Tag Archives: Advent

The Two Advents of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Related image

An incredible sermon that I discovered given by Blessed Jacobus of Voragine:

The Advent of Our Lord is celebrated for four weeks to signify that His coming is fourfold: He came to us in the flesh, He comes into our hearts, He comes to us at death, and He will come at the Last Judgment. The fourth week is not completed, because the glory of the elect to be bestowed at the last coming of Our Lord will never end.

While the coming of Our Lord is fourfold, the Church turns especially to two of them, the coming of Our Lord in the flesh and His coming at the Last Judgment. Thus, the Advent fast is in part a fast of rejoicing because of Christ’s coming in the flesh, the Incarnation; at the same time it is in part a fast of contrition, looking to the supreme coming of Christ at the Last Judgment.

I – Regarding Our Lord’s coming in the flesh, two things should be considered: how it is opportune and how it is useful.

1. It is opportune first, because man, condemned by nature to have an incomplete knowledge of God, had fallen into the worst errors of idolatry and was reduced to cry out, “Enlighten my eyes.”‘ Second, Our Lord came in the fullness of time as St. Paul says in the Epistle to the Galatians. Third, He came when the entire world was sick, as St. Augustine says: “The great Physician came when mankind was lying ill through the whole world.”

This is why the Church, in the seven antiphons sung before the Lord’s Nativity, remembers the different kinds of illnesses and how opportune this divine remedy is. Before the Son of God came in the flesh, we were ignorant and blind, subject to eternal punishment, slaves of the devil, shackled by our sinful habits, enveloped in darkness, exiled from our true motherland. This is why those antiphons proclaim Our Lord as our Master, our Redeemer, our Liberator, our Guide, our Enlightener and our Savior.

2. Regarding the usefulness of the coming of Christ, diverse authorities define it in different ways. Jesus Christ Himself in the Gospel of St. Luke tells us that He came for seven reasons: to console the poor, to cure the afflicted, to liberate the captives, to enlighten the ignorant, to forgive the sinners, to redeem the human genre and to recompense each one according to his merits. And St. Bernard says: “We suffer from a threefold illness: We are easy to seduce, slow to act and weak to resist. Hence the coming of Our Lord is necessary first to enlighten our blindness and second to help our weakness.”

II – Regarding the second coming, that is, the Last Judgment, we should consider the circumstances that will precede it and those that will accompany it.

 

1. Three kinds of circumstances will precede the Last Judgment: terrible signs, the imposture of the Antichrist, and an immense fire on the earth.

A. Five types of signs will precede the Last Judgment for, as St. Like says: “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars; on the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. (21:25) We can find a commentary on all these things in the Apocalypse.

St. Jerome, in his turn, found 15 signs preceding the Last Judgment in the annals of the Hebrews:

  • On the first day, the ocean will rise above the mountains and will stand upright, immobile like a wall;
  • On the second day, the ocean will sink so low that one will barely be able to see it;
  • On the third day, sea monsters will appear on the waves and will utter roars that will rise up to heaven;
  • On the fourth day, the water in the ocean will boil;
  • On the fifth day, the trees and all plants will exude a dew of blood;
  • On the sixth day, all the buildings will fall down;
  • On the seventh day, the stones will break into four pieces, which will clash against one another;
  • On the eighth day, a universal earthquake will lay every man and animal low on the ground;
  • On the ninth day, the earth will be leveled and the mountains and hills will be reduced to dust;
  • On the tenth day, men will leave their hidden places and wander like madmen, without being able to speak to each other;
  • On the eleventh day, the bones of the dead will come out of their graves;
  • On the twelfth day, the stars will fall from the firmament;
  • On the thirteenth day, all living beings will die to be resurrected afterwards with the dead;
  • On the fourteenth day, the sky and earth will burn;
  • On the fifteenth day, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and all will be resurrected.

B. The Last Judgment will be preceded by the imposture of the Antichrist, who will try to deceive men in four ways:

  • By a false interpretation of the Scriptures trying to prove that he is the promised Messiah;
  • By the working of miracles;
  • By the distribution of gifts;
  • By the infliction of tortures.

