As we prepare for the coming of the Son of God in our humanity, in the manger of Bethlehem, the liturgy of the First Sunday of Advent directs our hearts to his coming at the end of time: this is the first “coming of the Son of Man” of which Jesus speaks to his disciples in today’s Gospel. Let’s take some time to pay attention to the thoughts and feelings that arise within us when we read this announcement:
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left” (Mt 24:37–41).
Perhaps, at first, we’re a little confused: shouldn’t the season of Advent prepare us to welcome the mystery of the infancy of the Son of God, born in our humanity? Yet, it’s as if this gospel passage takes us away from the beginning of history—the birth of Jesus in our world—and sends us abruptly to the end of history: the coming of the Lord at the end of time!
Confused, worried, perplexed… Let’s not be afraid or ashamed to experience these feelings. But let’s not be paralyzed by them and simply stay there! Let’s be aware that in Jesus’ address to his disciples, he uses a literary genre that is well-known in the Bible: the apocalyptic discourse. This apocalyptic way of speaking often uses disturbing images, but its intent is not the creation of some disaster scene that is meant to terrorize us. Apocalypse means revelation: the apocalyptic style reveals to us that which is to come; it is intended to nourish our hope. And the object of our hope is the salvation offered by God, “who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:4–5).
Since this is the case, how can we not desire that the coming of the Son of Man in our lives should happen now, not just at the end of time? In the second reading of this Sunday’s Mass, St. Paul makes an urgent appeal to us, encouraging us to wake from our sleep because God’s coming into our lives is happening now! God is here, right now:
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near (Rom 13:11–12).
The Way of Perfection (written ca. 1566) is one of the works in which St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) teaches us about prayer. In this book, she directs our hearts to be attentive to God’s coming—to his presence within us, here and now:
If you speak, strive to remember that the One with whom you are speaking is present within. If you listen, remember that you are going to hear One who is very close to you when He speaks. In sum, bear in mind that you can, if you want, avoid ever withdrawing from such good company; and be sorry that for a long time you left your Father alone, of whom you are so much in need.
If you can, practice this recollection often during the day; if not, do so a few times. As you become accustomed to it you will experience the benefit, either sooner or later. Once this recollection is given by the Lord, you will not exchange it for any treasure.
Since nothing is learned without a little effort, consider, Sisters, for the love of God, as well employed the attention you give to this method of prayer. I know, if you try, that within a year, or perhaps half a year, you will acquire it, by the favor of God.
See how little time it takes for a gain as great as is that of laying a good foundation. If then the Lord should desire to raise you to higher things He will discover in you the readiness, finding that you are close to Him. May it please His Majesty that we not consent to withdrawing from His presence. Amen. (The Way of Perfection 29, 7–8).
Thus, as we set out to welcome He who is to come, we discover that—mysteriously—He is already present, deep within our hearts. St. Teresa teaches us that to watch expectantly for the One who is to come is to be attentive to the presence of the One who is already there!
Anthony-Joseph Pinelli, O.C.D.
Carmelite Online Retreat — Advent 2022
Welcoming the presence of God in our lives
Guided by St. Teresa of Avila to watch with expectation for the One who comes (excerpts)
Free registration for this Discalced Carmelite online Advent retreat is still opento register, click here
Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
All scripture references are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America as accessed from the Bible Gateway website.
Translation from the French text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.