Illuminating Advent: Messianic Predictions

On the first day of each week of Advent, Seeing the Word will post an illumination paired with an audio reading of the associated Scripture passage. The subsequent days will feature the six movements of visio divina: Listening, Meditating, Seeing, Praying, Contemplating, and Becoming Christ-like.

 

December 6, 2015 – December 12, 2015

Week Two•Day One

Reading

Isaiah 7:13-14, 9:6-7

Listen to what word God has for you.

 

WEEK TWO•DAY Two

Listening

Have you ever needed something, but were too hard-headed or embarrassed to ask? This passage from Isaiah sets us up for that.  Some context: the people of Judah were in trouble and their leader, King Ahaz, needed help to protect his people from forces who wanted to invade Jerusalem and replace him with a so called “puppet king”, thus destroying the Davidic lineage of which he was a part. Yet, Ahaz did not want to bother God.  Have you ever felt that way—not wanting to be a burden but not knowing what to do otherwise?

Ahaz did not want to test God.  Ahaz was timid and lacking the faith that was demanded of him.  Nevertheless, God had other things in mind, which he provided.  By refusing God’s offer, Ahaz refuses to trust God.  Through the prophet Isaiah, God offers a sign that lacks restrictions cf. verse 11.

How awesome that we have this reading during the Advent Season when we recall “God with us”, and God’s promises of ongoing faithfulness to be with us are remembered.  This text reminds us of faithful patience and of responding to unexpected help.  There is a hopeful future in a leader whose vision and authority will shine as a message of hope.  As we will pray throughout the week, this text beckons us to respond with trust to the gracious and unexpected presence of God.

 

WEEK TWO•DAY Three

Meditating

The words that I am holding are “shall grow.” As a whole, the passage contains comforting words to hear as our world is still healing from terrorism and acts of violence. In a season where the weather reminds us of our longings and the darkness we feel, this passage brings an energy and light that is needed so that we can “run forth to meet…Christ” (Collect, Advent I, Roman Missal). More so, it allows us to remember the importance of the season in preparation for Christmas.

The prophecy of an infant, whose authority grows with peace, that is foretold by the Prophet is palpable. It is a sign of God’s faithfulness in human form! (“You mean the Holy is going to be touchable?!”)

I appreciate the four titles attributed to the messiah, which are bold and yet soothing, timeless and yet looking forward.  I wonder with curiosity what other names Isaiah would include—what about you?  These titles highlight an anticipation in which our community can broach the fear of mystery that all Christians share as we wait for the Lord’s Second Coming.  We are longing for the joyful moment, of loving communion with God. Further, these titles give a face to the invisible God. We can enter into this Year of Mercy, for in these titles we can claim that “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 1).

Advent is a season to remember God’s promises and to see those promises again with renewed eyes and faith.  We know that Christ has come and will come again.  I appreciate that we celebrate Advent with this reality, acknowledging that there is an “advent going on” in ourselves at all parts of the year.  And so it leads us to a response of trust in the presence of God with us.  We should ask ourselves whether or not our eyes are wide open, knowing that God is already in all things.

 

WEEK TWO•DAY four

Seeing

When I asked God to open my eyes to the illumination, it was not toward a particular color or shape.  Rather, the illumination evokes in me feelings of movement and energy, resembling the hustle and bustle of the red carpet of Hollywood, and triumphant sounds of trumpet blasts.  You can almost hear Handel’s Messiah breaking through the ink and page. Humor me (and I mean this with all due respect), but it feels like a Tetris game meets Picasso as the pointed shapes and the circles fall into each other.

Advent occurs when the weather is frigid, on the cusp of the tail end of the autumn season, when days are shorter and light is a true gift. This illumination is contrary to that—the messianic predictions create a movement of energy, of light and warmth.  I enter into the Paschal Mystery because although the Advent liturgy is shaped by our longing and waiting, this illumination is an explosion of movement that alludes almost to the joy and excitement of Easter.

The circles of gold, bordered by the various titles, to me, allude to the rose windows of old European cathedrals. These in turn echo intricate evergreens that shape advent wreaths, a home devotional that has found its way into liturgical communities. These beautiful circles of greenery give way to the progressively consuming light of candles, as the winter nights grow longer.

The hints of blue all around allow me to celebrate God’s promise of mercy with Mary, one of the important Advent characters, whom God has chosen.  Further, the blue brings me to a place of prayer by connecting with Mary’s Magnificat.  And so in this promise of mercy to be with us, the gold throughout the illumination allows us to shout our praises that God is entering our world as we cry out, Maranatha!

 

WEEK TWO•DAY five

Praying

The first gift we were given besides our breath was our name.

And so, dear God, we lift up our souls and cry out,

“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.”

The winds hush us, encouraging us to bundle up, to wait and be patient, to long,

although the world we live in says, “Hurry!  Shop!  Keep busy!”

Give us the boldness to grow continually

and to keep on asking you what we most desire.