C. The Last Judgment will be preceded by a violent fire, lit by God himself to renew the world, to punish the reprobate and to bring attention to the group of the elect.

2. Regarding the circumstances that will accompany the Last Judgment, the first to be named is the separation of the good from the evil ones. For it is known that the Judge will come in the Valley of Josaphat and place the good at His right and evil ones at His left. This does not signify, as St. Jerome observes, that all men will have to be in that small valley, but only that it will be the center of the Judgment. This does not exclude that God, if He so desires, may place in that space an infinite number of men [since their resurrected bodies will no longer take up space].

Next comes the question of knowing the categories into which men will be divided when the Final Judgment comes. St. Gregory admits four categories: two for the reprobates and two for the elect. Among the reprobates will be those who will be condemned and those who were already condemned, about whom it was said: “The one who does not believe, will be judged previously.” Among the elect will be those who will judge the others sitting alongside the Judge.

At the Final Judgment the signs of the Passion will be present: the Cross, the instruments of the Passion and His scars; St John Chrysostom says that “The Cross and His scars will be more brilliant than the rays of the sun.”

The Judge will be inflexibly severe. He will bend neither from fear, since He is Almighty, nor from gifts, because He is richness itself, nor from hatred because He is goodness itself, nor from love because He is justice itself, nor from error because He is wisdom itself. Against this Wisdom neither the allegations of lawyers, nor the sophisms of philosophers, nor the phrases of orators, nor the ruses of hypocrites will prevail.

The Judge will be as severe as the prosecutor will be implacable. In other words, the sinner will face three prosecutors: the Devil, sin and the entire world, because, as St. Chrysostom says: “On that day, sky and earth, water, sun and moon, day and night, the whole world will raise against us before God, in testimony of our sins.”

Three witnesses will also testify against us, all three infallible: First, God, who said to us through the voice of Jeremy: “I am at the same time judge and witness;” second, our conscience, and third, our guardian Angel, for we read in the book of Job: “Heavens (that is, the Angels) will reveal his iniquity.”

Finally, the sentence will be irrevocable. Indeed, the sentence is irrevocable for three reasons: the excellence of the Judge, the evidence of the crime; the impossibility of reversing the chastisement. For in the sentence pronounced against us in the Last Judgment, there will be no King, Emperor or Pope to whom we can appeal the judgment pronounced against us.

Advertisements

Jesus, Man of Sorrows from the Womb of His Mother

For us, He was willing to subject himself to the outrages & sufferings of mankind, to atone for sin.

Damsel of the Faith

Taken from The Incarnation, Birth and Infancy of Jesus by St. Alphonsus Liguori:

Virum dolorum et scientem infirmitatem.

“A man of sorrows, acquainted with infirmity.”—–Isaiah 53:3

Thus does the prophet Isaias designate our Lord Jesus Christ “the man of sorrows;” yes, because this man was created on purpose to suffer, and from His infancy began to endure the greatest sorrows that any man ever suffered. The first man, Adam, enjoyed for some time upon this earth the delights of the earthly paradise; but the second Adam, Jesus Christ, did not pass a moment of His life without sorrows and anguish; for even from a child He was afflicted by the foresight of all the sufferings and ignominy that He would have to endure during His life, and especially at His death, when He was to close that life immersed in a tempest of sorrow and opprobrium, as David had…

