Sunday, November 28, 2010

Signs of Life: Advent and Christmas

Scott Hahn's new book Signs of Life has a great quote from Blessed Jacobus de Voragine that I would like to share with you as we begin the liturgical season of Advent. In case you're wondering, Jacobus de Voragine is a Dominican monk from the 13th century who is most famous for his Legenda Aurea ("Golden Legend"), a collection of the lives of the saints that was one of the most widely read works of the Middle Ages (you can read more about him here and here).

In typical Dominican fashion, Jacobus' words on Advent and Christmas are presented in a very orderly and systematic way, but they are also very beautiful. This quote is somewhat lengthy, but definitely worth the read.

  • Advent is celebrated for four weeks, to signify that this coming of the Lord is fourfold; namely, that he came to us in the flesh, that he came with mercy into our hearts, that he came to us in death, and that he will come to us again at the Last Judgment. The last week is seldom finished, to denote that the glory of the elect, as they will receive it at the last advent of he Lord, will have no end. But while the coming is in reality fourfold, the Church is especially concerned with two of its forms, namely with the coming in the flesh and with the coming at the Last Judgment. Thus the Advent fast is both a joyous fast, and a fast of penance. It is a joyous fast because it recalls the advent of the Lord in the flesh; and it is a fast of penance in anticipation of the advent of the Last Judgment.

    With regard to the advent in the flesh, three things should be considered: its timeliness, its necessity, and its usefulness. Its timeliness is due first to the fact that man, condemned by his nature to an imperfect knowledge of God, had fallen into the worst errors of idolatry, and was forced to cry out, "Enlighten my eyes." Secondly, the Lord came in the "fullness of time," as St. Paul says in the Epistle to the Galatians. Thirdly, He came at a time when the whole world was ailing, as St. Augustine says: "The great physician came at a moment when the entire world lay like a great invalid." That is why the Church, in the seven antiphons that are sung before the Feast of the Nativity, recalls the variety of our ills and the timeliness of the divine remedy. Before the coming of God in the flesh, we were ignorant, subject to eternal punishment, slaves of the devil, shackled with sinful habits, lost in darkness, exiled from our true country. Hence the ancient antiphons announce Jesus as our Teacher, our Redeemer, our Liberator, our Guide, our Enlightener, and our Savior.

    As to the usefulness of Christ's coming, different authorities define it differently. Our Lord Himself, in the Gospel of Saint Luke, tells us that He came for seven reasons: to console the poor, to heal the afflicted, to free the captives, to enlighten the ignorant, to pardon sinners, to redeem the human race, and to reward everyone according to his merits. And . . . St. Bernard says, "We suffer from a three-fold sickness: we are easily mislead, weak in action, and feeble in resistance. Consequently the coming of the Lord is necessary, first to enlighten our blindness, second to succor our weakness, and third to shield our fragility."

I highly recommend Hahn's book as a worthwhile Christmas present.

Pax Christi,

1 comment:

Adrian said...

Great Religion Magazine collection for all Christian brothers and sisters. Wish you a Merry Christmas and May this festival bring abundant joy and happiness in your life!

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