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 “Iwait 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.