28 November 2010. 1st Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 2: 1-5; Psalm 122: Romans 13: 11-14; Matthew 24: 37-44
The bride in the Song of Songs 1, 2-4:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.
Your love is more delightful than wine;
delicate is the fragrance of your perfume…
Draw me in your footsteps, let us run…
How right it is to love you.
Have you ever ardently desired the kiss of someone you passionately love? If you did, then the Season of Advent will appeal to you. Advent is about ardent yearning. We seek, eventually, our union with the Lord, the kiss of the Beloved. Before the union is attained, our burning desire come first. We can be certain, with the knowledge graced by the Holy Spirit, that God so wishes us to intensely want this oneness. St. Ignatius puts it, we were created “to praise, honor and glorify” the Lord. In other words, the purpose of our creation is the union with Jesus, sharing the life of God.
To love is to desire. Love is never a linear journey from one point to another. It is rather a circular movement that increases the union of two persons. As we love, we desire; as we desire, we love. Every circular movement thus deepens. It has, within itself, all the experiences of presence and absence, of hunger and being fed with giving and receiving, and still, our desire for our beloved is renewed but never the same as before: we either love more intensely, or long and pine for the beloved more ardently than previously. It is, as the quote from Song of songs, like wine: that we who have tasted how sweet the Lord is (Psalm 34:8), become intoxicated by the Lord’s beauty. And then when the next day come, it will bring more desires and new pains to prepare for a new loving union.
In preparing and waiting, our deepest desires and longings intensify. Think: as we wait for our beloved in romantic dates, our hearts beat a little bit faster and we cannot stand one more minute of waiting. Think: when we prepare for a birthday party, our excitement grows for the look of surprise, gratitude and affirmation from the celebrant.
And so what are we preparing for? In a broader sense, we are preparing for His second coming, the Day of Judgment. In a specific sense, we are preparing for the day when we finally meet the Lord in death. And therefore, the whole of our life is a preparation and a waiting; our specific advent. In a personal sense, we prepare our hearts and souls for particular experiences of God’s coming at any given point in our life. These ‘visitations’ from the Lord is unpredictable like inspirations that come to artists at any point in time.
In general, the readings today tell us what we should yearn for. Isaiah shares his dream that one day “all nations shall stream” to the mountain of the Lord. The Responsorial Psalm proclaims, we “go rejoicing to the House of the Lord.” And as we go to the mountain of the Lord, Paul says in his letter to the Romans that we shall “put on the armor of light” and “put on Jesus Christ.” In this journey, Jesus says in the Gospel, “you must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” to meet us (Matthew 24:44). This is the kiss we yearn for when we meet the Lord; the experience of oneness when our lips lock in our Beloved’s lips.
It is no wonder that one of the metaphors the Lord uses to symbolize our relationship with God is the image of marriage: the Lord is the bridegroom and the Church is His bride. And so we, who are members of the Church, Christ’s bride, pine for the kisses of the Eternal Bridegroom.
In the Spiritual Exercises of the St. Ignatius, the one who makes the retreat is asked to pray the grace of “an intimate knowledge of our Lord, that one may love Him more ardently and follow Him more closely” (Louis J. Puhl SJ). This desire is prayed before the meditation on the Incarnation. It could be asked from the Lord before contemplating on the whole life of Christ. That desire is another way of putting the longing of the bride in the Prologue of the Song of Songs (1, 2-4).
Similarly, the Season of Advent is indeed this time: we are being prepared for the Incarnation which is Christmas. In view of the liturgical year, Advent also prepares us in the year-long contemplation of the life of Christ.
As we begin the liturgical year with the first Sunday of Advent, may we reflect on God who is the lover of humanity, the great philantrophos of the human race. And our longings are also God’s way of bringing us to where we should be. God has planted His desire in us and expresses them several times through the Holy Spirit within us. So that we will truly desire, not the ecstatic feelings we long for, but the total fulfillment of God’s desires for us.
Lord, “How right it is to love You.” (Song of Songs 1: 4)