Day 8 Sunday the 7th of December
And so Advent has begun and we enter into that season in which through symbol and poetry we express the longing of the ages that Christ be born anew in our hearts and transform our lives. In the dark days of the end of the year, through the mists and darkness of December, the ‘mountain of the Lord’ emerges on the horizons of our collective mind and in our long night watch the light gradually fills our world. The Morning Star rises in our hearts and the cry ‘Come!’ resonates in our inner and outer worlds. Advent awakens us to renewed hope and the possibility of realising impossible dreams. How do we know this? Through a young Jewish girl of Nazareth who asked a touch incredulously: ‘How can this be?’ – and the Word became flesh and still dwells among us!
In order to enter more fully into the mystery of Advent and its mood it is helpful
to understand and be conscious of the history of the chosen people. Unlike today
Israel was not a great nation in terms of power and influence. It was insignificant
– a satellite state situated between the might of Syria and the power of Egypt.
Yet it was a people created to hope. It existed because of God’s word and His promise to Abraham. The whole raison d’etre of Israel was to listen to this word and respond in faith, obedience and worship.
The ancient world needed, as we do today, special places where the longing for God would be conscious and overt; people and places who would centre the longing of humankind. Israel was such a place. The chosen people were to be a place of receptivity, readiness, expectation of what God wanted to do in the lives of his people. They were destined to be a womb community which would bring forth the One who was to come. They did not always do this very well. We read of their faltering steps towards encounter with El Shaddai. While they sang in their psalms: ‘I yearn for your saving help; I hope in your word; my eyes yearn to see your promise……’ they could rarely sustain fidelity. Yet it was not their hesitant desire for God but His faithful love that gave shape and meaning to their history. He espoused His people to Himself through covenanted love and sent the prophets to remind them of this and rekindle the reality of who they were. Of course, many refused to listen but there were always some who consented to die to the old order of being and be born anew to the God of the Covenant. A ‘remnant of Israel’, always said ‘yes’ and a new future was possible.
In time this ‘remnant’, the ‘Anawim’ (rather than the nation) became the place where the longing and yearning was focused and in one particular place the waiting became a fertile space where God became man. In Mary of Nazareth, the finest flower of the Anawim tradition, the centuries long Advent came to completion. In her there was an emptiness that was ready to receive; there was faith and obedience. From the chosen people’s long night watch salvation dawned in this ‘noble flower of Judah’. She said ‘yes’ to the beyond. She let go of the securities, faced the misunderstandings, accepted her own bewilderment and took risk. She was herself born to a new existence that she may bring forth life.
As we live this Advent and the ‘advent’ of our lives, we are also faced with choice and challenge. How do we want to respond? May we each in our own way, echo Mary’s ‘fiat’ and make it our own.