(This article was originally written a few years ago in Advent. However, the message certainly has new relevance today.)
“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together and a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)
Advent is given to us as a season of joyful hope. The Christian world anticipates the birth of the Incarnate Word along with Mary, Joseph, and the entire heavenly court. As Christians, we are called to clothe ourselves in the attitude of joyful hope. It is expected. However, the reality may be somewhat different.
Certainly, the daily news gives us little reason to hope, and if our life circumstances have taken a turn for the worse recently, the joyful anticipation of Christmas may seem a distinct impossibility. How can we celebrate when our hearts are broken, our homes are torn to pieces, or our lives are shattered? If we feel bogged in the miry clay in the lowest crevice of the valley of tears, just putting one foot in front of the other requires a miracle. Joy? It can seem as faint and fleeting as the morning mist.
Yet Nehemiah tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. This bears pondering, because it reminds us that the true nature of joy is not a feeling, but a grace. In every age it is true that if our joy is tied to earthly circumstances, we are in deep trouble. Our joy must have its source in the Lord and be independent of our earthly circumstances. It is vital that we remember and believe this as the world continues its spiral into catastrophe.
A few weeks ago we celebrated the memorial of Andrew Dung-Lac, priest and martyr. The Office of Readings contained this poignant illustration of joyful hope in dire circumstances:
“The prison here is a true image of everlasting hell: to cruel tortures of every kind–shackles, iron chains, manacles–are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; he has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, for his mercy is forever. In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone–Christ is with me.”
God has not left us orphans; he has not abandoned us and will never leave us–much less in our time of direst need. Scripture is steeped in hope and full of promise. As we read passages like the one above about the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, we can be confident that what the Lord has promised, he will deliver. As Our Lady of Fatima told the children, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will Triumph.”
The signs of our times are rife with meaning, and undoubtedly there will be much to endure in the days ahead. But the Lord does not send a deluge without a rainbow. Every crucifixion leads to a resurrection. Nine months of expectation culminates in the birth of the Incarnate Word.
St. Louis-Marie de Montfort’s prayer to Mary includes the following passage. As penitents, we can absorb the hope and joy so beautifully expressed in the prayer and make it our own.
“(Blessed Mary), as for my part here below, I wish for no other than that which was Thine, to believe sincerely without spiritual pleasures, to suffer joyfully without human consolation, to die continually to myself without respite, and to work zealously and unselfishly for Thee until death, as the humblest of Thy servants. The only grace I beg Thee, for me, is that every moment of the day, and every moment of my life, I may say, ‘Amen, so be it, to all that Thou art doing in Heaven. Amen, so be it, to all Thou didst do while on earth. Amen, so be it, to all Thou art doing in my soul,’ so that Thou alone mayest fully glorify Jesus in me for time and eternity. Amen.”
May this Advent lead you on the path of joy to the glorious promise of the birth of Emmanuel, God With Us. “And a little child shall lead them.” Have a blessed Christmas, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.