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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Advent

Creator of the stars of night,
thy people's everlasting Light.
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
and hear thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
should doom to death a universe,
hast found the medicine, full of grace,
to save and heal a ruined race.

Thou camest, the Bridegroom of the Bride,
as drew the world to evening-tide,
proceeding from a Virgin shrine,
the spotless Victim, all divine.

At whose dread Name, majestic now,
all knees must bend, all hearts must bow,
and things celestial Thee shall own,
and things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O Thou whose coming is with dread,
to judge and doom the quick and dead,
preserve us, while we dwell below,
from every insult of the foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three-in-One,
laud, honour, might and glory be,
from age to age eternally. Amen.

V/ Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness.
R/ Let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation.

In the Orthodox Western Rite, today, Sunday, the 20th of November (3rd of December in the secular calendar) is the first of the five Sundays of Advent, and the beginning of the liturgical year. The Advent fast also begins today, in preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord at Christmass, which, this year, falls on a Sunday, making this the longest possible Advent.

Here is a homily for today from the St Petroc Monastery:

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT
Once again, at the outset of the Christian year, on this first Sunday of Advent, we contemplate the ever-present King, the Saviour Who came and Who will come again to this earth.

Luke 4:16-22 is an admirable early Advent text which reads: “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: And, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And He began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears”.

The Law which governed Israel as a theocracy from the time of Moses until the time of Christ foreshadowed Christ. The Jubilee Year, (the acceptable year of the Lord) brought freedom from financial debts. Christ is our freedom from our debts to God: The offences which we have committed throughout our lives. Here we see Christ's fulfillment of all of the Old Testament’s Law.

"Advent" means "coming". Christ comes to man in Bethlehem, in His Word and He will come again on Judgment Day. We in Advent look forward to that Second Coming and we prepare ourselves as we await Him. Not only does Christ fulfill all of the Old Testament Law, but He fulfills all the Messianic Promises in the Old Testament. In the above text He fulfills Isaiah 61:1-3. In Acts 10:43 Peter said: "To Him all the prophets witness that, through His Name, whoever believes in Him will receive the remission of sins." Jesus said (John 5:39): "Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me." In Luke 24:27 we are told: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He (Christ) expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Verse 18 of our text plainly mentions all three persons of the Trinity just as do John 14:16 and 15:26.

Today is the first day of the new church year. Our meeting with Christ - one way or another - is imminent. More imminent than most of us are willing to admit. Now is the time for each of us to prepare, to examine ourselves in the light of a really imminent confrontation with God. We ask that we, ourselves, our souls and bodies may be a reasonable, holy and lively sacrifice to God. Reasonable, Holy and Lively: Acceptable to God, holy as He requires of us and spiritually alive. We must be in good standing with God in order to receive the Holy Mystery, and we must be in good standing when we come before Him, as we most surely will. It is no use putting off the day of examination. Better that we reckon with ourselves now, and correct our many shortcomings, than that we put it off and have to explain those uncorrected shortcomings to God Himself.

We utilise the Advent season of contemplation of the Second Coming of Christ to examine and prepare ourselves. To that end we fast - as this is a season of fasting. This is a sober season because thinking about our many shortcomings is a very sobering thing to do. Fasting isn’t some formalised thing that the Church expects of us, it is a real, a serious thing that we do for our own good. We don’t do it because the Church instructs us to do it, we do it because we desperately need to do it. If we haven’t realised that, then we have probably missed most of the point of Christianity. This life isn’t the whole thing - it is merely the short introduction to Life. We are still at school, we are still preparing. None of us is wise, nor are we experienced in terms of the Life that we must lead beyond this introduction. Understanding the importance of what we do now is vital to us. It behoves us therefore to think a great deal about where we are going and just how prepared we are for the real task ahead of us.

Today we should wish people a joyous and happy New Year in Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

Michael Astley said...

A joyous and holy New Year to all!