Advent Wisdom- A homily given at Genesee Abbey on the First Sunday of Advent

This holy season of Advent affords us a triple vision – we look to the past when the Lord came in the flesh – we look to the future when He will come again in glory – especially we look into the present as the Lord comes to us in various ways, especially in the Holy Eucharist, in the Sacred Word, and through us, His Body the Church.

In the early days of the Church, as the first believers grew in number and in faith, it became clear to Jesus’ disciples for the need of a formulation of sound doctrine based on the Scriptures and Tradition of the Church. It was quite a task, a labor of love: praying, listening and studying and even arguing – because the unfathomable mystery of God’s love manifested in the Lord Jesus Christ always exceeds human words, thoughts (no matter how noble, spiritual), or how wise or saintly the teachers.

We know that our ancient leaders in the faith borrowed terms from their culture to express the beliefs of Christianity. Under the inspiration of the Spirit of Truth, they baptized words, refined concepts in order to teach with as much clarity as possible the great mysteries they embraced and believed in so strongly and passionately wanted to pass on – such was their charity, their sense of fellowship.

One such word is PAROUSIA – a Greek word meaning “presence” or “arrival” – it denoted the arrival of an official like a king or an emperor. So the early Christians took this word to express their relationship with the Lord Jesus. Translated into Latin the word becomes “Adventus” – our Advent; it proclaims a presence, the Presence of God here and now. With that in mind, Advent cannot really be limited to the four weeks before the Nativity of the Lord and therefore, for us Christians, all of life is one Advent – living consciously with faithful love and obedience in the Divine Presence.

In the Letter to the Thessalonians St. Paul gives us “Advent Wisdom” – in the very first words, a prayer, an ardent desire for us, he writes, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.” Quite an all-embracing prayer!

The verbs “increase and abound” in the Greek have the sense of being something over and above, something superlative, something that is in the greatest fullness – such must be the love that we will, that we live, as men and women of faith. Our model, of course, is the Lord Jesus Himself, who loved His own “to the end”. Those words “to the end” proclaim loudly and clearly the extent of His love, but that same phrase “to the end” can also mean “perfectly”. From this, we know that our love in Christ can never be something measurable, it cannot be quantified, limited by choice, or it is not of Christ, who “loved to the end.”.
This is the work and goal of the Christian life, our life – to love as Christ loved – this is truly Advent life; and because of our humanity, we will always fall short in this life. But we can try, keep trying “to the end” – our very willingness, our desire, is itself a form of love, and therefore a gift of grace and, as a love even imperfectly lived, it is well received by our God in His mercy. Our God readily receives with love whatever we try to do, like a parent with a child.

In the Gospel St. Luke recounts Jesus’ call to us to be vigilant and to pray for strength to escape tribulations – may that vigilance and prayer also be directed to our Advent life – that of being and becoming more and more people who love “to the end” as Christ our Lord did and does.