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Advent: Watchful and Joyful Waiting Time

Lectio Divina: First Sunday of Advent – Year A

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First Sunday of Advent – Year A
Roman Rite
Is 2, 1-5; Ps 122; Rm 13.11 to 14; Mt 24.37-44?
Ambrosian Rite
Is 35.1 to 10; Ps 84; Rm 11.25 to 36; Mt 11.2 to 15?
Third Sunday of Advent (Year A)
Fulfilled prophecies
1) Vigilance and more.
Today it is the beginning of Advent[1] which prepares the feast for the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. This short liturgical period of just under 30 days represents the long stretch of centuries, past in the waiting for the Redeemer who came in the fullness of time.
The liturgy helps us to live this time of grace
with vigilance, which is the intense and trusting commitment of those who trust in the merciful love of God, and prepare themselves for the encounter with Christ the Savior,
with the conversion of the heart, because without a heart turned to God the waiting, the hope and the joy for the coming of the Messiah are not possible,
with the heart of the poor, that is the heart of those who are not poor in the economic sense, but in the biblical sense[2], those who entrust themselves fully to God and rely on him with confidence
with faith, the virtue that supports us welcoming, like Mary, the Son of God made flesh for our salvation.
with hope, that is the trusting expectation of a future that is absolutely good (see St Thomas Aquinas, III Sent., D. 26, q. 2, a. 1, ad 3),
with piety, practicing prayer, which is – in Advent – the affectionate invocation to the Awaited: Come, Lord Jesus (Rev 22, 20),
with joy, expression of a joyful waiting because the One Who is expected certainly will come. God is faithful.
I’ve put vigilance first, -that is the tension toward the imminent presence of Christ – because in this first Sunday of preparation for the coming of the Son of Man in our life, we are called to be vigilant. Today’s liturgy offers us a passage from the Gospel, in which Christ asks us to be aware of the events to discover in them the time of the coming of the Son of Man. The Redeemer, to show how we must be attentive to the events, reminds us of the event of the Flood in Noah’s time, and then compares himself to a thief that comes in the night and to a landlord who does not monitor his home.
Not knowing the day and the hour of Christ’s coming should convince us of the need for continuous vigilance. We must be always “ready” so that all our life may be a tension to that hour and that day. We  must get prepared to this  encounter with the Redeemer in order not to be caught off guard, but ready to welcome God who comes without warning when we least expect him.
Therefore, vigilance is the attitude in which we must live every moment of personal and common life, as it were enormously valuable, indeed the only moment available, because it is the present moment. When, while she was dying, it was asked to St. Therese of the Child Jesus if she was not afraid of the thief that was coming, she answered that she was waiting for him with desire and love. This holy woman gives us the example of watchful serenity, of charity, of great openness to God, of intense waiting, and of loyalty to him. The opening prayer of today’s Mass epitomizes everything: “O God, merciful Father, who, to unite all the people in your kingdom, sent your only Son, teacher of truth and source of reconciliation, awaken in us a vigilant spirit so that we walk on your ways to freedom and love until we contemplate you in the eternal glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ “.
2) Conversion in joy.
Advent is the time when the Church celebrates the joyful waiting for the Messiah and the firm certainty of the coming of God’s Kingdom. This is not a matter of eating or drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy (see Rm 14, 17). Only by returning to the Lord with the heart waiting for his coming and his return, this Kingdom of peace, justice and joy will be established in us and in the world.
Vigilance requires conversion to fight slumber, inattention and forgetfulness. It should be remembered that the vigilant person is not, as indicated in the Greek world, the one who is awake, collecting all his strength and finding in himself all the courage to face the night and the eventual enemy. In the biblical world, the vigilant person is the one who stays awake trusting in God, clinging to Him, and abandoning himself to Christ. The word vigilance, therefore, does not indicate something to do, but a way of living and looking.
The Advent hymn, “Lift up the look to heaven” makes us sing that “the salvation of God is near” and commands us “Awaken in the heart the waiting to welcome the King of Glory.” The imperative of the watch with an awake heart, that is with attention and lucidity, implies awareness so not to be enchanted by appearances but the sharpness of a sight that will allow us to recognize in a stable, the Child,  “messenger of peace”, who “brings to the world the smile of God. “
To be biblically and Christianly vigilant requires, therefore, a change of heart and of “its eyes”. Indeed, without a profound conversion it is not possible the waiting, the hope and the joy for the coming of the Lord. The spirit of conversion, typical of Advent, has shades other than those of Lent, although in both times we are invited to practice more intense prayer, fasting and almsgiving (= mercy). The essential substance is always the same, but while Lent is marked by the austerity necessary to repair sin, Advent is marked by the joy for the coming of the Lord.
  In this regard, Pope Francis teaches: “Advent is a time of rejoicing because it revives the happiest event in history: the birth of the Son of God by the Virgin Mary. Knowing that God is not far away but close, not indifferent but compassionate, not alien but a merciful Father who follows us lovingly with respect for our freedom, all this is the reason for a deep joy that the alternating daily events cannot scratch “( December 18, 2015).
Advent is the time of the waiting for the eternal God who becomes loving presence in the world. Precisely for this reason it is, in particular, the time of joy, of an internalized joy that no suffering can erase. The joy over the fact that God became a child. This joy, invisibly present in us, encourages us to continue our journey with confidence.
Advent is the time of hope, in which the believers in Christ are invited to remain in vigilant and active expectation, nourished by prayer and by proactive and daily commitment of love.
An everyday example of living the waiting for Christ with active charity, comes from the consecrated Virgins in the world. In this they follow the invitation by the Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI: That your whole life may be a faithful witness of God’s love and a convincing sign of the kingdom of heaven” (RCV, nr. 17). Take care always to radiate the dignity of being a bride of Christ, expressing the newness of Christian existence and the serene expectation of future life. Thus, with your own upright life you will be stars to guide the world on its journey. The choice of virginal life, in fact, is a reference to the transient nature of earthly things and an anticipation of future rewards. Be witnesses of attentive and lively expectation, of joy and of the peace that characterizes those who abandon themselves to God’s love. May you be present in the world, yet pilgrims bound for the Kingdom. Indeed, the consecrated virgin is identified with that bride who, in unison with the Spirit, invokes the coming of the Lord: “The Spirit and the Bride say “Come'” (Rv 22: 17) “. (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Participants in the International Congress- Pilgrimage of the Ordo Virginum. May 15, 2008)