View original post 614 more words

The benefits of the Incarnation

Related image

On the Benefits which the Son of God
Brings to us by His Incarnation

by Bp. Richard Challoner, 1807

Consider, first, that man in his first creation was highly favoured by his maker, and elevated by Him to a supernatural end; he was enriched with the treasures of original grace, justice, and sanctity; and destined to an eternal life with the living God. In the meantime he was placed in the earthly paradise, as in a shadow of that happy life, where if he had kept the law of his great creator, he might have fed upon the tree of life, and so have passed to a better paradise of a true and everlasting life, without going through the gate of death. But alas! by falling from his God by sin, he forfeited all these treasures, and all these advantages: he was stript at once of all the goods of grace; he was strangely wounded in all the powers and faculties of his soul; his understanding was overclouded with ignorance, and deluded with a variety of errors; his memory and imagination was distracted with empty toys and vanities, and hurried away from the remembrance of his God; his will was perverted with malice; his inferior appetite disordered with rebellious passions; and his whole soul became weak beyond expression to everything of good, and strongly bent upon all evil. Thus had unhappy man, by his apostasy from God, lost both his God, and all his good; and had incurred all kind of evils, both of soul and body, for time and for eternity: thus in losing his God he had fallen into the hands of four merciless enemies, sin and Satan, death and hell. Now the Son of God, by His incarnation, came down amongst us in order to deliver us from all these evils which we had incurred by sin; to reconcile us to our God, and to restore us, with infinite advantage, to all that good for which we were first created. What reasons then have we, my soul to rejoice in this incarnation of the Son of God, the sovereign means of all our good, and the source of all mercy, grace, and salvation to us! O what praise and thanksgiving, what perpetual love and service do we owe to this our great deliverer!

Consider 2ndly, how the Son of God coming amongst us, by His incarnation, has brought us from heaven most sovereign and effectual remedies for all our evils. He brought light to us, who were sitting before in darkness, and in the shadow of death; coming in quality of our teacher, (both by word and example) of the great prophet sent to us from God; of our lawgiver, and our apostle; and declaring to us the whole will of God. He brought with Him also our ransom, to redeem us from our slavery to Satan and sin, and to make us free indeed: ‘He was sent to preach deliverance to the captives, and sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, and to preach the acceptable year of our Lord,’ even the great jubilee, of a general remission of all our debts, and a general loosing of all our bands, Luke iv. 19. He came as our physician, to heal our maladies with medicines, made up with his own most sacred blood. ‘We were wandering in a wilderness, in a place without water,’ Ps.cvi. ‘We could find no way to a city for our habitation (our true and everlasting home); we were hungry, and thirsty, (destitute of all proper food for our souls,) and were bound in want, and in irons: we were brought low with labours, and weakened; and there was none to help us.’ And he came to deliver us in all these our distresses; to lead us to the right way, to conduct us to our true country; to feed our hungry souls with good things; to break our bonds asunder; to bring us refreshment, comfort, and rest from our labours; to satisfy all our wants; to redress all our miseries; to cure our weakness with His strength; and to raise us up form death to life. All this and much more has the Son of God effected in our favour, by coming down from heaven to be our Emmanuel, that is, to be ‘God with us’. And shall we not then, my soul, join with the palmist, in frequently repeating, in admiration at all the wonders of the divine goodness, that sacred hymn: ‘Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to Him: and His wonderful work to the children of men. Let them exalt Him in the church of the people, and praise Him in the hair of the ancients: Let them sacrifice to Him a sacrifice of praise, and declare His works with joy. O give glory to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever. Let them say so that have been redeemed by the Lord; whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of all countries.’ (Ps. cvi.) Yea, let them say so, and sing forth the mercies of the Lord for all eternity! Amen. Amen.

Consider 3rdly, that however great and inexpressible all these graces and benefits are which the Son of God has brought with Him by His incarnation, in order to deliver us from all our evils, and to communicate to us all His goods; yet none of them all, nor all of them together, will effectually save us, without our consent and concurrence, and a due correspondence on our part with His mercy and grace, by our yielding ourselves up entirely to him by faith and obedience. For what will it avail us to have the light come down from heaven to shine upon us if we shut our eyes against it, and love the darkness more than light? Or what shall we be the better for the ransom which our redeemer brings with Him, and lays down for us, if we prefer our slavery and our chains before the liberty of the children of God, and rather choose to stay with our old master, Satan and sin, amongst the husks of swine, than to go along with our deliverer, who desires to carry us home with Him to his Father’s house? Alas! so far from being the better for all these graces and benefits brought us by our redeemer, we should indeed be much the worse if we received them all in vain, and, by our ingratitude an obstinacy in sin, pervert them to our greater condemnation. For what greater perversity can there be than that we should know that the way, the truth, and the life is come down from heaven in our favour, and should still choose to go astray from the way, and to follow the father of lies into the regions of death.

Conclude to embrace in such manner your great deliverer, who comes by His incarnation to be your Emmanuel, (God with us,) by a faithful and diligent correspondence with all His mercies and graces, as that he may be always with you, and you may be always with Him, and that nothing in life or death may ever separate you from Him any more.

