Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent: thoughts on new beginnings

"Brethren, knowing that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is past and the day is at hand."
--Epistle for the First Sunday of Advent, Rom. 13. 11-14

"Virtue is necessary for the attainment of our natural desires." So began today's sermon of the young priest whose ordination I was privileged to witness this past June. His simple words struck such deep chords in me that I wished then as I wish now to be able to remember everything he said; but I know that I won't. Still, I can share some of what I do recall: so here are are some of the gems I received from him today.

So many times well-intentioned people are mistaken in their understanding of God's provision for our lives. Our Heavenly Father wants so much more for us than we can possibly imagine for ourselves. We are taught that we must practice virtue, but do we really understand what this means? Virtue is necessary to our happiness but, far from quashing it, a life of virtue potentiates our happiness, and not just in the next world. The good God wants us to be happy in this world as well as in the next; and He wants to insure this happiness through our practice of all of the virtues, but particularly that of purity.

Father explained this morning that purity is the guardian of love because it is the antithesis of selfishness, selfishness which is manifested in impurity. Our Lord said in the sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God." And I believe that sometimes they see Him even in this life in extraordinary ways. The examples of Saint Francis and Saint Therese come quickly to my mind. Father said that if each of us had pure motives, purity of intention, then all would be well with us. A clean heart, a heart without guile, a heart so pure in its love that it fears nothing except hurting the ones it loves. The heart of God.

"Unless you become as little children..." Little children who have been baptized and are allowed to retain their supernatural, God-given innocence are simple and pure in their motives. They are not afraid to love: they love with no thought of the risk, the cost, the pain of possible rejection. They desire two things which Father reminded us pertain to the will and the intellect: these are love and truth. A love which is true, a love which endures, a love which never dies: that is love, and that is God. We humans are made for love, to love and to be loved, and we are made for the truth. And it is why falsehood and love cannot coexist, for only love is good enough for truth, and only truth is good enough for love. Is it any wonder that the betrayal of what seemed to be love causes the greatest pain, a pain which can only begin to be fathomed in the scene between Our Lord and Judas in the Garden of Olives. The kiss of Judas and the words of Our Lord, "Friend, how came you to this?" And then Judas hanged himself: for despair rushes in to fill the void which God intended to have been filled by love.

Someone I used to know once wrote, "Love is ever about risk." This is so, but the love which is true does not mind taking the chance. Human love which is genuine is the embodiment of the parable of the merchant who, when he found the pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had to possess it. True love between human beings is one of the greatest gifts which God bestows on His children. However, the greatest love of all can only be found in the greatest Love of all: in God Who is Eternal Truth. In Him, and only in Him, are Love and Truth perfectly and inseparably united; in Him may we find the deepest reciprocation of all of the love within us, the love which He placed there with His very hands when He first fashioned us. And all the risks are His: we risk absolutely nothing but absolute nothingness without Him.

Today is a new beginning, the beginning of the new liturgical year and "it's always best to begin at the beginning." I sometimes wonder how it is that every day brings more happiness to me, but the secret is not so hard to discover after all. It is this: Love is. God is, and God is Love. Love is, and because of Him we may all live happily ever after. And happily ever after starts in the here and now. I know it , and I live it. For "the night is past and the day is at hand." "Arise, shine, for your Light is coming." It is the Light of Eternal Love which leads me, and I cannot falter because He guides me every step of the way; "and I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that "with God all things are possible," even love that never ends.