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Archbishop Follo: Let’s be Vigilant Waiting for God

First Advent Sunday – Year B – December 3, 2017

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Roman Rite
First Advent Sunday – Year B – December 3, 2017
Is 63: 16-17.19; 64.2-7; Ps 80; 1Cor 1, 3-9; Mk 13, 33-37
Ambrosian Rite
Is 16: 1-5; Ps 150; 1Ths 3.11-4.2; Mk1.1-11
IV Sunday Advent – ‘The entrance of the Messiah’
1) Waiting for a visit and welcoming it.
This is the first Sunday of Advent. The horizon of prayer opens on history which has its center in Christ, the God made man, the Good Face of Destiny. Therefore, we need to renew our attitude towards prayer, understood in the sense of tension to elevate ourselves to God who is revealed to us as the source of wisdom and power, goodness and love.
For this reason, the Church begins Mass today with this beautiful Entrance Antiphon “To you, I lift up my soul, O my God. In you, I have trusted; let me not be put to shame. Nor let my enemies exult over me; and let none who hope in you be put to shame.” This entrance song shows very well the trust of the Church-Bride. With her, let’s repeat it from the bottom of our heart for the Savior will come to us to the extent that we have desired him and faithfully waited for him.
Therefore, on this first Sunday of Advent, we are called to become aware of Christ who comes to “visit us as the sun rising from above.” It is the visit of God: He enters into the life of each of us and addresses each of us because he wants to live steadily in every one of us.
With this visit, God enters our lives and addresses each one of us. Advent invites us to elevate our souls to welcome the Present who is coming. It is an invitation to understand that the individual events of the day are a sign that God addresses towards us, signs of the attention he has for each of us. Advent invites us and pushes us to contemplate the present Lord, and the certainty of his presence helps us to look at the world and at our lives with different eyes. It helps us to consider our entire existence as a “visit”, as a way in which He can come to us and become close to us in every situation and in every moment because He is Emmanuel, the God always with us.
In addition to the “visit”, the other important element of Advent is the vigilant expectation that- at the same time – is hope. Advent, the liturgical time that renews year after year the expectation of Christ’s coming, prompts us to understand the sense of time and history as a favorable time (kairós) for our salvation. Jesus has illustrated this element of expectation in many parables: in the narration of the servants invited to wait for the master’s return, in the parable of the virgins waiting for the groom or in the parables of sowing and harvesting.
In our lives, we are constantly waiting for something: when we are children we want to grow, when adults we strive to achieve and succeed, and, advancing in age, we aspire to rest. Then, it arrives the time when we find that we have hoped too little if, beyond career or social position, there is nothing left to hope for. Hope marks the path of every human being, but for us Christians it is animated by a certainty: the Lord is present in the flow of our lives, he accompanies us and one day he will wipe our tears. One day, not far away, everything will find its fulfillment in the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Justice and Peace. In the meantime we pray “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits and I hope for his word.My soul looks for the Lord more than sentinels for daybreak. More than sentinels for daybreak, let Israel hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is mercy, with him is plenteous redemption “(Ps 130: 5-7).
2) Watchfulness and contrition.
Advent’s liturgical time celebrates God’s visit awakening the expectation of Christ’s glorious return and, therefore, preparing us to receive the Son of God, the Word made man for our salvation. However, the Lord comes continually into our lives. Therefore, we must seriously consider the invitation of Christ, which is strongly re-launched on this first Sunday “Be watchful” (Mk 13, 33, 35, and 37). This “command” is not only directed to the disciples, but “to all” because each of us, at the time that only God knows, will be called to give account for his or her existence. This involves humble and confident entrustment in the hands of God, our tender and merciful Father, but also loving charity toward the neighbor and sincere contrition for our sins.
The prayer of a heart that keeps vigil in the wait, is the prayer of those who recognize themselves to be in need. When we recognize our state of indigence, it is then that God fills us with his gifts. The first of these is forgiveness for the greatest indigence that is sin. Prayer, which is request and wait, is request and waiting for pardon. A waiting that does not ask nor accept this forgiveness, is not a waiting for the Redeemer, who loves to forgive us and loves to love us. Forgiveness is the first expression of his love. Prayer always has a dimension of contrition that make us say “Lord, before you talk to me, forgive me” (Ambrosian Rite Antiphon). The bridal dimension is united to the penitential one, because it is born of our sin and flourishes in marriage with God.
The contrition that is at the beginning of the celebration of Holy Mass, or the contrition that lies within the heart of our participation in the mystery of Christ, which is the sacrament of Confession, both must qualify our advent. Without this contrition, our expectation of Christ who for us to comes to a manger, is too childish or too light and a bit superficial, that is, too much taken for granted. It is only with contrition that the imminence of Christ is living beautifully in us and that vigilance is realized.
Watchfulness, then, is contrition. Existentially, along the path of our life, vigilance is a contrition full of love.
To live this craving waiting, we can recite the prayer that Saint Ambrose of Milan recited before the celebration of the Mass: “King of virgins and lover of chastity and perfect continence, with the celestial dew of your blessing, extinguish into my body the incitement of burning lust so that the chastity of the body and of the soul may remain in me. Mortify in my limbs the stimuli of the flesh and give me perpetual and true chastity together with your other gifts that you truly love so that I may offer to you the sacrifice of praise with chaste body and purified heart. ”