First Sunday of Advent

5E0611B1-9FA6-4BC0-9A90-0FEE006D925E

December has arrived & with it the preparation for Christmas – Advent. The following is taken from Fr. Leonard Goffine’s “Liturgical Year.”

INSTRUCTIONS ON ADVENT

What is the meaning of Advent, and what do we understand by the term?

The word Advent signifies coming, and by it is understood the visible coming of the Son of God into this world, at two different times.

It was when the Son of God, conceived of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the immaculate Virgin Mary, was born, according to the flesh, in the fullness of time, and sanctified the world by His coming, for which the patriarchs and prophets had so longed (Gen. 49:10; Is. G4:1; Lk. 10:24).

Since Christ had not yet come, how could the Just of the Old Law be saved?

Immediately after their sin, God revealed to our first parents that His only-begotten Son would become man and redeem the world (Gen. 3:15). In the hope of this Redeemer and through His merits, all in the old covenant who participated in His merits by innocence or by penance, and who died in the grace of God, were saved, although they were excluded from heaven until the Ascension of Christ.

When will the second coming of Christ take place?

At the end of the world when Christ will come, with great power and majesty, to judge both the living and the dead.

What is Advent, and why has the Church instituted it?

Advent is that solemn time, immediately preceding Christmas, instituted by the Church in order that we should, in the first place, meditate on the Incarnation of Christ, the love, patience and humility which He has shown us, and prove our gratitude to Him, because He came from the bosom of His heavenly Father into this valley of tears, to redeem us; secondly, that we may prepare ourselves by sincere repentance, fasting, prayer, alms-deeds, and other works pleasing to God, for the coming of Christ and His birth in our hearts, and thus participate in the graces which He has obtained for us; finally, that He may be merciful to us, when He shall come again as judge of the world. “Watch ye, for ye know not at what hour your Lord will come” (Mt. 5:42). “Wherefore be you also ready; because at what hour you know not, the Son of man will come” (Mt. 24:44).

How was Advent formerly observed?

Very differently from now. It then commenced with the Feast of St. Martin, and was observed by the faithful like the Forty Days’ Fast, with strict penance and devotional exercises, as even now most of the religious communities do to the present day. The Church has forbidden all turbulent amusements, weddings, dancing and concerts, during Advent. Pope Sylverius ordered that those who seldom receive Holy Communion should, at least, do so on every Sunday in Advent.

How should this solemn time be spent by Christians?

They should recall, during these four weeks, the four thousand years in which the just under the Old Law expected and desired the promised Redeemer, think of those days of darkness in which nearly all nations were blinded by saran and drawn into the most horrible crimes, then consider their own sins and evil deeds and purify their souls from them by a worthy reception of the Sacraments, so that our Lord may come with His grace to dwell in their hearts and be merciful to them in life and in death. Further, to awaken in the faithful the feelings of repentance so necessary for the reception of the Savior in their hearts, the Church orders that besides the observance of certain fast days, the altar shall be draped in violet, that Mass shall be celebrated in violet vestments, that the organ shall be silent and no Gloria sung. Unjust to themselves, disobedient to the Church and ungrateful, indeed, to God are those Christians who spend this solemn time of grace in sinful amusements without performing any good works, with no longing for Christ’s Advent into their hearts.

Reflections on the Mystery of Advent

Damsel of the Faith

Image result for nativity of our lord

When the time came for our Redemption to be accomplished, God took on our nature and and entered this sinful world to redeem it and purchase it with his Blood.  He who the world cannot contain nor understand was born into this world as a little, helpless baby. He who is not constrained by time deigned to be subject to it.  He who is Almighty God and not bound by the laws of death deigned to be put to death.

