Turn on the lights- 1st Sunday of Advent- Mark 13:33-37
Growing up, the season of Advent meant just one thing for me; Christmas is coming. But liturgically the season of advent is all about Christ’s second coming or the Parousia. It is only from the 17th of December, when we begin the “O” Antiphons, an ancient part of our liturgy dating back to the fourth century that the liturgical focus is on Christmas. These antiphons address Christ with seven magnificent Messianic titles, based on the Old Testament prophecies and titles of Christ.
So what are we doing liturgically till the 17th of December you may ask? We are turning on the lights! Sounds strange right? Let me lift the darkness of confusion for you. The first Sunday of Advent resonates with the words ‘Maranatha,’ an Aramaic expression occurring in St. Paul (I Corinthians 16:22). The Christian Fathers understood the term to mean “Our Lord has come.” But more probably it means what St. John has at the close of the New Testament, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
Here in lies the problem in most people’s minds, for if we say ‘come Lord’ then it means He is not with us and if He is not with us, then where is He? Didn’t the Lord promise that He would be with us till the end of time? The reality is that He has not ‘gone anywhere;’ it is just that WE don’t see His presence in our lives clearly ( or may be not at all).
Imagine yourself at a dinner table when the electric grid collapses and you are plunged in darkness. The first collective words heard, are those of frustration. Darkness plunges you into an unfamiliar world and instinct kicks in, pushing you to seek for a source of light. Here in lies the challenge – you have to navigate through the darkness.
Those who are well experienced with the loss of electric power on a regular basis, know that the best solution is to stay still for a few minutes. The darkness, which at first leaves us with a sense of paralysis, is soon subdued, as the gentle moon beams float into the room. Shadowy figures of other persons in the room soon become visible; you can make out external forms and identify one another, albeit in shadowy forms only.
A couple of candles help in mitigating an uncomfortable situation, and while secretly one curses the darkness, one is grateful for a humble candle, if not the light that cell phones provide. But all this is a pale substitute for the real thing and one awaits in eagerness for the electric company to jump start the system.
Advent is something like this. Jesus has not gone anywhere for He is true to His promise to be with us till the end of time. It is the ‘choices’ we make to turn away from Him, to a life of sin, which turns off the light in our lives. He is next to us but we can’t see Him, because we have short circuited our life with sin and now are plunged in darkness!
In this darkness, we see Him; dimly as a shadowy form in our life. He is there, we feel His presence, but our relationship with Him is shadowy; we see His form but not the clarity of His face. Perhaps many of us grow accustomed to this situation and foolishly think that this is how we are to live our spiritual life with the Lord; this is how He will always be to us.
Nothing can be further than the truth. The Lord desires us to see Him clearly. However that choice is up to us! Advent is that time to turn on the light of our lives; to walk away from sin and darkness, and to walk into His marvellous light; so that when He comes as He promised, we will recognize Him from the distractions that clutter our lives.
The Lord is coming soon as He promised, and the season of Advent stands as an annual reminder to each of us. Ironically the clergy in India make themselves available in a concerted way – to administer the sacrament of reconciliation (confessions) in preparation for Christmas. The first Sunday of Advent is more appropriate, for the liturgy invites us to watch; “May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”
Fr Warner D’Souza
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