The season of Advent, which is the beginning of the liturgical year, has many similarities with the season of Lent. Advent, like Lent, is a time of penance, but Lenten penance is stricter, because Holy Easter is preceded by the Passion of Our Lord, while Advent prepares and introduces us directly to the joy of Holy Christmas. For this reason, as Father Faber notes, there is a difference between the night of Bethlehem and the night of Calvary. On Calvary there was an earthquake, whereas in the cold night of Bethlehem, everything is calm and quiet, while the world beyond is confused and agitated.
In the days of Advent, the prophet Isaiah reminds us of the contrast between the men who continue to offend God in the days leading up to the Redeemer’s birth, and those who trust in Him, in anxious expectation. This is how Isaiah addresses the Lord:
“O that thou wouldst rend the heavens, and wouldst come down: the mountains would melt away at thy presence. They would melt as at the burning of fire, the waters would burn with fire, that thy name might be made known to thy enemies: that the nations might tremble at thy presence. When thou shalt do wonderful things, we shall not bear them: thou didst come down, and at thy presence the mountains melted away. From the beginning of the world they have not heard, nor perceived with the ears: the eye hath not seen, O God, besides thee, what things thou hast prepared for them that wait for thee. Thou hast met him that rejoiceth, and doth justice: in thy ways they shall remember thee: behold thou art angry, and we have sinned: in them we have been always, and we shall be saved…
“There is none that calleth upon thy name: that riseth up, and taketh hold of thee: thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast crushed us in the hand of our iniquity. And now, O Lord, thou art our father, and we are clay: and thou art our maker, and we all are the works of thy hands. Be not very angry, O Lord, and remember no longer our iniquity: behold, see we are all thy people. The city of thy sanctuary is become a desert, Sion is made a desert, Jerusalem is desolate. The house of our holiness, and of our glory, where our fathers praised thee, is burnt with fire, and all our lovely things are turned into ruins. Wilt thou refrain thyself, O Lord, upon these things, wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us vehemently?”
Is 64: 1–5, 7–12
Dom Guéranger comments:
“O God of our fathers, appear at once! The city that you love is in desolation! Come and raise up Jerusalem and avenge the glory of her temple. This is the cry of the prophet: and thou hast heard it, and hast come to deliver Sion from captivity, and to open for her an era of glory and holiness. Thou hast come not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it; and, by thy visitation, transformed Sion is now the Church, thy Bride. But, O Saviour, O Bridegroom, why hast thou turned away thy gaze? Why does this Church that is so dear to thee sit in the wilderness weeping like Jeremiah over the ruins of her sanctuary, like Rachel over her children, for they are no more? Why has her inheritance been given to the nations? Mother become fruitful by thy virtue, she had suckled countless children; she had taught them in thy name the things of the present life and the things of the life to come; and behold, those ungrateful children have forsaken her. Driven from country to country, she has been compelled to carry from place to place the torch of the divine faith; her mysteries have ceased to be celebrated in the very places where they once constituted the love of the peoples; and from the heights of heaven, O Word, Creator of the universe, thou seest throughout the earth shattered altars and desecrated temples. O, come then and revive the faith that is fading away!
“Remember thy Apostles and thy Martyrs; remember thy saints who founded the Churches, who honoured them with their virtues and their miracles; remember thy Bride, and sustain her on her pilgrimage here below, until the number of thy elect is complete… Come for your Church, O Jesus! She is even dearer than ancient Jerusalem was.”
Jerusalem, the house of the Lord, is in ruins because of the rebellion of men. Today the Church herself seems to be in ruins. But the hour of chastisement is also the hour of mercy. Those who are faithful to the Lord must not be discouraged. Advent is the time of waiting (but above all, it is the hour of faith and trust); not a resigned waiting; an active and industrious waiting. Advent is not the hour of folded arms, but it is the hour of struggle. The hearts of the righteous are quiet, and quiet and resolute is their fight in defence of the Church and Christian civilisation. A mysterious restlessness instead stirs the hearts of the enemies of the Church, blinded by their passions. They do not understand the mystery of Christmas, but the misguided minds of the terrified demons do. In the time of Advent, hell trembles and the righteous exult.
The flames of chaos, spreading over the world and enveloping it, will soon be extinguished by the sweet gaze of an adorable Child who faces the world, bringing true peace, which is the tranquility of natural and divine order.