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Bible Reflections View Comments

Advent Peace, Advent Promise
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, December 2, 2012
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When I was a child, Advent was a big part of my family’s seasonal celebrations. An Advent calendar and a Jesse Tree hung on the wall. The Advent wreath occupied the center of the dining room table and every evening we knelt around the table and took turns reciting the Advent novena, beginning on the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30) and ending on Christmas Eve.

My next encounter with Advent was when I was a stressed and overwhelmed graduate student. I was home early for Christmas and let myself be persuaded to go to an Advent reconciliation service that ended up changing my life.

Ever since then, Advent has always been a time of darkness and quiet, the calm before the bustle of the Christmas holidays. But it is also a time of much-needed rest, even solitude, time to sort out priorities and seek healing for life’s inevitable stress.

Advent is a time of resting and waiting. My favorite images betray my upper Midwestern roots: early winter sunsets, deep blue tinged with lavender, fallow fields marked with a dusting of snow, bare trees etched black against the sky.

During Advent we recall both the beginning of Jesus’s time on this earth and his return in glory. Our readings remind us that we who have been baptized into the life and death of Jesus have nothing to fear from the end of time.

This is not to say we have the luxury of waiting passively for the Second Coming, secure—even complacent—in the confidence that Jesus was born, died on the cross and saved us, and all we have to do is wait until he comes to take us home.

The promise of the Second Coming contains an insistent challenge. The Gospels show us the way to work for the fullness of the kingdom. Though Jesus tells us that our “ransom is near at hand,” he does not tell us to stop what we’re doing and wait. Rather, our confidence in salvation comes about only if we are on guard against “indulgence and worldly cares.”

Jeremiah tells us the days are coming when the Lord will fulfill the promise made to his people. The prophet is filled with the love of God’s Word, with the power and promise of the message he’s called to proclaim.

Speaking to a people in exile, a people longing for the day when they would return to their home, Jeremiah knows how much they need to hear the message of God’s love and enduring care for them.

Paul praises the Thessalonians for the growth that has taken place in their lives, for the abundance of love in their community. Then he challenges them to make still greater progress, to continue to grow. But growth is never easy. No matter how often we move forward and grow into new ways of being, it still hurts to leave behind the familiar, to face the unknown, to try something new.

We are called to constant conversion by the promise of Jesus, who is already among us, and the promise of the kingdom, which is not yet fully here. If we are frightened by the signs of which Jesus speaks and the horrors of the evening news, perhaps we need to look again at our own lives and into our own hearts to see if we are doing what we can to bring about the kingdom of God and so prepare ourselves to stand up straight before the Lord.


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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire, therefore, of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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