ADVENT OF FIRE
So how’s your Advent going? It’s really hard to believe that we are THISCLOSE to Christmas and in some ways for the busy, pre-occupied, deflated or defeated, we may have only a flicker of light burning inside. Either from our own worldly doing or the world doing to us – maybe we are just not that ready or as prepared as we would like to be this year. We may not have all the feels as they say. Maybe we have not prepared Him room or maybe we have pushed all the Jesus aside for the glitter, sensory attributes of the season or have let negative reports drive our own narrative. I notice an online spiritual tug-of-war between the worldly side of Christmas and the authentically real aspects of how we can enter into the Gospel and be recipients of the same fire that overshadowed our Lady. The fire that brings something out of nothing.
There can be a dryness to Advent in the waiting and preparing even in the best and most perfect sense, but if you have had your share of disappointments or distractions, your Advent may not feel holy or like anything is happening. If it feels like a sledgehammer came across and cold cocked your season of Grace, this is for you.
Some of my closest companions have received devastating news. Negative reports. And the Church is amid its own barrage of scandal that keeps the headlines hot. We’ve seen division in families and the family of the Church at the highest level. Then there is the litany of bitter politics, abortion on demand wars, and perversion at every level that seem to take prominence in the culture and God’s people can sometimes feel small or forgotten in the midst of all this. The authentic liturgical Advent season is pushed aside at every cultural corner and the glamour of rocking holidaze of parties and over the top commercialism is something that is exalted by the mainstream. Confusing for those not formed and tempting to everyone else when the romanticization of Christmas cannot compare with the prayerful preparation that is the water for the soul that none of us can do without.
It’s important not to to fear dryness. I only really came to understand this as a Los Angeles resident. As a life-long Bostonian and east coaster setting up my career nests in New York, Palm Beach and D.C etc., wildfires were not something I was ever acclimated toward. Recently, I was praying with a beloved woman in my life about something specific and when she said, “something has to happen here it’s so dry” … that’s when it struck me. It’s when it’s THAT dry, THAT dusty, THAT much of a wilderness of barrenness, that FIRE not only strikes, but erupts and bursts forth – and it cannot be contained.
My favorite Gospel passage is Luke Chapter 1. It’s the Annunciation Gospel and it contains so much, that you can unwrap each layer of Truth about the character of of God the Father and his elect, and most especially Our Lady. There is so much contained in this revelatory passage that we can glean from and because His word is alive, we can apply it to our own circumstances. We encounter the central figure of the Christmas story, Mary, the Mother of God. Mary, an unknown only to God is the one who has so much favor with Heaven, Heaven stoops down to her.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”
Here we encounter a virgin named Mary. Heaven comes down, literally, in the form of an angel – God’s highest messenger – Archangel Gabriel. Do we believe that Heaven can stoop down to us? Do we believe in the prophetic word as a charism of the Holy Spirit of God? The power of God came unto Mary who was set apart for God. She was set apart at a young age and consecrated in the temple by her holy parents. She was destined for greatness before the beginning of time. How are we setting ourselves apart for the Lord? Mary was favored because she was Immaculate. She had no sin in her and there was room for fellowship with her Creator. It’s so interesting that while there was no room at the “inn” for the newborn babe, Mary was so spotless, that she was the first to make Him room.
This profound fellowship that Mary enjoys with heaven permits her to know and understand the things to come. Not in a new age way or a self-serving narcissistic way – but in the way that God permits us to know and understand His Will. The invitation to step into God’s will enables her to respond freely with a yes or a no to Heaven’s call. Being set apart brings Heaven down, being in a state of grace permits us to have the favor of wisdom of the “things to come.” To the level and degree that we wash ourselves in the Blood of Christ and through the Sacrament of Confession – this is the grace that brings about fellowship and a receptivity to the Holy Spirit.
How can this be? Mary asks the angel about the possibility of the Incarnation, of pregnancy when “She does not know man.” There are many things you might be questioning in your own life – how can I be healed? how can my loved one be healed? How can I finance this endeavor? How can I recover from depression or anxiety? How can I be faithful to the call of God on my life when the pull of the world is so strong? How do I wait one more second for the results of my long-awaited prayers? DO NOT FEAR. THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL COME UPON YOU. The Angel Gabriel exhorts Mary to not be afraid. This is step one in receiving the power and presence of the Lord. The angel then says it will all happen by the power of the Holy Spirit. Notice how Mary didn’t question further. She had one question about HOW and then she said YES. Be it done unto me.
You might be experiencing a wasteland of an Advent where you don’t see the results of your prayers or your plans have been temporarily demolished by attacks, delays, or wicked people. You may have fear welled up inside that has paralyzed you. The angel says there is no room for fear. You might have sickness in your body or something that a loved one is fighting and do not see any good coming from the pain. It may seem all down to nothing and that fidelity to an invisible God is not worth it and you’ve just decided to go through the motions or give up.
In this season of waiting, Mary is the model of faithfulness – she who was so hidden, so little, so unknown to people, unknown to man in the form of a husband and the touch of human love, unknown to society, yet SHE was the one who found high favor. She was the one who was visited by a Heavenly messenger. She was the one who had the FIRE of the Holy Spirit come down on her to bring about something from nothing. She is the model of fidelity to God’s plan that brings about the Word made flesh among us and subsequently all those around her become blessed. This is something to reflect on. When you are living in the will of God, everyone around you will be blessed. We see that no one in Mary’s life is left behind: Elizabeth her “kinswoman” also conceives and bears a son in her advanced age. The angel says “nothing will be impossible for God!”
What you can’t see in the wilderness is the breeding ground for His fire. What you are waiting for in your set-apartness will bear good fruit. When you say YES to God in a Fiat of surrender like Our Lady, even when you can’t see the end result or the possibility of what God is asking of you, it’s by the Holy Spirit that this will be accomplished. That’s when you will be able to say it’s by God alone has this been done.
Let us ask our Lady to loan us her disposition in the waiting and preparing for Christ’s coming in every area of our lives. He is capable. He will do it. He will establish it. He. will bring fire. He is faithful and what He started, He will finish and bring to a good joyful result. Be God’s by grace of the Sacraments and watch and pray for His coming in glorious triumph to your long awaited promises.
Praying for you+