|by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz
The Aramaic word, Maranatha, marks the end of the Bible and the beginning of a fruitful Advent. It means “Come, Lord Jesus” and is the best way to still my soul and open my heart to Advent. I have found that certain words repeated softly and with a cadence, like the words of the Hail Mary in the Holy Rosary, have a way of opening the door to a deeper prayer.
The season of Advent focuses on waiting and great anticipation. It is not unlike what happens to my spirit as I prepare for a vacation when it feels as though the anticipation is as good as the vacation itself. Of course, since Advent prepares us for our ultimate destination — our heavenly home — this is a true exaggeration since the full presence of God in our lives will be beyond our wildest dreaming. But said softly and with anticipation, the chant, Maranatha, soothes the soul and opens the heart to a generosity that only God’s grace can make possible.
During Advent there are three levels of waiting and anticipation. First, there is the time 2,000 years ago when Christ was born, so we prepare again for Christmas by recalling how the prophets of the Old Testament foretold the gift of a savior.
Second, we prepare for Christ to be present now in our hearts. In baptism Christ is born into our hearts, and we are in need of fanning the flame of that gift of Jesus by our prayer.
Finally, we anticipate the end of time when Christ will come again in glory. We anticipate the day of our death with the prayer that God’s justice and mercy will usher us into our heavenly home.
Prayer within the Holy Eucharist
Advent 2011 is special since we welcome the changes in the new Roman Missal. Without a sense of prayerfulness, these are just more changes to get used to, but in prayer you and I can discover the richness of new ways of entering into the mysteries of the Holy Eucharist. It is at the Eucharist above all other places that we say, “Come Lord Jesus.”
I am finding the changes in the text a bit awkward. Even though I know that old routines lead to ruts and the changes will usher in new habits for me, nonetheless, there will be mistakes and a lot of looking down at the book at first. As I take these new translations with me to holy hour and at prayer, however, the awkwardness lessens and the richness erupts. I want to meet Jesus at Mass, and so naturally I pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Prayer and Silence
In his public life, Jesus retreated to pray and cultivate the gift of silence. Recently, Pope Benedict XVI declared “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization” as the theme for the upcoming World Day of Communication.
Is our Holy Father encouraging us to talk less? Perhaps. But even more deeply, he is encouraging us to receive and integrate the word of God into our hearts, and Advent is a wonderful opportunity to take the time to listen to each other and to God in our lives. We have only to emulate our Blessed Mother Mary. We celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation nine months before Christmas. We hear the announcement of the angel Gabriel that she is to be the mother of our Savior. We observe the silence in Mary’s heart as she took in the angel’s message to fear not and to trust in God’s plan. She trusted and said … “fiat” … let it be done … a great “yes” to the angel Gabriel and to God’s plan.
Prayer and Generosity
During Advent I prepare my Christmas gifts and cards. It also is one of the best times for the Lord to loosen the strings on my money so I can help others. I know that the Catholic Church is second to none in reaching out to those in need, to those without a job and to those who need a listening ear. Thus, I take whatever opportunity I can to join with my community of faith in this ministry to others through giving. At the Chancery, we have a tradition of buying gifts for those in need, which are collected and distributed through Catholic Charities. I am sure there is something similar at your parish.
As I pray in silence, however, a very particular person or family whose need I have come to know in this year pops into my mind. It is amazing what the Lord does to our thinking when we clear out the clutter and allow his word to enter our hearts. It is that silent urging that calls forth a private and often anonymous generosity.
In the silence of Advent, as we slow down and pray, Maranatha, “Come Lord Jesus,” it is amazing the changes that can occur in our hearts here and now.
Listen to Archbishop Kurtz’s Advent message on the Web at www.archlou.org or follow him on Twitter @ArchbishopKurtz.