Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Advent Tension

Look with favour, Lord God, on our petitions,
and in our trials grant us your compassionate help,
that, consoled by the presence of your Son,
whose coming we now await,
we may be tainted no longer
by the corruption of former ways.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

St. John the Baptist, who pointed to Christ
This is today's collect, or opening prayer, for mass. The special seasons of the year (Lent, Advent, Christmas, Easter) have special collects for each specific day, so there's always something new for us to discover in them. I like this one because of the dichotomy it draws between the presence of Jesus and his coming we still await. It helps to highlight for us the beautiful tension of Advent. Tension is not a terrible thing, I remember a priest once remarking that a corpse has achieved balance, but the human condition, and even more so that of the Christian, is one of tension. So in Advent we have a tension. We celebrate Christ who came and never left, and we anticipate his coming again. We like to say he comes in history, mystery, and majesty. Jesus came in history, he was born long ago. He comes in mystery: he dwells in us through the reception of Sacraments and he wants to meet you anew each and every day. And he will come in majesty: Jesus will come again at the end of time to judge the world and take his own to himself. So this prayer reminds us that Jesus is here among us, we are "consoled by his presence," and yet it is this same Jesus "whose coming we now await." We don't await just a memorial or anniversary of his coming on December 25th, but more importantly, we await his coming at the end of time. Advent is for us to prepare for that second coming, for us to be "tainted no longer by the corruption of former ways." What is the former way? Sin. The new way? Grace. Advent is for going to Confession (heck, all seasons are for going to Confession). Advent is for looking ahead, not back.

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