The greatest event to happen in human history: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw his glory, the humility of God.  God came humble so that we might be exalted and become sons of our Heavenly Father.  This is not to say that God lost his great power and glory.  No, he has two natures, both divine and human.  God took on our nature and was…

View original post 571 more words

Our Infant King cometh

Image result for nativity of our lord

As Christmas draws nearer, let us continue to meditate on the birth of our Infant King, who humbled himself to take on our nature and be put to death so that we might have life and have it more abundantly, in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Mankind, rejoice at the greatest act in history, this mystery of the great love of God for man!  The God we serve proved His love for us by rescuing us when we were helpless and lost, by coming into our world to take on our debt so that we might love Him and serve Him.  Remember that the price of our salvation was the death of an innocent God-man.  May we all continue to prepare for His coming by rejecting our sins and thanking the Baby Jesus for His humble birth.

“Therefore, when the time came, dearly beloved, which had been fore-ordained for men’s redemption, there enters these lower parts of the world, the Son of God, descending from His heavenly throne and yet not quitting His Father’s glory, begotten in a new order, by a new nativity. In a new order, because being invisible in His own nature He became visible in ours, and He whom nothing could contain, was content to be contained: abiding before all time He began to be in time: the Lord of all things, He obscured His immeasurable majesty and took on Him the form of a servant: being God, that cannot suffer, He did not disdain to be man that can, and immortal as He is, to subject Himself to the laws of death. And by a new nativity He was begotten, conceived by a Virgin, born of a Virgin, without paternal desire, without injury to the mother’s chastity: because such a birth as knew no taint of human flesh, became One who was to be the Savior of men, while it possessed in itself the nature of human substance. For when God was born in the flesh, God Himself was the Father, as the archangel witnessed to the Blessed Virgin Mary: ‘because the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee: and therefore, that which shall be born of thee shall be called holy, the Son of God.’ The origin is different but the nature like: not by [relations] with man but by the power of God was it brought about: for a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and a Virgin she remained. Consider here not the condition of her that bore but the will of Him that was born; for He was born Man as He willed and was able. If you inquire into the truth of His nature, you must acknowledge the matter to be human: if you search for the mode of His birth, you must confess the power to be of God.”  ~Pope St. Leo the Great

“The Child that is born of Mary and is couched in the Crib at Bethlehem, raises his feeble voice to the Eternal Father, and calls him, My Father! He turns towards us and calls us My Brethren! We, consequently, when we speak to his Father, may call him Our Father! This is the mystery of adoption, revealed to us by the great event [of Christmas]. All things are changed, both heaven and on earth: God has not only one Son, he has many sons; henceforth we stand before this our God, not merely creatures drawn out of nothing by his power, but children that he fondly loves. Heaven is now not only the throne of his sovereign Majesty; it has become our inheritance in which we are joint-heirs with our brother Jesus, the Son of Mary, Son of Eve, Son of Adam, according to his Human Nature, and (in the unity of Person) Son of God according to his Divine Nature. Let us turn our wondering and loving thoughts first to this sweet Babe, that has brought us all these blessings, and then to the blessings themselves, to the dear inheritance made ours by him. Let your mind be seized with astonishment at creatures having such a destiny! And then let our heart pour out its thanks for the incomprehensible gift!”   ~Dom Gueranger

O come, O come, Emmanuel!  The God-Man, Prince of Peace and Wonder-Counselor cometh!

~Damsel of the Faith

The practice of Advent

2827905

By Dom Gueranger, 1910

If our holy mother the Church spends the time of Advent in this solemn preparation for the threefold coming of Jesus Christ; if, after the example of the prudent virgins, she keeps her lamp lit ready for the coming of the Bridegroom; we, being her members and her children, ought to enter into her spirit, and apply to ourselves this warning of our Saviour: ‘Let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands, and ye yourselves be like unto men who wait for their Lord (St. Luke xii. 35, 36. )!’ The Church and we have, in reality, the same hopes. Each one of us is, on the part of God, an object of mercy and care, as is the Church herself. If she is the temple of God, it is because she is built of living stones; if she is the bride, it is because she consists of all the souls which are invited to eternal union with God. If it is written that the Saviour hath purchased the Church with His own Blood (Acts xx. 28. ), may not each one of us say of himself those words of St. Paul, ‘Christ hath loved me, and hath delivered Himself up for me (Gal. ii. 20.)’? Our destiny being the same, then, as that of the Church, we should endeavour during Advent, to enter into the spirit of preparation, which is, as we have seen, that of the Church herself.

