Advent marks the the season of anticipation and preparation before the Nativity of the Divine Light- the Incarnation of the Word, both in the world and in ourselves.
Advent (latin: adventus) comes from the greek word parousia which means presence or arrival and is commonly associated with the Second Coming of Christ.
Johannite liturgy points to the Parousia when it says “until he returns again in the hearts of those that follow his example” – as Gnostics and complimentary to it, the Nativity of the Divine Light as a seasonal and liturgical event points to the birth of the Divine Light within us.
We can in no wise experience this return, this descent, this resurrection, until we have given birth to the Word to begin with.
The liturgical year and these events, which mirror and reflect the spiritual journey, is a cycle that repeats itself and the fact that our own spiritual journey does likewise is not a mark of our many failings but a testament to the height and depth of the path itself.
Like notes on a musical scale, it doesn’t simply terminate at some end – it begins again, in a higher octave or level.
I return to my favourite stories time and time again, not because they change and transform, but because I change and transform- their meaning unfolds itself as experience grows and insight becomes sharper, or just as often enough in my own case, humility though no force of my own or rather all the forces of my own ignorance, adjusts my perspective whether I like it or not.
The true voyage of discovery, Marcel Proust says, lies not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Transformation, especially the kind heralded by the Nativity of the Divine Light, is not something that happens right before you walk into Sunday service but something that requires mindful engagement and preparation.
As the Parousia is a continuous event- returning again in the hearts of those who follow his example, so too is the Incarnation continuous- Christ is born anew each time he is seen in the person of our fellow human beings.
Earlier I mentioned that the liturgical calendar mirrors and reflects landmarks on the upward spiral of our spiritual paths, but it also mirrors and reflects itself- Advent prepares us for birth, Lent prepares us for Rebirth.
Drawing this down to the level of our own journey and practice- Advent is a mindful engagement and preparation not only to see the Divine born in the world through person of your fellow humanity but also and especially first within yourself.
If you’re not engaging the Divine Beloved in the person of yourself, then as Mar Thomas has said (though about forgiveness, which also is ever true)- you’re leaving the job half done.
Louis-Claude de Saint Martin wrote that ‘There is nothing more easy than to come to the gate of truth; there is nothing more difficult than to enter it.’ I would like to think he would agree that this applies here.
If you want to arrive at the Easter Sunday of your spiritual path, you will have to begin with your Nativity of the Divine Light.
As we enter today into Advent, I urge you to engage and re-engage your spiritual mission to not only giving birth to Christ through seeing the Divine in the person of your sisters and brothers but also and especially in yourself.
Unless he is born again in you, you will not be able to see the Kingdom of Heaven anywhere or in anyone else.
+ IOHANNES IV
Sovereign Pontiff and Patriarch