Each Advent we are given the opportunity to begin anew and to enter a deeper place of interior awareness. We not only continue to await the second coming of the Lord, but we look forward to celebrating again the birth of the Babe in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago! Even more important, we are preparing ourselves to receive him more deeply into our hearts every day. Christ came and redeemed us totally. To receive this gracious gift, we have to open our hearts to the light of Christ. To do this, we must prepare the way through prayer. Three voices lead us on the way through Advent: Mary, John the Baptist, and the prophet Isaiah.
On December 8, we joyfully celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This feast not only tells us that Mary was free from sin from the moment of her conception, but it gives us hope for our own “new birth” and our victory over the powers of darkness. She is our model, our guide, the one who awaits and receives and brings forth Christ for the world. She is the Virgin of Nazareth who brings us to Christ and Christ to us. She not only receives the word but is obedient to the word, and responds: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say” (Lk 1:38). In her, we too can say, “fiat … thy will be done.”
John is the great herald who proclaims that the coming of the Messiah is near. He cries out for repentance of our sins to “make ready the way of the Lord” (Mk 1:3). He teaches us that the way to “make ready” is through humility, acknowledging God as God and ourselves as his creatures. When John was thought to be the Christ, he declared that he was not what they thought and said: “One more powerful than I is to come after me. I am not fit to stoop and untie his sandal straps. I have baptized you in water; he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit” (Mk 1:7-8). Jesus came and through his suffering, death and resurrection, made restitution for the sin of mankind and offered us forgiveness of sins and new birth in the Holy Spirit.
The prophet Isaiah, whose words we read through much of Advent, is the hopeful prophet who describes the Messianic kingdom. His prophecy around the year 740 B.C. tells of the coming of the Messiah who is to be a descendant of David. This Messiah will bring light into our darkness and peace and justice into the world. He will make our barren hearts fruitful and reconcile us with the Father. Isaiah’s words help us to walk through Advent with hope and expectation.
We need interior eyes. We can only see deeply if we are in prayer and are willing to be led. Mary invites us into her heart where everything is possible with God. Let us pray during this Advent Season for the grace to allow the Light of Christ to enter into our hearts and bring us ever more deeply into the new creation.
Fr. Francis J. Marino, S.M.
Founder, Anawim Community
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 18, no. 1. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.