Readings: Is 2: 1-5. Rom 13:11-13. Matt 24:37-44.
We Christians are an ‘Advent’ people – something our earliest Christian ancestors were keenly aware of but
which we had almost forgotten. It has not traditionally been to the forefront of our minds. Scripture readings of Advent are rich in poetry and images, and wide in scope and vision. We have tended to limit their scope and narrow their vision. The Church most of us grew up in, with its emphasis on individual ‘salvation’ dependent on moral behaviour, presented the ‘Last Day’ as Doomsday, the day when judgement would seal our fate for all eternity -and the ‘expected’ was the human birth of Jesus. The firm linking of Advent to Christmas has perhaps led us to miss the original powerful point. Maybe the ‘new’ (to us) Creation/Incarnation theology may help us to reclaim it.
In our first reading the prophet presents a different picture. In terms of the Jewish culture and mythology of his time, he depicts a coming perfect time of universal unity and peace, when the Lord will hold sway over all the nations and all will be well. In the second reading, Paul has a sense of great urgency. The coming end is imminent – it could come tomorrow or next week taking us by surprise in spite of our awaiting it. So, we should be awake and alert, ready to go with it and be part of it. He takes up the prophet’s admonishing to ‘Walk in the light of the Lord’. In the gospel, Matthew repeats this warning and expands on it, emphasising the unexpectedness and the need for readiness for ‘the Son of Man’s coming’, without giving any idea of what exactly that means, assuming perhaps that his hearers/readers already know.
Both Paul and Matthew seem to give the impression that ‘the time’ will be a single, sudden, and – although we know it is coming – an unexpected apocalyptic event. Isaiah’s vision is more of something happening over time and building up to completion. This resonates more with how we see things now. We are beginning to see that our ideas have been much too small and we need to embrace a far bigger and more universally significant picture. The ‘Last Day’ and the love-led process leading to it embraces the whole of creation and all time. Each of us is part of it, not as separate individuals but as integral parts of the whole. The Parousia is the advent of the Cosmic Christ, when all there is is ‘in Christ’ and ‘Christ is all in all’.
‘Advent is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not (yet) Christ’ (Daniélou).
Genevieve Mooney OP