Saturday, 7 December 2013

First week of Advent.

 The readings at mass in the first week of Advent return us to the Litany of the Sacred Heart!  On the first Sunday of Advent we read that Isaiah’s vision (Isaiah. 2:1-5) describes the ‘Temple of the Lord’ towering above the mountains which will draw all the nations to it so that he may ‘teach us his ways’ so that we can walk in his paths and in his light.  The litany asks us to pray to the Heart of Jesus as the ‘ holy temple of God’! The Psalm ( Psalm 121) invites us to  ‘go to God’s House’ and the Litany asks us to pray to  the Sacred Heart as ‘the house of God’. On the first Monday of Advent  the readings (Isaiah, 4:2-6)tell us that the Lord will cleanse Jerusalem and will be a ‘flaring fire’ and the glory of the Lord will be a ‘canopy and a tent to give shade by day and heat by night’.  Again, the Litany calls us to pray to the Heart of Jesus as the tent (that is ‘tabernacle’)  of the Most High. We are also reminded in this context that Jesus is the Temple which was destined to be destroyed and rise  again in three days!   Isaiah also brings to mind  Matthew (11-28-29): ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’

Advent is a time of waiting and preparing for that moment when God came to live with us: to love us as God  incarnate.  At Christmas we draw hope from our humble God with a human heart asleep in the stable.

On the Tuesday of Advent we read in Isaiah that the Emmanuel  will have the spirit of  wisdom, counsel and knowledge.  Once again the Litany of the Sacred Heart reminds us that Jesus is the wisdom of God - in whose heart we find all the treasures  of wisdom and knowledge.  Later, we will hear of the ‘wise men’ who  have followed a star to find this great treasure.  Jesus tells us that we must learn from his heart. We do this when, like Mary, we open pour hearts to God.  On Wednesday – which was also the feast of the great defender of icons – St. John Damascene – we read Psalm 22, in which we pray to dwell in the Lord’s house for ever and ever.  And the Lord’s house is, of course, the Sacred Heart.

On Thursday on this first week of Advent we read from Isaiah ((26:1-6)  who calls us to ‘trust in the Lord’.  And, of course, the devotion to the Sacred Heart is all about precisely  this : ‘ Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place all our trust in you.’  That is, as the Psalm (117) for the day says: trust in ‘ in a love that has no end.’   The Sacred heart  is the great symbol of the infinite nature of the love and mercy of God.  On Friday – the first Friday of December, and the feast of St. Nicholas – we are again reminded in the Psalm (26) that we have to take heart : and trust and hope in the love of God- our light and our salvation.   In other words, imitate the life of the Saint who is most closely associated with Christmas.  It is such a great pity that in so many countries – such as the UK – we rather neglect the saint. He is, of course, very important in the Orthodox tradition and is the patron saint of  Russia.  When you cut through all the stories told about him one thing is clear: he trusted in the Lord and had an open and giving heart to all in need.

On the last day of the first week of Advent  we reflect on hope. As the Litany says: the Heart of Jesus is the ‘hope of all who die in him’.  The reading from Isaiah (30) puts it a little differently, happy those who live in the Lord.  The Psalm (146) reminds that ‘ Happy are all who hope in the Lord’.   He will heal the ‘broken hearted’ raise up the lowly and humble’.   We wait for the child to be born who contains a ‘wisdom that can never be measured’.

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