You were destined, it is written, in time to come
to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD,
To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons,
and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob.
Blessed is he who shall have seen you
and who falls asleep in your friendship. 3
Because Christmas falls on Monday this year, the Advent season is very short. In fact the Church begins the final rush to the feast tomorrow with the special O-antiphons. (We'll not hear Saint Matthew's majestic genealogy of Jesus this year because Sunday takes precedence.)
These first two weeks of Advent have been the prophets' time, especially for Elijah, Isaiah and John the Baptist. This has been time for the Sacrament of Penance, atonement and making amends. This was the time to prepare the way of the Lord and to put an end to wrath. Entering the last eight days of Advent, our hearts are rested and ready to greet the Christ.
Our responsorial psalm is a heartfelt prayer, "
This is a familiar prayer in the Bible,
- I am just—let me see your face; when I awake, let me be filled with your presence. Psalm 17:15
- Many say, “May we see better times! LORD, show us the light of your face!” Psalm 4: 7
- Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your mercy. Psalm 31:17
- May God be gracious to us and bless us; may his face shine upon us. Psalm 67:2
- The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace! Numbers 6:25
- Now, our God, hear the prayer and petition of your servant; and for your own sake, Lord, let your face shine upon your desolate sanctuary. Daniel 9:17
It doesn't take much imagination to see that prayer fulfilled by the cherubic face of the Infant Jesus Christ.
I was struck recently by a passage in the Second Letter of Peter. He breaks down the process of meeting Jesus into several steps:"For this very reason, make every effort to
- supplement your faith with virtue,
- virtue with knowledge,
- knowledge with self-control,
- self-control with endurance,
- endurance with devotion,
- devotion with mutual affection,
- mutual affection with love.
- If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:5-8)
As the Apostle Peter explains it, the knowledge of Our Lord Jesus Christ -- i.e. seeing him face to face -- comes as we surrender to this eight-step discipline. There is much to be said for the children's crowding around the creche on Christmas Eve -- Who can miss the resemblance between their shining faces and his? -- but to know the Lord we must engage in love, mutual affection, devotion, endurance and so forth.
In other words, we must belong to that insufferable community, the Church.
As an introvert I must be reminded of that often. It's so much easier not to attend that meeting, offer time, talent and treasure to help out, or waste time in fellowship with others.
"With God, all things are possible!" the Angel Gabriel assured the Virgin Mary. Or, as other saints have repeatedly told us, "With love the impossible is easy; without love, the easy is impossible." There is still time to make amends, atone and repent before the Coming of the Lord.