Bulletin Column, November 29th, 2015
Dear Friends at Saint Frances Cabrini and Immaculate Conception Parishes:
Praised be Jesus Christ! Our entrance antiphon for this First Sunday of Advent is worth lingering over just a bit. It is chosen from Psalm 25: “To you, I lift up my soul, O my God, In you, I have trusted; let me not be put to shame. Nor let my enemies exult over me; and let none who hope in you be put to shame.”
The antiphons that we have for our celebrations, especially in the high seasons like Advent, often come down to us from ancient days in the Roman liturgy, and they communicate very intentionally the key themes or ideas that the Christian community is to make our own as we move throughout the year. This Sunday is no exception.
For each of the years in our three-year Lectionary cycle, the readings for the First Sunday of Advent center on Christ’s call to vigilance for His grand coming. Advent always opens with a glimpse of the end of the world as we know it, as the Lord promises that He will usher in an era where His power will be undisputed and His Kingdom will be established in its fullness.
The antiphon is the expression of a believer (a prayer) of total trust in God in the face of odds and opponents that can seem overwhelming at first glance. It is faith in the face of difficulties that are clearly beyond our ability to see through or overcome without divine assistance.
The Season of Advent is an invitation to adopt this same posture of trust, and we can do so precisely because we have been told that Christ will reign supreme. And we know that His definitive victory over evil has already begun; it possesses an inevitable quality to it. This is the truth that we cling to in the midst of a world and a life that often force us to rethink, then retreat, and then run away from our foes. What lets us stand our ground with our feet firmly planted is the stark realization that we alone are powerless, and that God is instead in control. He will win.
To be Advent people means to always live in the light of Christ’s inevitable coming. For those whose faith is weak, that is a fearful thing, even a terrible thing. For non-believers, it is disaster. But, the Lord has called us His friends if we do as He commands us. He has gathered us close to His heart. Therefore our dominant posture in the face of His Advent (His coming) is not one of fear, but rather one of hope. And of trust, as the antiphon voices for us.
The antiphon is the expression of the Church at prayer which means it is expressing our thoughts and our attitudes to the God who is listening carefully as a Father listens to His children. It is our acknowledgement of the existence of enemies; that there is an adversary to overcome if we are to gain salvation. Sometimes those foes are external. More often than not, the foes are internal- temptations to doubt, temptations to sin.
Advent is stronger than all the craziness of this time of the year in our secular age, it is stronger than all the cultural questioning, it is stronger than all of our often feeble steps at self-improvement. Advent is our invitation to always look up and see that our redemption is at-hand.