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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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Cyril of Alexandria: Saints are not born with halos around their heads. Cyril, recognized as a great teacher of the Church, began his career as archbishop of Alexandria, Egypt, with impulsive, often violent, actions. He pillaged and closed the churches of the Novatian heretics (who required those who denied the faith to be rebaptized), participated in the deposing of St. John Chrysostom (September 13) and confiscated Jewish property, expelling the Jews from Alexandria in retaliation for their attacks on Christians. 
<p>Cyril’s importance for theology and Church history lies in his championing the cause of orthodoxy against the heresy of Nestorius, who taught that in Christ there were two persons, one human and one divine.</p><p>The controversy centered around the two natures in Christ. Nestorius would not agree to the title “God-bearer” for Mary (January 1). He preferred “Christ-bearer,” saying there are two distinct persons in Christ (divine and human) joined only by a moral union. He said Mary was not the mother of God but only of the man Christ, whose humanity was only a temple of God. Nestorianism implied that the humanity of Christ was a mere disguise. </p><p>Presiding as the pope’s representative at the Council of Ephesus (431), Cyril condemned Nestorianism and proclaimed Mary truly the “God-bearer” (the mother of the one Person who is truly God and truly human). In the confusion that followed, Cyril was deposed and imprisoned for three months, after which he was welcomed back to Alexandria as a second Athanasius (the champion against Arianism). </p><p>Besides needing to soften some of his opposition to those who had sided with Nestorius, Cyril had difficulties with some of his own allies, who thought he had gone too far, sacrificing not only language but orthodoxy. Until his death, his policy of moderation kept his extreme partisans under control. On his deathbed, despite pressure, he refused to condemn the teacher of Nestorius.</p> American Catholic Blog Father, I have come to the understanding that Jesus asks very little from us, only that we accept him as our friend and love him and care for one another. How simple! And yet how difficult! Please give me grace not to disappoint him, who has given his all for me. I ask this in Jesus's name, Amen.

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