which connects the “wanderer and stranger upon earth with the spiritual world ... [and] with God, the source of life.” Without it our real selves wither and die, and there is no kernel to life. Advent Sunday begins with its readings beckoning us to come to God’s holy mountain. So let us ascend the mountain. Here God calls us to a place of quietness where we can linger with Him and leave behind everything that hinders our union with Him, and our understanding of His kingdom. Here we seek only God, of being with Him, of loving Him and above all to learn more about Him and His will for us. Father John of Kronstadt assures us that “the best moments on earth are those in which we meditate upon heavenly things, or when we recognise and defend the truth, which is of, and from, the heavens.” Or, as the Psalmist expressed it, “one day in his court is better than a thousand” elsewhere (Ps. 84. 10).
During the last week or so of Advent the “O” Antiphons based on passages from the Old Testament prepare us for the imminent arrival of the promised Messiah. Emmanuel has come to redeem his people Israel. Now the appointed time has come. Gabriel’s announcement to Mary becomes a reality. On that holiest of all nights, what were her thoughts? She had been told by the archangel that the son she conceived would be the Son of God. As she wrapped and held him in her arms for that very first time, would her thoughts have been much different from any other mother holding her first born - overcome with the mystery and wonder of it all?
The Christmas season with its commemoration of martyrs during it, reminds us that even as Christ slept in the crib the shadow of the cross lay over it. Ahead lay Calvary to complete our salvation. This season ends with Epiphany as Christ is manifested to the magi, representing the Gentiles, followed by His baptism. Afterwards until Ash Wednesday the Church keeps Ordinary Time.
Forty days after Christmas the Church celebrates Candlemas when the Child is presented in the temple and His mother is purified. This feast is a bridge joining Christmas with Calvary and the empty tomb. Let the readings speak to you personally. The daily reflections are like a springboard to engage the reader in deeper contemplation and prayer. That is the prime aim of this book.
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