In his weekly Angelus address, Pope Benedict noted that the first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. Advent, a word that means “coming” or “presence”, refers both to the first coming of Christ in the Incarnation, and to the second coming, when Jesus will return in glory. “This saving plan of God” the Pope said, “requires the continual free adherence and collaboration of man.” The Church, he continued, “lives by resting upon the memory of the Lord and awaiting His return – a wait that consists in a vigilant and active hope.”
Sunday’s readings, Pope Benedict said, show us what we must do to be ready when the Lord comes. The Gospel reminds us that we must live simply and moderately, and pray constantly. Saint Paul urges us to continually grow in love for one another. And the reading from the prophet Jeremiah reminds us that the Church, the community of believers, “is a sign of the love of God, of His justice that is already present in history, but not yet fully realised, and that therefore should always be awaited, invoked, and sought after with patience and courage.”
In his remarks to English speaking pilgrims and visitors after the Angelus, the Holy Father made special mention of Devasahayam Pillai, a convert from Hinduism who was martyred in India in 1752. Blessed Devasahayam was beatified today in the diocese of Kottar. “His witness to Christ,” the Pope said, “is an example of that attentiveness to the coming of Christ recalled by this first Sunday of Advent. May this holy season help us to centre our lives once more on Christ, our hope.”
Below, please find the full text of the Pope’s remarks at Sunday’s Angelus:
Today the Church begins a new liturgical year, a path that is further enriched by the Year of Faith, 50 years since the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The first Time of this journey is Advent, composed, in the Roman Rite, of the four weeks that precede the Birth of the Lord, that is, the mystery of the Incarnation. The word “Advent” means “coming” or “presence.” In the ancient world, it signified the coming of the king or the emperor into one of the provinces; in the language of Christians, it referred to the coming of God, to His presence in the world; a mystery that involves the whole of the cosmos and of history, but that recognizes two culminating moments: the first and the second coming of Jesus Christ. The first is the Incarnation itself; the second is the glorious return at the end of time. These two moments, chronologically distant – and it is not given to us to know how far apart they are – touch us deeply, because by His death and resurrection Jesus has already accomplished that transformation of humanity and of the cosmos that is the final goal of creation. But before that end, it is necessary that all His enemies should be put under His feet (cfr. 1 Cor 15,25; Ps 110,1). This saving plan of God, which is always taking place, continually requires the free adherence and collaboration of man; and the Church, which is like the Betrothed, the promised bride of the crucified and risen Lamb of God (cfr. Rev 21,9), lives by leaning upon the memory of her Lord and awaiting His return: a wait consisting in a vigilant and active hope.
It is to this that the Word of God recalls us today, tracing out a line of conduct to pursue in order to be ready for the coming of the Lord. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says to the disciples: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life . . . Be vigilant at all times and pray.” So: simplicity and prayer. And the apostle Paul adds the invitation to “increase and abound in love” among ourselves and towards everyone, to strengthen our hearts and to be blameless in holiness (cfr. 1 Thess 3, 12-13). In the midst of the turmoil of the world, or the desert of indifference and materialism, Christians accept the salvation of God and witness to it by a different way of life, as a city set on a hill. “In those days,” the prophet Jeremiah proclaims, “Jerusalem shall dwell safely; this is the name they shall call her: ‘The Lord our justice’” (Jer 33,16). The community of believers is a sign of the love of God, of His justice that is already present in history, but not yet fully realized, and that therefore should always be awaited, invoked, and sought after with patience and courage.
The Virgin Mary perfectly embodies the spirit of Advent, which consists of listening to God, a profound desire to do His will, and joyful service to others. Let us be guided by her, so that God who is coming may not find us closed or distracted, but might extend to each of us a small part of His kingdom of love, of justice, and of peace.