[1] Advent has four Sundays for the Roman Rite and six for the Ambrosian Rite. This year we are in year A – according to the three-year liturgical cycle – and we will be accompanied in it by the Gospel of Matthew. Some characteristics of this Gospel are: the extent to which the teachings of Jesus (his famous speeches like the one of the mountain) are reported, and the attention to the relationship between Law and Gospel (the Gospel is the “New Law”). This is considered the most “ecclesiastical” Gospel because of the narration of the primacy of Peter and for the use of the word Church (in Greek “Ecclesia”, from ek-kalein verb that means to convene and whose noun is precisely ecclesia = convocation, assembly) that are not in the Gospels of Mark, Luke and John.
[2] This poor person or “anawim“, as he is called in the Bible, is the meek and the humble, whose key provisions are humility, fear of God and faith.

Patristic reading
Golden Chain
on Mt 24,36-41)
Chrys.: The Lord having described all the tokens that shall precede His coming, and brought His discourse to the (p. 832) very doors, yet would not name the day; “Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the Angels Of heaven, but my Father only.”
Jerome: In some Latin copies is added here, “neither the Son:” but in the Greek copies, and particularly those of Adamantius and Pierius, it is not found. (ed. note: The addition is found in a very few Greek MSS., and ancient versions, in Chrys. and Theophylact. It is in the Old Italic version, and is acknowledged by Hilary, Ambrose, and Pseudo-Chrys.; but the preponderance of evidence is greatly against it, and it is not admitted into the text of the G. T. by any editors. It probably crept in from the parallel passage in S. Mark. Adamantius surname of Origen. Pierius was a presbyter of Alexandria in the third century, whose learning occasioned him to be styled ‘Origen the younger.’) But because it is read in some, it seems to require our notice.
Remig.: And Mark has the addition. (Mc 13,32)
Jerome: Whereat Arius and Eunomius rejoice greatly; for say they, He who knows and He who is ignorant cannot be both equal. Against these we answer shortly; Seeing that Jesus, that is, The Word of God, made all times, (for “By him all things were made, and without him was not any thing made that was made, (1Jn 1,3)) and that the day of judgment must be in all time, by what reasoning can He who knows the whole be shewn to be ignorant of a part?
This we will further say; Which is the greater, the knowledge of the Father, or the knowledge of the judgment? If He knows the greater, how can He be ignorant of the less?
Hilary: And has indeed God the Father denied the knowledge of that day to the Son, when He has declared, “All things are committed to me of my Father?” (Lc 10,22) but if any thing has been denied, all things are not committed to Him.
Jerome: Having then shewn that the Son of God cannot be ignorant of the day of the consummation, we must now show a cause why He should be said to be ignorant. When after the resurrection He is demanded concerning this day by the Apostles, He answers more openly; “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in his own power.” (Ac 1,7) Wherein He shews that Himself knows, but that it was not expedient for the Apostles to know, that being in uncertainty of the coming of their Judge, they should live every day as though they were to be judged that day.
Aug., de Trin., i, 12: When He says here, “Knows not,” He means, ‘makes others not to know;’ i.e. He knew not then, so as to tell His disciples; as it was said to Abraham, “Now I know that thou fearest God;” (Gn 22,19) i.e. ‘Now have I caused that thou shouldest know,’ because by the temptation he came to know himself.
Aug., Serm., 97, 1: That (p. 833) He says that the “Father knoweth,” implies that in the Father the Son also knows. For what can there be in time which was not made by the Word, seeing that time itself was made by the Word!
Aug., Lib. 83, Quaest. Q60: That the Father alone knows may be well understood in the above-mentioned manner of knowing, that He makes the Son to know; but the Son is said not to know, because be does not make men to know.
Origen: Otherwise; So long as the Church which is Christ’s body knows not that day and hour, so long the Son Himself is said not to know that day and hour. The word “know” is used according to its proper usual meaning in Scripture. The Apostle speaks of Christ, as “him who knew no sin,” (1Co 5,21) i.e. sinned not. The knowledge of that day and hour the Son reserves in store for the fellow-heirs of the promise, that all may know at once, i.e. in the day when it shall come upon them, “what things God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1Co 2,9)
Raban.: I have read also in some one’s book, that “the Son” here is not to be taken of the Only-begotten, but of the adopted, for that He would not have put the Angels before the Only-begotten Son, saying, “Not the Angels of heaven, neither the Son.” (ed. note: See further on this Passage, Hil. de Trin. ix. 58, cited in the Catena on Mark, xiii. 32, and Basil adv. Eunom. iv.)
