Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the First Sunday of Advent (Year B), 2017.
We have asked Our Lord Jesus Christ in our Collect today to give us grace to heed the warnings of the prophets and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus our Redeemer. That is, the grace to take seriously the words of Isaiah who sings in the highest register, “Behold your God!”; the grace to forsake sin—the separation—between ourselves and God through our daily prayer, a habit that absolves us of the common, low-intensity sins we commit, because daily prayers prepares Him room so that heaven and earth can sing in our hearts; and the grace to greet with joy the God of all creation as He comes into our bodies as the consecrated bread of life and spiritual drink, and still more into our hearts, words, and deeds, for He is speaking peace to His faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to Him.
“Joy to the World” exquisitely captures all the Advent themes of expectation, hope, joy, and acceptance of the coming of the King of kings and Lord of lords. And it resonates with the words of Isaiah. We sing of fields, and floods, rocks, hills, and plains that repeat the sounding joy. Isaiah sings that every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. The coming of Jesus Christ is an event that involves all of creation. In his letter to the Roman, Saint Paul writes “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Advent is an invitation to recognize how all things, and especially all people, are bearing Jesus in their hearts, in their minds, in their spirit.
As we are waiting, and as we are watching, Saint Peter teaches us to recommit to our lives of holiness and godliness, which we do first through our prayer life, which then pervades our words and deeds, pervades the rest of our life. He too teaches that the Coming of Jesus Christ impinges profoundly on creation—the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire. Fire such as rested upon the heads of the disciples on the Day of Pentecost.
Fire even that rested upon the head of the prophet Isaiah, and what temperature it must have been. He was singing comfort, comfort ye my people and was speaking tenderly to Jerusalem that her warfare had ended at the moment when this people, the chosen of God, His elect, no longer had a country, a temple, or political power. Still, Isaiah sings the glory of God who is coming in a great return more marvelous than He has ever made Himself known.
His being made known is the new creation. This is why Saint Mark begins his account of Jesus with the words “beginning”—indeed, that abruptly, although our modern translations soften it by adding either “the” or “a.” Through this device Mark recalls the opening of the Old Testament, “In the beginning,” which is the moment of creation. A moment that in Jewish tradition, which is the tradition of Jesus, became associated with wisdom, such as we hear in the Book of Proverbs, when the voice of Wisdom speaks and says “The Lord made me the beginning of his way.” The new creation is a new wisdom; Jesus is the new creation, and so He is a new wisdom; and as Paul says, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation—he is a new wisdom through baptismal incorporation into the eternal wisdom of Jesus Christ, Son of the Father.
Brothers and sisters, Our Lord is coming—may we listen to what the Lord is saying, for He is speaking peace to His faithful people and those who turn their hearts to him. Christ’s peace is the pathway for His feet. Let us pray:
O Holy and ever blessed Spirit, who did overshadow the Holy Virgin-Mother of our Lord, and caused her to conceive by a miraculous and mysterious manner; be pleased to overshadow our souls, and enlighten our spirits, that we may conceive the holy Jesus in our hearts, and may bear him in our minds, and may grow up to the fullness of the statue of Christ, to be a perfect person in Christ Jesus. Amen.