And firstly, it is our duty to join with the saints of the old Law in asking for the Messias, and thus pay the debt which the whole human race owes to the divine mercy. In order to fulfil this duty with fervour, let us go back in thought to those four thousand years, represented by the four weeks of Advent, and reflect on the darkness and crime which filled the world before our Saviour’s coming. Let our hearts be filled with lively gratitude towards Him who saved His creature man from death, and who came down from heaven that He might know our miseries by Himself experiencing them, yes, all of them excepting sin. Let us cry to Him with confidence from the depths of our misery; for, notwithstanding His having saved the work of His hands, He still wishes us to beseech Him to save us. Let therefore our desires and our confidence have their free utterance in the ardent supplications of the ancient prophets, which the Church puts on our lips during these days of expectation; let us give our closest attention to the sentiments which they express.

This first duty complied with, we must next turn our minds to the coming which our Saviour wishes to accomplish in our own hearts. It is, as we have seen, a coming full of sweetness and mystery, and a consequence of the first; for the good Shepherd comes not only to visit the flock in general, but He extends His solicitude to each one of the sheep, even to the hundredth which is lost. Now, in order to appreciate the whole of this ineffable mystery, we must remember that, since we can be pleasing to our heavenly Father only inasmuch as He sees within us His Son Jesus Christ, this amiable Saviour deigns to come into each one of us, and transform us, if we will but consent, into Himself, so that henceforth we may live, not we, but He in us. This is, in reality, the one grand aim of the Christian religion, to make man divine through Jesus Christ: it is the task which God has given to His Church to do, and she says to the faithful what St. Paul said to his Galatians: ‘My little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed within you (Gal. iv. 19.)!’

But as, on His entering into this world, our divine Saviour first showed Himself under the form of a weak Babe, before attaining the fulness of the age of manhood, and this to the end that nothing might be wanting to His sacrifice, so does He intend to do in us; there is to be a progress in His growth within us. Now, it is at the feast of Christmas that He delights to be born in our souls, and that He pours out over the whole Church a grace of being born, to which, however, not all are faithful.

For this glorious solemnity, as often as it comes round, finds three classes of men. The first, and the smallest number, are those who live, in all its plenitude, the life of Jesus who is within them, and aspire incessantly after the increase of this life. The second class of souls is more numerous; they are living, it is true, because Jesus is in them; but they are sick and weakly, because they care not to grow in this divine life; their charity has become cold (Apoc. ii. 4.)! The rest of men make up the third division, and are they that have no part of this life in them, and are dead; for Christ has said : ‘I am the Life (St. John xiv. 6.).’

Now, during the season of Advent, our Lord knocks at the door of all men’s hearts, at one time so forcibly that they must needs notice Him; at another, so softly that it requires attention to know that Jesus is asking admission. He comes to ask them if they have room for Him, for He wishes to be born in their house. The house indeed is His, for he built it and preserves it; yet He complains that His own refused to receive Him (Ibid. i. 11. ); at least the greater number did. ‘But as many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God, born not of blood, nor of the flesh, but of God (Ibid. 12, 13.).’

He will be born, then, with more beauty and lustre and might than you have hitherto seen in Him, O ye faithful ones, who hold Him within you as your only treasure, and who have long lived no other life than His, shaping your thoughts and works on the model of His. You will feel the necessity of words to suit and express your love; such words as He delights to hear you speak to Him. You will find them in the holy liturgy.

You, who have had Him within you without knowing Him, and have possessed Him without relishing the sweetness of His presence, open your hearts to welcome Him, this time, with more care and love. He repeats His visit of this year with an untiring tenderness; He has forgotten your past slights; He would ‘that all things be new (Apoc. xxi. 5. ).’ Make room for the divine Infant, for He desires to grow within your soul. The time of His coming is close at hand : let your heart, then, be on the watch; and lest you should slumber when He arrives, watch and pray, yea, sing. The words of the liturgy are intended also for your use : they speak of darkness, which only God can enlighten; of wounds, which only His mercy can heal; of a faintness, which can be braced only by His divine energy.

