If you’ve been following this blog long enough, you’ll probably know by now that my Advents normally have a theme to them, and this year is no different. I never choose a particular theme; they are, in a sense, inspired either by the current circumstances of my life or else a particular thought suggests itself (rather insistently) some days before the beginning of the season.
This year I would say Advent has a Johannine flavour to it, for two reasons. The first is that about a week or (perhaps a bit more) before the start of Advent the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John began to present itself to my thoughts more and more regularly. The second is the Sacred Heart, which for whatever reason caught my attention during the first few days of Advent (while not directly Johannine, one can make the connection, I think, between Our Lord’s Sacred Heart and the Beloved Disciple who leaned upon His breast). Concerning the Sacred Heart, I admit I have never followed the devotion, but the image of It is one impressed upon my mind from a very early age. Recently reading up on the devotion, I was delightfully surprised to discover that it is Adoration-related.
The shortening of days with the lengthening of nights, almost to the point of it seeming that daylight will be snuffed out, seems to fit well with the expectation of that Light which shines, darkness being unable to comprehend it. While He has already come, and still remains present in this world through and in His Church, we are still expecting His final coming. We are watching and waiting, with “fear and trembling”, for that day when He will “come to judge the living and the dead and the age by fire”.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
This verse seemed to me to be simply poetic, but ruminating on it these days past I think I have finally begun to understand what it is about. “In him was life” – while the Divine Logos sustains all things, giving them life, Life everlasting can only be had by abiding in Him. “And the life was the light of men” – that Life is what enlightens the mind of man, keeping him from the darkness, which is sin and death. Here John is hearkening back to the Old Testament, simply restating what he has already said about the Word being God. Who is it that enlightens man? It is the Lord:
For thou art my lamp, O Lord: and thou, O Lord, wilt enlighten my darkness.
The justices of the Lord are right, rejoicing hearts: the commandment of the Lord is lightsome, enlightening the eyes.
Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths.
For thou lightest my lamp, O Lord: O my God enlighten my darkness.
The declaration of thy words giveth light: and giveth understanding to little ones.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.
Here is the great mystery of Christianity, that God should take flesh and dwell among His people. I hope I am saying nothing wrong when I say that I believe the Nativity to be a priestly feast, a feast of the Sacred Heart. The inaccessible light has become accessible. God becomes Man, takes on His creatures’ life, gaining a heart. This is what Man has been waiting for since the Fall: an intercessor to bridge the gulf between him and His Creator once and for all, to restore what was broken, to blow the breath of life back into the dust to which he had returned. Here is the God-Man. Now we can hear His heart, feel it beating. The heart which beats within His breast beats solely for us, and we have wounded it. We can feel His compassion, His mercy, His love for us. We know that He is not indifferent to our suffering, for He too suffered and was tempted, being in all things like us except in sin:
For in that, wherein he himself hath suffered and been tempted, he is able to succour them also that are tempted. […] For we have not a high priest, who can not have compassion on our infirmities: but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin.
That beating heart in the Temple of the Holy Spirit, a blazing furnace of divine love. I love the propers of the Mass of the Sacred Heart that was once used in Portugal, as they tend to emphasise this particular aspect of the Sacred Heart. As a taste, here is the Secret of the Egredimini Mass:
We beseech you, O Lord, to inflame our souls with the fire of the Holy Ghost; which our Lord Jesus Christ has sent on earth, from the secret recesses of his Heart, to enkindle in us his love : Who lives and .
May this Advent be one of silent expectation, of keeping the ear of the heart attentive to the beating of that Sacred Heart which came and is to come again, and which can be still be found beating silently upon the altar in the Blessed Sacrament of His Divine Love.