ADVENT – REFLECTING ON THE NEED I HAVE FOR CHRIST TO COMPLETE IN ME THE WORK BEGUN LONG AGO
A “CHRISTMAS” WHICH IS BEING CELEBRATED FROM NOVEMBER ONWARDS HAS CEASED TO BE CHRISTMAS
“… The beauty of Christmas unlike, say, Thanksgiving, is not grounded in a celebration of human achievement successfully concluded. It does not stem from the beauty of human nature. It is, rather, a reminder that human beauty and virtues have their origins in the divinity of the Incarnate Christ. We are celebrating not simply the fact that Christ aspired to become a man like us; we are celebrating the fact that in becoming Man Christ wished to raise our humanity to his immortal nature. The perfection and beauty of the Christ Child is that of God-with-Us, not of some idealised version of what I was in childhood.
THE PREPARATION FOR A MORE INTENSE ENCOUNTER WITH CHRIST
To want to celebrate Christ’s birth then, for the Christian should theoretically be inseparable from a period of preparation in which I reflect on the need I have for Christ to come now, and to complete in me the work begun long ago – not just when he was born, but before time itself existed, when I was chosen in him, when his ‘Incarnate form’ became the possibility of my existence, the pattern of my humanity and the promise of my happiness. I need to become aware of the ever increasing urgency of the task of modelling my own life, my own sense of what makes for happiness on his own, through the grace of the Holy Spirit. The preparation cannot be just for a season of mirth; it must be for a more intense encounter with Christ through the medium of his historical Incarnation, which is an outward, visible sign of a divine reality which is the real reason for celebration. Without an explicit awareness of this Christological heart, as suggested by the very name Christmas, the outward, visible signs of celebration are Pagan and hollow.
ACKNOWLEDGING HIS ETERNAL DESIRE TO BECOME GOD-WITH-US
It is the Church as the Bride of Christ, who shows us how to share in such intimacy with Christ that the Spirit will be able to act in the depths of our souls to reproduce the pattern of Christ’s humanity in us. This presence of Christ, she reminds us, is dynamic. We should be celebrating it not merely as the recollection of a past occurrence, but as the possibility of Christ being born in our own time and milieu, in our own heart through faith, in prayer and sacrament, as we acknowledge his eternal desire to become God-With-Us. To bring us into this intimacy of likeness to Christ, the Church has given us Advent, not an anticipated Christmas.
A MAJOR MYSTERY OF FAITH
Not until December 17 does the liturgy focus on the birthday of the Child. If we do so, we are neglecting a major mystery of our faith, the truth that Christ will come again, that Christ will return in majesty to take us fully to himself. He has told us in no uncertain terms that he expects to find us watching, not just keeping up appearances.”
– From “Diary of a City Priest” by Pstor Iuventus, available from Amazon. This excerpt was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue December 6 2013.