And you, Christians, for whom the good tidings are as things that are not, because you are dead in sin, lo! He who is very life is coming among you. Yes, whether this death of sin has held you as its slave for long years, or has but freshly inflicted on you the wound which made you its victim, Jesus, your Life, is coming: ‘why, then, will you die? He desireth not the death of the sinner, but rather that he be converted and live (Ezechiel xviii. 31, 32. ).’ The grand feast of His birth will be a day of mercy for the whole world; at least, for all who will give Him admission into their hearts: they will rise to life again in Him, their past life will be destroyed, and where sin abounded, there grace will more abound (Rom. v. 20.).

But, if the tenderness and the attractiveness of this mysterious coming make no impression on you, because your heart is too weighed down to be able to rise to confidence, and because, having so long drunk sin like water, you know not what it is to long with love for the caresses of a Father whom you have slighted–then turn your thoughts to that other coming, which is full of terror, and is to follow the silent one of grace that is now offered. Think within yourselves, how this earth of ours will tremble at the approach of the dread Judge; how the heavens will flee from before His face, and fold up as a book (Apoc. vi. 14. ); how man will wince under His angry look; how the creature will wither away with fear, as the two-edged sword, which comes from the mouth of his Creator (Ibid. i. 16. ), pierces him; and how sinners will cry out, ‘Ye mountains, fall on us! ye rocks, cover us (St. Luke xxiii. 30.)!’ Those unhappy souls who would not know the time of their visitation (Ibid. xix. 44. ), shall then vainly wish to hide themselves from the face of Jesus. They shut their hearts against this Man-God, who, in His excessive love for them, wept over them: therefore, on the day of judgment they will descend alive into those everlasting fires, whose flame devoureth the earth with her increase, and burneth the foundations of the mountains (Deut. xxxii. 22. ). The worm that never dieth (St. Mark ix. 43.), the useless eternal repentance, will gnaw them for ever.

Let those, then, who are not touched by the tidings of the coming of the heavenly Physician and the good Shepherd who giveth His life for His sheep, meditate during Advent on the awful yet certain truth, that so many render the redemption unavailable to themselves by refusing to co-operate in their own salvation. They may treat the Child who is to be born with disdain (Is. ix. 6.); but He is also the mighty God, and do they think they can withstand Him on that day, when He is to come, not to save, as now, but to judge? Would that they knew more of this divine Judge, before whom the very saints tremble! Let these, also, use the liturgy of this season, and they will there learn how much He is to be feared by sinners.

We would not imply by this that only sinners need to fear; no, every Christian ought to fear. Fear, when there is no nobler sentiment with it, makes man a slave; when it accompanies love, it is a feeling which fills the heart of a child who has offended his father, yet seeks for pardon; when, at length, love casteth out fear (St. John iv. 18. ), even then this holy fear will sometimes come, and, like a flash of lightning, pervade the deepest recesses of the soul. It does the soul good. She wakes up afresh to a keener sense of her own misery and of the unmerited mercy of her Redeemer. Let no one, therefore, think that he may safely pass his Advent without taking any share in the holy fear which animates the Church. She, though so beloved by God, prays to Him to give her this fear; and every day, in her Office of Sext, she thus cries out to Him: ‘Pierce my flesh with Thy fear.’ It is, however, to those who are beginning a good life, that this part of the Advent liturgy will be peculiarly serviceable.

It is evident, from what we have said, that Advent is a season specially devoted to the exercises of what is called the purgative life, which is implied in that expression of St. John, so continually repeated by the Church during this holy time: Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Let all, therefore, strive earnestly to make straight the path by which Jesus will enter into their souls. Let the just, agreeably to the teaching of the apostle, forget the things that are behind (Phil. iii. 13.), and labour to acquire fresh merit. Let sinners begin at once and break the chains which now enslave them. Let them give up those bad habits which they have contracted. Let them weaken the flesh, and enter upon the hard work of subjecting it to the spirit. Let them, above all things, pray with the Church. And when our Lord comes, they may hope that He will not pass them by, but that He will enter and dwell within them; for He spoke of all when He said these words: ‘Behold I stand at the gate and knock: if any man shall hear My voice and open to Me the door, I will come in unto him (Apoc. iii. 20).’

~Damsel of the Faith