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Katie van Schaijik

Eternal promises kept in time

Dec. 17 at 1:07pm

The introductory note to the Psalm for today in Magnificat is arresting.

The coastlands see, and fear, the ends of the earth tremble: these things are near, they come to pass. (Is 41:5)

The time grows short, the messenger's cry urgent: the Lord is very near! Those who hope to delay his coming until "later, when I have time to get ready" find this late Advent cry diconcerting.  Those who look for him not only in hte past but in the present and the future rejoice at the news: God's promises are kept within the boundaries of time.

It's a phrase I think I've not heard before. "God's promises are kept within the bounds of time."  There will come a day when this order of things passes away forever and the new order begins.  "And all flesh will see it together."

As the author says, the message can be sobering, disconcerting, or wonderful and encouraging, according to the condition of our souls—depending, as Newman might have put it, on our "antecedent probabilities."  What do we want?  What are we looking for?  Do we await the Day of the Lord's coming with eagerness and hope?  Or do we tremble like the coastlands?  Or both.

C.S. Lewis, in his way of depicting the character of Edmund, a repentant traitor, having to come face to face with Aslan, showed so beautifully and convincingly the way these two emotions can combine in the human heart: desire and dread, hope and fear.  We want God's judgment, the coming of His reign, the end of all suffering and injustice and misunderstanding.  But we're scared, too, of the just chastisment it might entail for us.  That's why I, for one, am so grateful for the other message of this time of year: "Comfort, comfort my people."

This year, more than others, I am feeling the urgency.  I'm painfully aware of my faults and shortcomings, and also of how many there are in the world who want it all not to be true.  They so want it not to be true that they hate and revile anyone who says it is and begs them to enter the gates while there is still time.  It's so sad and terrible!

Magnficat's reflection of the day, by Pope Benedict, offers some deeply personalist encouragement:

In this season of Advent let us reinforce our convction that the Lord has come among us and ceaselessly renews his comforting, loving, and joyful presence.  We should trust in him; as Saint Augustine says further, in the light of his own experience: the Lord is closer to us than we are to ourselves: "interior intimo meo et superior summo meo" ("higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self") (Confessions, III, 6,11).


 

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