+LET US GO REJOICING TO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD
1st Sunday of Advent
As will often
happen with our Sunday readings, the psalm verse captures the theme of the day,
the thrust of their meaning. We have just sung: "Let us go rejoicing to the
house of the Lord," the words of a pilgrim people on their way to a homeland,
the place that holds every promise for the future. We are called to reflect on
what motivates our lives, to look at where we are going and the choices we make
to get there. A beautiful vision is held up before us and then the dispositions
we need to attain this vision.
Advent is often thought of in terms of God's
coming to us, our preparing for the way of the Lord. What today's liturgy is
telling us is that it is as much our going to God as it is God's coming to us.
"In the days to come, "says the prophet Isaiah, "The mountain of the Lord's
house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall say; "come, let us climb
the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us
in his ways, and we may walk in his paths." This mountain for the Jewish people
symbolized the peak of their religious experience, it was the place where they
came into God's presence, where God drew near to them, touched their lives so
that they knew that they were the beloved of God.
We live in a market-driven society and as a
recent article by Martin Jacques in the Manchester Guardian alerts us, whether
we are aware of it or not the rise of individualism, the 'marketisation' of
society and the influence of communication technologies where our relationships
are becoming multiplied but increasingly transient and ephemeral, a deep sense
of relationship and intimacy is being lost. The reason, the author says, why
many no longer feel happy as they once did "is that the intimacy on which our
sense of well-being rests-a product of our closest, most intimate relationships,
above all in the family-is in decline." This season of Advent, it seems to me,
invites us back to a sense of our abiding relationships, first of all with God
and then with one another. As we begin a new Church Year, we are to again ask
ourselves about where we are going with our lives, what really interests us, if
our relationship with Christ and one another is at the center of our attention?
If we know what we want, what our hearts most yearn for, the way will be clear,
the means of arriving at our goal, will be obvious.
The urgency of our relationship with God is
brought home to us in our gospel text from Matthew. Here we have Jesus telling
us to "stay awake!, for you do not know on which day your Lord will come." God
is drawing near to us and the very meaning of our lives depends on our being
ready to welcome him. And as if to add still greater urgency to the event, Jesus
tells us that "at an hour we do not expect, the Son of Man will come," St Paul
deepens this awakening call by reminding us that this moment of the coming of
the Lord, is now. "You know the time," he tells us, "it is the hour now for you
to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first
believed, the night is advanced, the day is at hand." The day is at hand for it
is the dawning of our new life in Christ, that in him we have overcome the
world. Not only are we on the way and is God coming but all of this is now
happening in each one of our lives if we will only lift up our faces to see it.
Each day is inviting us to throw off the works of darkness and to put on the
armor of light. God is bursting into our lives if we only have the faith to
recognize the presence, the daily gift of the divine Spirit.
As Christians we cannot live in drunkenness or
promiscuity, in rivalry or jealousy but have "put on the Lord Jesus Christ." We
are even now to live as God's new creation. As Christians we have every reason
to be filled with joy during this Advent season. For to go rejoicing to the
house of the Lord is to experience Christ's own life in our members, to
experience countless daily opportunities of putting on "the armor of light,"
becoming persons wholly renewed in the Lord Jesus. Our assembly, is it not in
the most profound sense, an experience of coming together rejoicing, to the
house of God? What will take place at Christmas is even now taking in our lives
as we allow Christ to become incarnate in each of us. If as persons, as
community or family we "put on the Lord Jesus Christ," then we are already
climbing the mountain of the Lord, allow God's presence to be manifest in our
midst, touching the lives of all who come to us.
There are times when I have the uncomfortable
feeling that we live in a world a lot like that of the days of Noah that did not
know what God was offering until the flood came and carried them all away. Yes,
to be awake, to take hold of in faith the wonder of the present moment and let
Christ come fully alive in us is what Advent is about. He comes to us in many an
unexpected way. May he grant us the faith to recognize him and welcome him anew
each day of our lives.
The Eucharist is the celebration of this event. We are the bread and wine
brought to this altar and as they are transformed, as they are consecrated there
becomes present here the life, death and resurrection of the Lord. It is this
mystery that is to encompass the whole of our lives, to be the sign of God's
redeeming love for all around us, and for all the world to be drawn into the
Isaiah 2.1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44
Michael Casagram, OCSO
Abbey of Gethsemani
November 28, 2004
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