Aug., Ep. 199, 16: The Gospel then says, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man;” but you say, That neither the month nor the year of His coming can be known. This exactness of yours up to this point seems as if you meant that the year could not be known, but that the week or the decade of years might be known, as though it was possible to fix or assign it to some seven, ten, or a hundred, or some number of years more or less. If you allow that you cannot so limit it, you think with me.
Chrys.: That you may perceive that it is not owing to ignorance that He is silent of the day and hour of the judgment, He brings forward another token, “As it was in the days of Noe, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” By this He means that He shall come sudden and unlooked for, and while men are taking their pleasure; of which Paul also speaks, “When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them.” (1Th 5,3)
Raban: Marriage and meats in themselves are not here condemned, as the error of Marcion and Manicheaus teaches; for in the one the continuation of the species, in the (p. 834) other that of life, depends; but what is reproved is all unrestrained use of things lawful.
Jerome: It is asked here, how it was said above, “Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, &c.” when here only tokens of peace are spoken of as what shall be then? We must suppose, that after the wars and the other miseries which shall waste the human race, shall follow a short peace, offering rest and quiet to approve the faith of the believers.
Chrys.: Or, To such as are thoughtlessly disposed, it shall be a time of peace and enjoyment; as the Apostle said not, ‘When there shall be peace,’ but “When they shall say, Peace and safety,” shewing their insensibility to be such as was theirs in the days of Noe, when the wicked, and not the good, indulged themselves, but their end was sorrow and tribulation. This shews also, that when Antichrist shall come, those who are wicked, and despair of their salvation, shall run into illicit pleasures; therefore He chooses an instance suitable. For while the ark was building, Noe preached among them, foretelling the evils that should come; but those wicked giving no heed to him, wantoned as though no evil should ever come; so now, because many would not believe things future, He makes credible what He says from what has happened.
Another token He gives to shew how unexpectedly that day shall come, and that He is not ignorant of the day, “Then two shall be in the field, one shall be taken and the other left.” These words shew that masters and servants, they that work, and they that work not, shall be taken or left alike.
Hilary: Or, the two in the field, are the two people of believers and unbelievers, whom the day of the Lord shall overtake, as it were in the labours of this life. And they shall be separated, one being taken and the other left; this shews the separation that shall be between believers and unbelievers; when God’s wrath is kindled, the saints shall be gathered into His garner, and the unbelievers shall be left as fuel for the fire from heaven. The same is the account to be given of that, “Two shall be grinding at the mill.” The mill is the work of the Law, but as some of the Jews believed through the Apostles, so some shall believe through Elias, and be justified through faith; and one part shall (p. 835) be taken through this same faith of good works, the other part shall be left unfruitful in the work of the Law, grinding in vain, and never to produce the bread of heavenly food.
Jerome: Or, “Two men in one field” shall be found performing the same labour, sowing corn together, but not reaping the same fruit of their labour. The two “grinding together” we may understand either of the Synagogue and the Church, which seem to grind together in the Law, and to make of the same Scriptures meal of the commandments of God; or of other heresies, which out of both or one Testament, seem to grind meal of their own doctrines.
Hilary:; The “two in one bed” are those who preach alike the Lord’s rest after His passion, about which heretics and catholics have the same confession; but because the Catholic Faith preaches the unity of the Godhead of the Father and the Son, and the false creed of the heretics impugns that, therefore shall the Divine judgment decide between the confession of these two by taking one and leaving the other.
Remig.: Or, these words denote three orders in the Church. “The two men in the field” denote the order of preachers (marg. note: praedicatores), to whom is committed the field of the Church; by “the two grinding at the mill,” the order of the married priests (marg. note: conjugati), who while with a divided heart they are called first to one side, then to the other, do, as it were, ever turn round a mill; by “the two in one bed,” the order of the continent (marg. note: continentes), whose repose is signified by the bed. But in all these orders are good and bad, righteous and unrighteous, so that some shall be taken, and some left.
Origen: Or otherwise; The body is laid as sick on the bed of carnal passions, the soul grinds in the mill of this world, and the bodily senses labour in the field of the world.

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Mgr Francesco Follo

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