Saturday, November 27, 2010

The First Sunday of Advent

First Sunday of Advent
Yesterday, a man enthusiastically told a clerk about his ‘Christian’ band. He said it was so great to be able to praise God in this way unlike his childhood upbringing in the Catholic Church. To which the clerk replied, “I know, the way they shove it down your throat!”

I sensed that hearts so closed off, will never know the full light of the Church Jesus Christ created, but they see a small part of what God has intended for their joy. The advantage of a childhood religion does not guarantee that a follower of Christ will ‘see’ the whole truth. We can say the words, ‘Lord, help me to see’, but this will not always open a darkened heart immediately to the light.

Saint Paul strikes at the heart of the matter in the Advent readings Sunday. The vision of the eye is that of the soul in his dialogue with the Roman faithful. He says “Let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark.” Romans 13:12 He refers to physical actions but his intention is clearly for the spiritual matter caught in darkness. Scripture points to light as our beginning and our lamp. The simple concept of light is then used repeatedly as a concrete reflection of Christ in our life. God, in his perfect complexity creates light and darkness on the first day and Christ in his perfect divinity and humanity identifies himself as the Light of the World.

The Comparison of Light and Dark

“God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. Go saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness. God called light ‘day’, and darkness he called ‘night’. Evening came and morning came: the first day.” Genesis 1:3-5

There is no mention of the foulness of the dark in the very beginning. We can say that dark in the beginning was unfouled by twisted deeds. But God clearly feels that the light is good. We also have the words of Christ calling himself the light. “Anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark; he will have the light of life.” John 8:12 Walking in the dark is clearly meant as a path that leads away from the love of God. In the progression of the world from scripture, Christ’s time evidences that darkness has been abused. In this scripture passage Christ speaks of dark and light as what the eye can see. If we focus on the first light that God sees, and the light of Christ that we see, the value of good in light becomes exponential with the power it has over darkness. God and his Son have confirmed this power by the infallibility that light comes from them. Light thus becomes in God’s divine sight and our weak sight an illumination that can draw one from walking in the dark, now corrupted in our time, to a light that is good, the Light of Christ the Savior.

Salvation in Light

Saint Paul says in Sunday’s reading, “the time has come: you must wake up now, our salvation is even nearer than it was when we were converted. The night is almost over, it will be daylight soon” Romans 13:11 Saint Paul is alluding to the fruition of the story of salvation that he believes is coming very soon. His words refer to a physical state of waking, but his meaning is deeper and found in his mention of salvation and conversion. The time of Advent is the beginning of the calendar year for the Church and a time to ‘wake-up’ again and be prepared for the coming of the Light of the World. Saint Paul wants the newly converted followers of Christ to recognize Him in their being and avoid the darkness of night. He goes on to describe charity toward others in the next paragraph giving examples of what light is to others that may show that the Light of the World is upon Christ’s followers. The fruition of salvation for our souls is not the only duty that Saint Paul exhorts us too. It is that we are to shine as Christ did for others in our charity and actions in the light. In the physical and spiritual sense the light has a power greater than just illumination, it has the power to draw other souls, not just our own.

Choosing the Light

A darkened heart is only dark as long as the heart does not seek the light. The deepest areas of our souls cannot avoid the full light of Christ no matter if we choose to avoid him or not. That power that God has gifted light by His creation of it, is limited though, by our free will and the adherence to charity that Saint Paul describes as the plan of Christ for us. The two people I mentioned have chosen to seek Christ, but areas of darkness have closed parts of their hearts so that they may never fully be illuminated until they meet Christ. Sometimes the darkness that we in our weakness, have allowed to take over, cannot be banished so quickly as light moves in time and space. The spiritual elements of dark and light are fiercely battling for all areas of our hearts and souls. The preparing for Christ is the only true way to allow darkness within us to be annihilated because we will have exhibited by our will that we have sought the path of light.