Blog # 425 Connections
Though the color of the vestments at Mass during Advent and Lent is the same, the flavor of the two seasons of the Church's Liturgical Year is different. A single word that can be used to express the flavor of Lent is penance. We are interested in seeking forgiveness and making up for our sins, setting things straight with God. Humility and justice are the guiding lights of Lent. Humility to accept the truth about ourselves and our sinfulness. Justice to motivate us to acts of reparation.
A single word that can be used to express the flavor of Advent is waiting. We are interested in discovering more fully the content and significance of the promises made by God to all of us from the very beginning in Adam and the content and significance of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in history and as it applies to us in our present moment and in our future. We are interested in growth. Faith and hope are the guiding lights of Advent. Faith to accept the revelation of God concerning creation, Jesus, and ourselves. Hope to experience the confidence we need in God and ourselves for the revelation to be fulfilled in us.
There is a danger in not seeing that all the seasons and years of our lives are connected one to another, from beginning to end. 2015 is not just another stone thrown onto the pile of an unknown number of years that will constitute the whole of our human experience here on earth. I
may not remember what I did on December 1, 1984, yet what I did then is part of who I am today at 87. And who I am today is part of who I shall be. In other words I am continually creating the name or identity by which God will call me into my eternal destiny at the instant of my death.
With these insights, Advent takes on a special identity. This particular year during Advent I have been reflecting more upon the experience of Jesus on the Cross as an expression of love rather than of suffering. It is not a question seeking to downplay the Lord's suffering but rather that simultaneously I seek to be more fully aware of the love that was present. As a thermometer is not the heat but an indicator of the degree of heat that is present, so the suffering of Jesus on the Cross was not the whole of His experience at all but rather an indicator of the immense depravity of sin and the degree of love that He was expressing which was total, giving all that He had, in death.
As with ourselves, every moment and every experience of the life of Jesus was connected one to another. At Christmas the eternal Word of God is born among us to give God's love an opportunity of living out in flesh like ours the experience of obedience, generosity, patience, wisdom, self-control and all the rest that goes into the anatomy of love. As with ourselves, each act of love in the experience of Jesus was a giving of a part of Himself to another. On Calvary He still had more to give, another hour, another instant, more life and more love. Then, when the greatest hour in His life had come He could cried out: "It is finished!". The work He was sent to do is done! It is finished. His love on the Cross was total, unconditional, complete. "There is no greater love...".
In the light of such reflections the connection of Christmas with Calvary becomes very clear. The Incarnation furnishes the Word of God with a human body so that He could give of Himself as we, united to Him by faith and Baptism, are called and empowered to give of ourselves in acts of love throughout our lives until that final instant when it will be finished and our love will be the total unconditional obedient perfect love of death.
Knowing well many of the details of the story of the life of Jesus on earth, the Church directs us in celebrating them anew each year. Advent is a time of waiting. We go back to the time in history before the first Christmas. We are like a saw hanging in a carpenter's shop waiting for what it was made to do. Hanging in the shop it is a noun. Sawing wood it is a verb. Applying this to ourselves, all of us who have been Baptized are Christians. By that fact we should be ever waiting to do what we were made to do. I don't think we hear the word 'Christianize' very often. It is the verb form of Christian. It means all that it means to be humanly good, but additionally through Baptism empowered with the identity of Jesus within us, acting in us by faith. It is the verb form of Christian. Christianize our attitudes, desires, days and years is another way of saying Happy Christmas!