You may know that when he was Archbishop of Munich, Pope Benedict gave series of sermons on the Sundays of Advent. He has spent significant time reflecting on this season.
But year and each change in our lives, changes our perspectives on things we may have known well for years. For example, the mysteries of our faith or what we observe in the liturgical years don’t change from year to year, but we do.
This is why we must never be complacent when it comes to our Faith, either they Faith by which we believe (the gift from God which is a grace that we pray will be deepened) or the Faith in which we believe (the content we can learn and study make a part of our worldview and lives).
So many people come to their 60th year with no long catechism than that which they have have heard at 6 and forgot by 16. And yet our Faith asks us to seek understanding.
That is a little preamble to a few points from Pope Benedict’s sermon for 1st Vespers of Advent and a new liturgical year. I won’t translate the whole thing; only a few key sentences. I will mostly summarize. I haven’t seen an English version of the sermon anywhere and thought you might want more than a spoonful.
I was struck by something in this sermon. I was caught by the possibility that the Pope is suffering in a human way and in a spiritual way. I was struck by the notion that at this point in his life, with the burdens he bears and the life perhaps he thought he was going to have after the death of the late Holy Father, he is sorting many things out on a personal level even as he gazes at the Church in this modern world, this modern world around our Church.
Benedict XVI, in his sermon for 1st Vespers of Advent, reflected on the word "coming… adventus".
He observed that it can be translated variously as "presence, arrival, coming" and that in the ancient world it had to do with the coming of an important person, such as the visit of the emperor to a province. It could also mean the coming of a divinity. Christians adopted this word to describe their relationship with Christ.
They were saying: "God is here, he hasn’t left the world, he has not left us alone. Even if we cannot see and touch him as he comes in a sensible reality, He is here and he comes to visit us in many places."
"Adventus" also has to do with visitatio, "visit", especially a visit by a God: "He enters into my life and wants to address me."
"We all have the experience, in our daily life, of having little time for the Lord and little time even for ourselves. One winds up absorbed by ‘doing’. Isn’t it perhaps true that often it is exactly activity that possesses us, society with its multiple interests that monopolizes our attention? Isn’t it perhaps true that one dedicates lots of time to diversions and amusements of different kinds?" … "Advent invites us to stand in silence in order to understand a presence. … How often God causes us to perceive something of His love!"
He also elaborated another point. "Another fundamental element of Advent is waiting, a waiting which is at the same time hope."
Advent helps us to understand the meaning of time as kairos, as the favorable opportunity for our salvation. Jesus pointed out this mysterious reality through parables.
Through the different stages of his life man is constantly waiting. But he comes at last to find that he hoped for too little if all he hoped for was social standing or a profession. Christians, however, have the sense that God is along side us, "and will one day dry our tears".
There are many different forms of waiting. If time isn’t filled with meaning, waiting is unendurable. "Every breath that passes seems exaggeratedly long." If it is enriched with meaning, then "in every instant we perceive something specific and of value."
"Dear brothers and sisters, let us intense live the present, where the Lord’s gifts are reaching us, let us live it as if we were launched towards the future, a future charged with hope."
Christian Advent helps us to an understanding of waiting. The Messiah waited for centuries and was born into poverty. Coming among us, he offered the gift of His love and salvation. Present among us He speaks in many ways: in Scripture, in the liturgical year, in the saints, in the events of daily life, in all creation. "For our part, let us address Him, let us offer Him the sufferings that afflict us, the impatience, the questions that burst from our hearts. Let us be sure that He is always listening to us!" "If He is present, we can continue to hope even when others cannot any longer assure us of any support, even when the present becomes wearying."
At the end the Holy Father made a comment that gave me pause: "Advent is the time of the presence and waiting for eternity. For just this reason it is, in a special way, the time of joy, of interiorized joy, that no suffering can take away."