The form of life that clearly shows that contrition is united to nuptial dimension, is that of the consecrated virgins. Spiritual marriage with Christ makes these women foreigners in the world, but intimately close to God. They are convinced to be nothing and, in the eyes of the world, they are despicable, but in God’s eyes they are precious and dear and a model for all of how to live the waiting in order to receive Christ completely and without reservations.
In them the heart of God lies down like in a manger. In them, humanity can see the reflection of God.
Patristic reading
Golden Chain
on Mk 13, 33 – 37
Theophylact: The Lord wishing to prevent His disciples from asking about that day and hour, says, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
For if He had said, I know, but I will not reveal it to you, He would have saddened them not a little; but He acted more wisely, and prevents their asking such a question, lest they should importune Him, by saying, neither the Angels, nor I.
Hilary, de Trin., ix: This ignorance of the day and hour is urged against the Only-Begotten God, as if, God born of God had not the same perfection of nature as God. But first, let common sense decide whether it is credible that He, who (p. 270) is the cause that all things are, and are to be, should be ignorant of any out of all these things. For how can it be beyond the knowledge of that nature, by which and in which that which is to be done is contained? And can He be ignorant of that day, which is the day of His own Advent? Human substances foreknow as far as they can what they intend to do, and the knowledge of what is to be done, follows upon the will to act. How then can the Lord of glory, from ignorance of the day of His coming, be believed to be of that imperfect nature, which has on it a necessity of coming, and has not attained to the knowledge of its own advent?
But again, how much more room for blasphemy will there be, if a feeling of envy is ascribed to God the Father, in that He has withheld the knowledge of His beatitude from Him to whom He gave a foreknowledge of His death. But if there are in Him all the treasures of knowledge, He is not ignorant of this day; rather we ought to remember that the treasures of wisdom in Him are hidden; His ignorance therefore must be connected with the hiding of the treasures of wisdom, which are in Him.
For in all cases, in which God declares Himself ignorant, He is not under the power of ignorance, but either it is not a fit time for speaking, or it is an economy of not acting.
But if God is said then to have known that Abraham loved Him, when He did not hide that His knowledge from Abraham, it follows, that the Father is said to know the day, because He did not hide it from the Son. If therefore the Son knew not the day, it is a Sacrament of His being silent, as on the contrary the Father alone is said to know, because He is not silent. But God forbid that any new and bodily changes should be ascribed to the Father or the Son.
Lastly, lest He should be said to be ignorant from weakness, He has immediately added, “Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is.”
Pseudo-Jerome: For we must needs watch with our souls before the death of the body.
Theophylact: But He teach us two things, watching and prayer; for many of us watch, but watch only to pass the night in wickedness; He now follows this up with a parable, saying, “For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave his servants power over every work, and commanded the porter to watch.” (p. 271)
Bede: The man who taking a far journey left his house is Christ, who ascending as a conqueror to His Father after the Resurrection, left His Church, as to His bodily presence, but has never deprived her of the safeguard of His Divine presence.
Greg, Hom in Evan, 9: For the earth is properly the place for the flesh, which was as it were carried away to a far country, when it was placed by our Redeemer in the heavens. “And he gave his servants power over every work,” when, by giving to His faithful ones the grace of the Holy Ghost, He gave them the power of serving every good work.
He has also ordered the porter to watch, because He commanded the order of pastors to have a care over the Church committed to them. Not only, however, those of us who rule over Churches, but all are required to watch the doors of their hearts, lest the evil suggestions of the devil enter into them, and lest our Lord find us sleeping.
Wherefore concluding this parable He adds, “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.”
Pseudo-Jerome: For he who sleeps applies not his mind to real bodies, but to phantoms, and when he awakes, he possesses not what he had seen; so also are those, whom the love of this world seizes upon in this life; they quit after this life what they dreamed was real.
Theophylact: See again that He has not said, I know not when the time will be, but, “Ye know not.” For the reason why He concealed it was that it was better for us; for if, now that we know not the end, we are careless, what should we do if we knew it? We should keep on our wickedness even unto the end. Let us therefore attend to His words; for the end comes at even, when a man dies in old age; a midnight, when he dies in the midst of his youth; and at cockcrow, when our reason is perfect within us; for when a child begins to live according to his reason, then the cock cries loud within him, rousing him from the sleep of sense; but the age of childhood is the morning. Now all these ages must look out for the end; for even a child must be watched, lest he die unbaptized.
Pseudo-Jerome: He thus concludes His discourse, that the last should hear from those who come first this precept which is common to all; wherefore He adds, “But what I say unto you I (p. 272) say unto all, Watch.”
Augustine, Epist., 199, 3: For He not only speaks to those in whose hearing He then spake, but even to all who came after them, before our time, and even to us, and to all after us, even to His last coming. but shall that day find all living, or will any man say that He speaks also to the dead, when He says, “Watch, lest when he cometh he find you sleeping?”
Why then does He say to all, what only belongs to those who shall then be alive, if it be not that it belongs to all, as I have said? For that day comes to each man when his day comes for departing from this life such as he is to be, when judged in that day, and for this reason every Christian ought to watch, lest the Advent of the Lord find him unprepared; but that day shall find him unprepared, whom the last day of his life shall find unprepared.

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Mgr Francesco Follo

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