We are nearing the end of the Advent season. Advent, that holy season of the liturgical year which trumpets God’s extravagant love for us, a love beyond reckoning!
No matter how broken or seemingly hopeless our world may seem sometimes, the Advent messages are rich with joyous expectation and longing, insisting that God can and does bring forth life where none seems possible.
Into our beautiful yet very wounded world comes Emmanuel, God-with-us, carrying the promise of fresh hope to enliven our hearts.
Every year the church encourages us to slow down, to refocus, to wait for the coming of the Lord in quiet expectation. This year we have been forced to slow down, forced to refocus, and forced to wait in quiet hope. But the subject of our waiting has not been the Lord but an end to a virus and the coming of a vaccine. With the whole world we are moaning, “How long O Lord? How long must the world suffer from this terrible disease?”
We heard in the reading for last Sunday, which was Gaudete Sunday, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” The tone of Advent changes from waiting for the Lord to the realization that the Lord is near, is close. Pope Francis tells us that “the first step of faith is to tell God that we need him, that we need him to be close to us.”
Reiterating that this is also the first message of Advent and the liturgical year, Pope Francis said, “We need to recognize God’s closeness and say, come close to us once more!” Noting that God wants to draw close to us, but will not impose Himself, Pope Francis reminded us that it is up to us to invite God into our lives, not only today but every day. Jesus came among us and will come again at the end of time. Pope Francis invited the faithful to recite the traditional “Come, Lord Jesus” prayer at “the beginning of each day and repeat it frequently, before our meetings, our studies and our work, before making decisions, in every important or difficult moment of our lives: Come, Lord Jesus!”
This type of prayer invites God to be close to us; it frees us from our solitude and gives us hope. Prayer is vital for life: just as we cannot live without breathing, so we cannot be close to God without praying.
One of the ancient traditions associated with Advent is the praying of the “O Antiphons.” Since the eighth century the Church, in the Liturgy of the Hours, has used these seven antiphons based on the different ancient titles given to the Messiah by the prophet Isaiah to introduce the Magnificat at Vespers from December 17th through December 23rd.
December 17 – O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!
December 18 – O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!
December 19 – O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!
December 20 – O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!
December 21 – O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
December 22 – O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
December 23 – O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!
—From Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers
Amid all the brokenness of our times the support we gain by careful meditation on the Word of God (Lectio) should not be overlooked. I invite you to join the entire Church as we pray these O Antiphons in anticipation of the celebration of Christmas. COME, LORD JESUS!
By Sister Janet Marie Flemming, OSB