The Lord is Coming!…

Tapiz

‘Waiting’ by Unknown Artist

First Sunday of Advent

The Lord is coming; I place myself in His presence and go to meet Him with all the energy of my will…

“The Name of the Lord cometh from afar…I look from afar, and behold I see the power of God coming…Go out to meet Him, and say, ‘Tell us if You are He who shall rule…'” These words are taken from today’s liturgy, and in reply, it invites us, “Come, let us adore the King, the Lord who is coming!…” 

This coming was expected for long ages; it was foretold by the prophets, and desired by all the just who were not granted to see its dawn. The Church commemorates and renews this expectation with each recurring Advent, expressing this longing to the Savior who is to come. The desire of old was sustained solely by hope, but it is now a confident desire,  founded on the consoling reality, renewed in ever deeper and fuller reality in every Christian soul. The spirit of the Advent liturgy, commemorating the age-long expectation of the Redeemer, will prepare us to celebrate the mystery of the Word made Flesh by arousing in each one of us and intimate, personal expectation of the renewed coming of Christ to our soul.  This coming is accomplished by grace; to the degree in which grace develops and matures in us, it becomes more copious, more penetrating, until it transforms the soul into an alter Christus. Advent is a season of waiting and of fervent longing for the Redeemer: “Drop down dew, ye heavens, and let the clouds rain the Just One!”    

O sweetest Jesus, You come to me with Your infinite love and the abundance of Your grace; You desire to engulf my soul in torrents of mercy and charity in order to draw it to You. Come, O Lord, come! I, too, wish to run to You with love, but alas! my love is so limited, weak, and imperfect! Make it strong and generous; enable me to overcome myself, so that I can give myself entirely to You, Yes, my love can become strong because “its foundation is the intimate certainty that it will be repaid by the love of God. O Lord, I cannot doubt Your tenderness, because You have given me proofs of it in so many ways, with the sole purpose of convincing me of it. Therefore, trusting in Your love, my weak love will become strong with Your strength. What a consolation it will be, O Lord, at the moment of death to think that we shall be judged by Him whom we have loved above all things! Then we can enter Your presence with confidence, despite the weight of our offenses!”
O Lord, give me love like this! I desire it ardently… My poor soul needs You so much! It sighs for You as for a compassionate physician, who alone can heal its wounds, draw it out of its languor and tepidity, and infuse into it new vigor, new enthusiasm, new life. Come Lord, come! I am ready to welcome Your work with a docile, humble heart, ready to let myself be healed, purified, and strengthened by You. Yes, with Your help, I will make any sacrifice, renounce everything that might hinder Your redeeming work in me. Show Your power, O Lord, and come!
Come, delay no longer!

~ An Advent Meditation by Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. 

Faith & Doubt

"DOUBT NOT, THOMAS" BY KIRK RICHARDS.

Art by Kirk Richards, ‘Doubt Not, Thomas’

What is faith? What does it mean to have it or lack it?

Faith is a profound mystery that we can never adequately explain. It is an interplay between divine grace and the human mind and will. We are speaking of Christian faith, and that is faith in Jesus Christ as the incarnate Word of God.
The object of our Christian faith is the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

Faith is never a mere intellectual assent but always involves commitment. It is always in action, more a verb than a noun. Faith cannot be one facet or a particular aspect of my life, but my whole life. As St. Paul says, “My real life is the faith I have in the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself for me.”

It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to believe…”No one can come to me except the Father draw him”… but we must cooperate with all our powers. And this means we must “labor for the food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). “This is the labor of God that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29).
What can be more important?

Many people think they have no faith because they feel they haven’t. They do not realize that they must make a choice to believe, take the risk of believing, of committing themselves and setting themselves to live out the commitment.
Never mind that they continue to feel that they do not believe. Under cover of being “authentic” we can spend our lives waiting for the kind of certainty we cannot have.

What, then, is doubt?

I do not see how we can talk of faith if we eliminate the possibility of doubt. We cannot have the certainties that our nature craves and finds in the evidence of the senses. Perhaps most of the time we do not advert to doubt, but at times it can press heavily. As far as I am concerned, troublesome feelings of doubt seem a matter of the imagination failing to cope. Although we have no scientific verification for what we believe, there is nothing irrational in Christian faith but an enormous amount of data to support it.

In times of difficulty my anchorage is the Gospels. There I encounter Christ, “Light most beautiful,” who overcomes the darkness of doubt. My faith is essentially faith in Jesus Christ: “You are truth. Your word is truth and what is troubling me is a lie.” I believe that there comes a point when a person is so held by God that, no matter how assaulted that person may be, faith stands firm, for “no one can snatch them from the hand of my Father” (John 10:29).

~ A Reflection by Sister Rachel of the Carmelite community in Norfolk, UK

What is Prayer?

A Birthday from 'The Poems of Christina Rossetti' illus. Emma Florence Harrison:

Illustration Art by Emma Florence Harrison

Prayer is the breath and manifestation of the Spirit of love, and it finds its perfect expression in the Blessed Trinity. All genuine prayer has its source in the life of the Triune God.

If prayer is the breathing of the soul, and love its pulsation, we may conclude that love is the source of prayer. Furthermore, genuine love refers to the selfless love that seeks the happiness of others and is not distorted by selfish passion or attachment. “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Cor 13:4-8).

Such love, true and eternal, cannot have merely human origin. “Love is from God.” says John the Apostle (1 Jn 4:7). In the New Testament the word used for this love is agape (which differentiates it from eros). St. Paul does not use agape to designate human love for God; he uses the phrase “to love God” only twice (Rm 8:28; 1 Cor 8:3). The Christian love we call agape is essentially God’s love for us manifested in Christ. Subsequently, this divine love that is transformed into love of neighbor is also agape. It is God’s love translated into action that permeates the entire Gospel, from first line to last.

If we are capable of loving, it is because “God first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). When we say, “I want to pray,”  it is God who prays in us. It seems easier for us to say, “God loves” than “God prays.” Yet, as St. Paul says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom 8:26).

 The word prayer generally evokes the image of petitions made to God, as in the second part of the Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer. Yet hasn’t God made it clear that before we pray for our “daily bread” we should first ask, “Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come”? Is not the petition “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” God’s will for the establishment of his kingdom on earth, as well as an indication that the kernel of all prayer should be, before all else, a petition for God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness (Mt 6:33)?

Viewed in this light, the heart of prayer lies not in God’s response to our petitions but in making God’s will our prayer. In other words, God’s prayer should become the soul of our prayer. Because of our deafness and blindness, God’s voice is often inaudible, so we lose sight of him and become like wandering sheep. We need, then, to pray for knowledge of God’s will and for strength enlivened by God’s prayer. Such is genuine prayer.

Figuratively speaking, prayer may be compared to water. God’s prayer is the rain that comes from heaven. The land watered by this rain represents humanity. The water absorbed by the land forms an underground current that eventually surfaces as a spring. Our prayer is the spring whose very existence depends on the rain, but if there is to be a spring, there must also be a heart, that like the earth is capable of receiving and retaining the water from heaven, a heart that has emptied itself sufficiently to allow the underground current to flow freely into its empty space. In a heart that is hardened, attached to its own judgement, the spring of prayer will never be allowed to emerge. The basis of true prayer is to make God’s will really ours before seeking to fulfill our own desires.

The seed of prayer is sown in heaven.
It pushes its stem toward the earth 
and comes to grow there.
It produces an abundance of fruit.
Then, as it becomes seed once more,
it thrusts its way back to heaven.
~ Jukichi Yagi

~ An excerpt from the book ‘Awakening to Prayer’, by Augustine Ichiro Okumura, OCD