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Chapter 3

Advent

 

My brothers (and sisters),
Christ made love the stairway
that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven.
Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity,
give one another practical proof of it,
and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.
—St. Fulgentius of Ruspe

 

 

  Advent comes from the Latin word “advenire,” which means “to come.”  When Christ comes into our life through a spiritual conversion, we are “reborn” or “born again from above” in union with the newborn baby of Bethlehem. (John 3:3)  It is Christmas all over again.  Jesus Christ was born of Mary to undo the deeds of the devil.  Now he comes to free us from evil.  We are all caught up in the web of original sin, the knot of Satan and the sad lot of separation from God.  If we could love like Jesus does, then we would be happy and free.  Our Savior came to bring us freedom, to bring us back to God again. 

The Christian life is an “Adventure.”  We never know what is coming when we do God’s will and truly give ourselves to Him.  We begin to change and to change again into a “new person,” into the true person that God created us to be.  It is a continual conversion.  The way may be hard at first, perhaps very hard, but through it all, by the grace of God, we change for the better.  We become more humble and loving, more honest and forgiving, more peaceful, prayerful, and open to God.  We know that God will do what we cannot do, provided we do the best that we can to be true Christians.

You will need at least one Christian friend for mutual support and also, if possible, a good spiritual director (teacher/advisor) or, simply, another Christian more mature in the spiritual life who can help you to follow Jesus Christ.  St. John of the Cross cautioned that, “The virtuous soul that is alone, is like a lone burning coal; it will grow colder rather than hotter.”  The Lord blesses the spiritual friendships and holy relationships of Christians, “Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:20)  It is important to be able to “talk spiritual” at times, to have spiritual conversations with other Christians that rise above the mundane “human talk” of everyday life.

At the same time, we should be careful who we let lead us in the spiritual life.  Only those who are led by the Spirit of Christ, who follow faith more than reason, divine love more than human affection, can help others follow Jesus Christ through His life and death, resurrection and ascension to union with God, according to His will for them in particular.  In cooperation with God, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” by putting to death your “old man,” the sin within you, and by practicing the opposite virtues. (Phil. 2:12)  Then, you will grow in grace and Life, and be filled, more and more, with Jesus Christ, the “New Man.”  Those who are well informed about the spiritual life, yet have little experience of it, can be very helpful to a point, but they will fall short in their ability to set the soul free of pre-conceived ideas and personal preference regarding the will of God for them in particular.  Only the Holy Spirit knows what is right for each individual soul to grow and advance in the spiritual life.  Yet, too often, men rush in where angels fear to tread.  The same could be said, perhaps more so, of those who have some experience of the spiritual life but don’t know what they are doing, lacking sufficient knowledge and discretion.  In general, it is best to take what you can and leave the rest rather than fall off a cliff or be led into a ditch, unless you are truly blessed to find someone who has both knowledge and experience.  In that case, follow them as you would Jesus Christ, unless Divine Providence prevents you from doing so.

In addition to seeking spiritual support, you will need to withdraw from the entanglements of the world so that you can devote yourself more completely to the Lord.  This should be in keeping with your state in life so that you do not lose the grace of your vocation or station.  No need to change everything, unless it is sinful or a temptation that you can avoid.  The will of God for everyone is to fulfill their daily duties, but in a way that pleases Him and is not sinful.  This means that we do it for Him, because it is His will and pleases Him, not just because we have to, or others want us to, or we happen to like that activity.  It also means that we do it in a way that pleases Him, as a Christian.  By doing what we do for God and in a way that pleases Him, everything we do becomes an act of love and virtue that brings us closer to God, because He blesses with His grace those who do His will with the right intention.

 

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