As our world pains from distresses like terrorism, fear and uncertainty

give our hearts that deep comfort,

as deep as the indigos of Advent sunrises,

and the abiding peace, which you alone can fill for eternity.

Anchor us with your love and grace in our moments of fragility.

As we recall your coming as a child, of spirit meeting flesh,

help us to see you in the beggar on the corner,

the refugee, the outcast, the lonely, the hopeless and the doubter.

Let us await with joyful expectation

those moments that call us out of our ordinary

into moments where a glimmer of your heavenly kingdom shines through

and we share in the foretaste of heavenly joy.

May our broken world turn towards you,

aching for that bearer of hope and restorer of spirit.

May we be like Mary, willing servants

who say yes to bear your image and likeness,

and be healing balm for our communities.

May we also be like Joseph,

who dreamed dreams and helped accomplish the plan of salvation.

And so with Advent hope,

may we be powerfully transformed

to continue sharing the love and presence you have promised.

May we come to Christmas,

and all the days of our lives,

with hearts filled with the light that can bring peace.

This we ask through Jesus, Emmanuel,

and through your many and holy names, now and forever.

Amen.

 

WEEK TWO•DAY six

Contemplating

When I first gazed at this illumination, I had a negative reaction.  I could not get a handle on what was going on because there was only so much that my eyes could take.  As I prayed with the other movements, I shifted in my prayer.  Contrary to the movement of energy and swiftness that occurred as I prayed during the week, the word that is now surfacing is “slowness.”  This echoes back to the words I first chose in the process.

Why slowness?  The spirit guided me to think of the illumination as one in slow motion, like a “freeze frame.”  I am given a glimpse into heavenly movements of praise and adulation syncopated with the “the beating heart of the gospel, which is mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 12).  This illumination—what I thought was an obstacle to prayer—is actually one that brings forth the holy mystery of how time is but a human thought.  In the midst of the illumination’s movement and holy chaos, the words of the prophet ring true and it settles me into what the prediction’s essence is about: God with us.

There is peace emanating from the bottom half, almost as if that portion connects easily to earthly eyes.  The parts with undulating hallelujahs and names of God are part of the heavenly realm, where the love of God is so intense and the perichoresis of the Trinity enables all in heaven (and earth!) to dance.  It is as to what Anne Dillard writes:

Angels, I read, belong to nine different orders. Seraphs are the highest; they are aflame with love for God, and stand closer to him than the others. Seraphs love God…. The seraphs are born of a stream of fire issuing from under God’s throne. They are, according to Dionysius the Areopagite, “all wings,” having, as Isaiah notes, six wings apiece, two of which they fold over their eyes. Moving perpetually toward God they perpetually praise him, crying “Holy, Holy, Holy…. But according to some rabbinic writings, they can sing only the first “Holy” before the intensity of their love ignites them and dissolves them again, perpetually, into flames (Holy the Firm, Harper & Row, 1977).

May we continue to seek God’s signs from this time and forevermore because the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

 

WEEK TWO•DAY seven

Becoming Christ-like

Where does this now bring me?  This passage and illumination give me an opportunity to reflect on the anticipation that is building up within me: that Christ is being born in my everyday experience.  It edges me toward this year of mercy where “we find proof [that] God loves us…and comes to our aid whenever we call” (Misericordiae Vultus, 14).

As I pray with this, I realize the honor that we have today.  Isaiah did not know the name of the child whose authority rests on his shoulders.  We do and this is comforting.  We know this person and he comes to bring light to the world. That work of bringing light continues in each one of us.  People of God, why is it so hard to shout that God is Lord?  We are the “herald of glad tidings” and the “herald of good news.”

One of my family traditions is the celebration of Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi—Mass in the night—a novena of Masses in the days preceding Christmas, originating from the Philippines.  For nine days at 5 am, I approach the tables of Word and Sacrament to prepare my heart for the Christmas season. After each liturgy, with the assembly, I am sent forth spiritually nourished in order to greet the Advent morning complete with indigo hued sky, and barely awake drivers!

This week, I prayed noticing the winter season in which Advent coincides.  I look forward to continuing this Advent with the fullness of my being, where the night sky gives way to the sun with rays of hope.  My prayer for you is this: let us not sit idly waiting, hoping, longing.  We as the people of God need to move, and to do so with joy.  May we find ways to shout that joy of “Mighty God” from the rooftops, or whisper “Prince of Peace” into the ears of a young one, or yet share the joy of “Wonderful Counselor”” with someone in need.

Maranatha; let us dream together.

 


John Michael Reyes is a Campus Minister at Santa Clara University.  He received a Master of Divinity degree from the Graduate Theological Union (JST and FST). Prior to SCU, he worked as Liturgist and Chapel Coordinator at Seattle University. Additionally, in recent years, he has served as a liturgy coordinator for the annual Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. He hopes to be able to study at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary some day.


 

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