A Path Through Advent with St Benedict (1)


Isaiah 2:1-5
Matthew 24:36-44

Each year as we celebrate the liturgical cycle, I am grateful for the opportunity to take stock and refocus my mind and heart.

We begin Advent with Isaiah’s prophetic vision of all nations gathering in peace. Isaiah invites us to imagine the peoples of the world being restored to unity. It’s a hopeful vision which sets peace and harmony at the heart of God’s plan. It can be helpful to hold onto this optimism when we come to the Gospel.

Matthew strikes a warning note, urging us to be ready for the Second Coming of Jesus:

‘So, stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming.

These words speak to me of being alert and on the watch for the signs of Christ’s coming. Largely we don’t live with a sense of Christ’s Second Coming being imminent, but we can, like Matthew’s community fall into complacency. Advent rouses me to action.

Writing in the Sixth Century, St Benedict’s words also have a sense of urgency. The Roman Empire is crumbling, and St Benedict sets forth a bold and dynamic vision for a life lived in search of God. The Prologue of his Rule is a clarion call to all who long for Christ to be the centre of their lives. There’s no sitting back and letting things unfold for St Benedict. He rouses us to action:

‘Let us get up then, at long last, for the scriptures rouse us when they say: It is high time for us to wake from sleep. (Rom 13) Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out this charge: If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts. (Ps 95)’

St Benedict’s monks are to be ever on the watch. Such is the power of Scripture that it can rouse a monk from his bed and shake him into action. If he opens his eyes to the divine light of Scripture, he opens himself to the possibility of transformation.

Every other day in Advent, at the first Office of the morning, when we sing Ps 95 as the Invitatory Psalm, I will be invited to keep my heart open and ready for Christ’s coming. The message is loud and clear. Christ calls me today.

How is Christ calling you to open your heart this Advent?