DECEMBER 19, 2008- WEDNESDAY, 3RD WEEK OF ADVENT: IS 45:6Ö25; LK 7:18-23

 

I AM THE LORD, THERE IS NO OTHER; I FORM THE LIGHT, AND CREATE THE DARKNESS, I MAKE WELL-BEING AND CREATE WOE. . . . TURN TO ME AND BE SAFE. These few words of the great prophet, the second Isaiah witness in brief compass to the most profound insight into the origin, workings, and guidance of the universe that was known to antiquity. Only with the revelation brought by the Incarnation of the Word of God was this understanding of creation and Providence surpassed. This confession is a reply to the most fundamental of all questions: does the universe and the life of our human race have a meaning? The prophet answers in the name of God himself who speaks through him with a resounding affirmative. He is confident that his faith will be proved true by events: In the Lord shall be the vindication and the glory of all the descendants of Israel, he adds.

 

In the appearance of the Son of God at the birth of Jesus for which this season of Advent is preparing us, the sharper outlines of this vindication become manifest. The revelation of the glory of God attains its acme in the glorification of his Incarnate Son, at the resurrection. The future glory of Christ, is already visible to faith while Jesus is still an infant in the arms of his mother, as Simeon proclaims. Seeing this infant, he praises God for his saving initiative, saying: my eyes have seen your salvation, the glory of your people Israel. From earliest times, basing herself on the teaching of Christ himself, the Church has understood herself to be the true Israel who inherits the promises made to Abraham and his descendents from of old.

 

This season of Advent is replete with echoes of prophetic voices from the depths of the faithful community of Israel, putting us in mind of our bonds with the Fathers whose faith found it fulfillment in the birth of the Word of God made flesh. We are the children of Israel; our glory is assured by the prophet Isaiah in the words the Lord gave him, some centuries before the Lord appeared: In the Lord shall be the vindication and the glory of all the descendants of Israel, the prophet assures us in todayís text. Our task is to prepare ourselves to recognize this glory when he comes among us, in whatever form he assumes. The Jews who prided themselves on being children of Abraham failed to understand that in Jesus this vindication and glory was offered to them, because it assumed forms they did not expect or understand. The lowliness of the limited human body, dependent upon the products of the earth for its survival and health, the further limitations imposed by poverty served as obstacles to those blinded by false expectations of a more worldly form of fulfillment and glory. And so in the end, the result was the ultimate expression of this poverty in the cross, and the subsequent revelation of his glory in the resurrection of the Savior.

 

If the Advent liturgy confronts us with these facts, its purpose is to prepare our hearts to recognize that Godís vindicates his people in disconcerting ways. We are to learn to see his action where merely human and worldly values are blinding; this Savior who comes to reconcile us with the Father and bring us to eternal life in the presence of his glory, takes lowly forms. He appears in poverty as a stranger at the margin of society at his birth, and at his death is shamefully displayed, tortured as a criminal. The same Isaiah who speaks today to us of Godís coming as the glory of Israel, was to proclaim later, again in Godís name, that ďmy ways are not your ways.Ē Life and glory are placed before us, but in this middle time, is the humiliation of weakness and suffering. The cross of Jesus is the one door that opens into eternal life, in the bosom of God, the merciful Father. &    

 

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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