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Thursday, December 13, 2007

O Come O Come Emmanuel...

Today I attended an "Advent Day of Reflection" designed for we who work in parishes, and found it to be very refreshing and enlightening. It was exactly what I needed, although it was actually at Mass that I had my "special moment". And because it was a retreat, the moment was allowed to continue.

The communion meditation was "O Come O Come Emmanuel", and, never before had I so clearly understood the hymn. Never again will I hear it the same way.

This week, I more or less completed my synthetic study on God's mercy in the Old Testament, and saw numerous references to a coming Savior, a Redeemer to free the Israelites from their captivity.

Indeed, that is part of the song, and although I had realized these elements before, I now have more theological and biblical understanding, culminating in a moment of divine enlightenment. And in that moment, I was convicted.

Israel...rebellious Israel. The coming Messaiah was fortold even in the book of Job ("I know my Redeemer lives..."), for God's greatest attribute is His mercy, His faithfulness to himself, His faithfulness to his covenants. God promised a Redeemer, He promised to wipe away suffering and death; it would be no more.

The people were expecting a warlord to deliver them from the captivity and oppression of the Roman empire. They were going about their lives looking for one thing, while in a humble town, the Word became flesh, and dwelt among them.

But they couldn't see him, because they were looking in all the wrong places.

Doesn't that sound familiar?

The way Christmas is celebrated in our culture is the worst possible thing that can happen. Consider; this is Advent, a time to prepare our hearts and souls for the coming of Christ. It is a time of repentance, it is a time of renewal, it is a time to detach ourselves from all the things that hinder our ability to welcome the light of Christ into our lives.

But what are we doing? We are running around, we are captivated by all the shiny objects and blinking lights. We are indulging in feasts and treats and all sorts of things. We are perhaps asking for gifts of entertainment and distraction, we are purchasing those same things for others, and in the end, what do those things do?

They take us away from Jesus Christ, because they are mere baubles; they are distractions that cause us to give our time and our focus to anything other than God.

So during this season of Advent, instead of retreating into our private rooms to pray to our Father in heaven, rather than spending moments of quiet and reflection so that we can remove things that are incompatible with God's grace, we are adding to the barriers between ourselves and Him.

And so it will be that when Christmas comes, instead of resembling the Shepherds who watched the flocks by night, we will be the rebellious people, turning our backs on the light so that we can focus on the emptiness of the world. We are choosing to blind ourselves.

Where is the sense in that?

It's still Advent, and it's not too late to withdraw from the world and examine our relationship with the Lord. Most parishes offer regular Confssions or even a special day of Reconciliation. Two parishes near me will offer individual confessions from 12 or 1 pm to 9 pm at night with many priests available, and I know of several other parishes doing the same thing.

There is still time; examine your life, and if you're not ready to welcome the Christ know what to do.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.


Anonymous said...

Good post! Don't you just love it when the Lord lifts the curtain back for a moment and in an instant YOU JUST KNOW! *sigh!*(of deep satisfaction!!!)

Warren said...

Well said!

And that's one of my FAVOURITE Christmas hymns. The other favourite is Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle.

My boys and I pray every morning for God to make us ready this advent to receive Jesus in a new and deeper way this Christmas, than we have ever experienced before.

This is why when we rush past Advent, and get all caught up in the secular silliness around Christmas, we do our souls great harm.


uncle jim said...

thanks for this post

Hidden One said...

Growing up (Protestant), it was my favourite Christmas-related hymn. Still is.

Charles Woodrow said...

Since I was received into the Church at the Easter 2004 Vigil, I've never really followed the Church Year. This is my first time really trying to focus on Advent: the Second Coming of Christ (the first two weeks) and the First Coming (the second two weeks). The verse of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" that speaks to me the most this Advent is
"O Come, O Come, great Lord of
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's
In ancient times once gavt the Law
In cloud and majesty and awe."

It gives me a feel for the Ancient Faith. It reminds me that the same God whose voice scared the people so much that they insisted Moses stand between Him and them, came as a little baby. Will we ever grasp the mystery?

Merry Christmas, Adoro and every one!