Feast of St Sebastian the Martyr & His Companions
THE CENTRAL idea of Advent is that it is the ‘coming’ of the Lord Jesus. One might perhaps feel that this term ‘coming’ is purely symbolic, for in fact Christ comes to us at all times, and even lives in us. Nevertheless, this approach and this presence of Christ, both of which are eternal, take on a special character at Advent-tide; they somehow acquire an ‘intensity’. A special grace of the ‘coming’ of the Lord is offered us. The Lord Jesus is already present to us; but the grace of Advent allows us a more vivid, and quite new, awareness of this presence. Jesus is near us and in us. All the same, He makes Himself known to us, during this period, as ‘He who comes’, that is to say He makes Himself known as wanting to be with us, and as if adapting us better to His intimacy.
Christian prayer during the time of Advent might be summed up in one word: ‘Come’. It is the ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ with which the Book of Revelation ends (Rev. 22.20). If we utter this call for help with sincerity and fervor, it becomes a true askesis, and the hope and anticipation of the Lord in fact fill an increasing place in our soul. Each day of Advent, this ‘Come!’ fills us more and is said with greater power, so that it drives away those thoughts, images and passions which are incompatible with the coming of Christ. This ‘Come!’ purifies and enflames us. It should give our prayer a special meaning. May we utter this call less and less imperfectly on each successive day of Advent.
We have already said that the term ‘coming’ points here to an intensification, the becoming objective of an approach and a presence which, themselves, are eternal. Our prayer at Advent, ‘Come’, could therefore be interpreted thus: “Oh, let me be aware of Thy presence in me – May the whole world feel Thy presence.”
REGISTRATION ENDS DECEMBER 26
He who comes, or rather, He whose presence we desire to be more conscious of, can appear to us under differing aspects during Advent. The west, by preference, seems to await the King, the Messiah, both ruler and liberator. There is in this a very fruitful idea which follows on from the synagogue’s Messianic expectation. This view entails that, in order to prepare ourselves to receive Jesus as King and Messiah, we must above all, during Advent, develop an attitude of inner obedience: may my own will no longer prevail, but let me rather be under orders; may He, who is stronger than I and whom I recognize as Master, come! The east has seen Advent more as a time of awaiting the light which will shine forth. The celebration of Jesus’s birth coincides with the victory of light over darkness in the physical world – from Christmas on, daylight lengthens. In the same way, our interior darkness will be dispelled by the coming of Him who is the Light of the world. The Byzantine Advent above all looks to Epiphany, ‘the feast of lights’, whereas the Roman Advent concentrates especially on Christmas, the feast of the coming of the Lord in our flesh. In order to prepare for this victory of light we must, during Advent, open ourselves more and more to the light “which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (Jn. 1.9). We must examine ourselves under this inner light, and let this light ‘which is in our deepest self’ guide our daily actions. We must live in an atmosphere of gentleness, of truth, and of sincerity.
Advent also has an important eschatological significance. It reminds us of the Second Coming at the end of time, and of the transitory nature of the things of this world. But eschatology is only fruitful if we interiorize it and let its implications affect our personal life. The glory of the Second Coming must first be prefigured by the coming of Jesus into the individual and by the day breaking through our own dark night.
*Excerpted from A Monk of the Eastern Church, The Year of the Grace of the Lord, pp. 45-46. Available for purchase at Eighth Day Books.
Lev Gillet (8 August 1893 - 29 March 1980) was brought up in the Roman Catholic tradition, joined the Orthodox Church in 1928, served as an archimandrite, and worked for the union of the churches.
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