Sunday, November 29, 2015

First Sunday of Advent

Jer 33:14-16
Ps 25
1 Thes 3:12-4:2
Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

"Veni, veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel."

"O come, o come Emmanuel
and ransom captive Israel."

The word Advent is derived from the Latin:  ad meaning "to or toward" and venire meaning "to come"
Thus, Advent means: to come to, to move toward, to approach, to near.  English supplies many options in transations.

Advent is not a stand-alone season.  It is the beginning of the Church's liturgical year.  Advent is not a synonym for frantic shopping.  It is a time to prepare for the Nativity of Our Lord.  Advent was not created by Martha Stewart as a time to decorate and do useless craft projects.  Despite secular messages to the contrary, despite a government and many universities that would relish removing all religious associations from the word Christmas, if not banning the word itself,  Advent is a penitential season, thus, purple vestments.  No Gloria at Sunday Mass. It is a time for prayer and meditation, a time to contemplate what we will soon celebrate.

We heard in the first reading from Jeremiah:  "The days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah." Despite the promise of the covenant, those to whom God made the promise turned away repeatedly.  They forgot all that He had done for them. They placed faith only in their own selves, their own abilities, their own concept of freedom.  How very much like us when things are going particularly well.

"I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land."

That is the promise we recall as we prepare over the coming weeks to celebrate the Incarnation of Our Lord, the coming of Jesus toward and into our world.

The Gospel from Luke comes from the last half of Chapter 21, the end of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem.  Chapter 22 begins the narrative of the Last Supper.  Jesus isn't saying anything new here.  He isn't saying anything that he hasn't already said many times.  He hints at the the return of the Son of Man, and cautions, as He did many times, against being caught unawares, of not being prepared for that coming.  The imagery is vivid and frightening.  Signs in the heavens.  Turmoil upon the earth.  Dying of fright.  And the Son of Man coming on a cloud.  BUT . . . we do not, we cannot, and we will not know when.  Unfortunately that fact has not stopped doomsday preachers and others, from precise calculations of the timing, and sometimes even the exact location, of the parousia

Remember the insanity fifteen years ago when the "new millennium" began?  Remember the prognostications?  Many were beyond bizarre, as were the individuals making them.  People hung onto the words of self-appointed evangelists and pseudo-theologians who were nothing more than amateur soothsayers, graduates of the Chicken Little School of Divination and Alarmism.  They spread fear and perhaps reaped a little profit—profit with an ‘f’ not a ‘ph’.  The rapturists expected to be taken up bodily.  Major craziness to be sure.  A good rule of thumb is: The more specific the prediction as to time, place, and other details of the parousia, the second coming of Jesus, the rapture, or the end of time, or whatever one chooses to call it,  the more worthy it is of derision or, if you are so inclined, hysterical, fall-on-the-floor-while-wiping-tears-from-your-eyes laughter. 

As we begin this holy season, as we gaze at the single candle in the Advent wreathe, a wreathe that will be fully lit before we have time to catch our breaths, we are called to sing in gratitude with the psalmist:

"Your way, O Lord, make known to me
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me. . .
All the paths of the Lord
are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant. . .”

Veni, veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel.

First Sunday of Advent.  Finally.  It is the beginning of the new liturgical year.  The Gospel of Luke will predominate on Sundays.  And the readings from year II will take over the weekday Masses.  It is one of my favorite times of the year, in some ways more so than the post-Christmas days.  

Black and white photography is my first love.  My first role of film was ASA 400 black and white.  When I went to England in 1977, the reason I bought the camera, some of the best work was black and white.  Alas, I no longer have the negatives or the prints that I made.  It is easier to focus on texture, light, and shape in black and white than in color.  Some photos only work in black and white.  One of the joys of digital photography is the ability to change color to black and white and then adjust.  Ansel Adams and other pioneer photographers worked very hard in the darkroom to dodge (lighten) and burn (darken) black and white photos.  I can do the same without taking my hand off the computer mouse.  And there is no exposure to chemicals.  

These pine cones of some type were OK in color.  Black and white allowed me to play with the light, contrast and texture.  

There is a cemetery at Sevenhill, South Australia where we made the tertian long retreat.  The representation of the Jesuit seal represents a lot of work on the computer as the seal over the entrance was suspended by two iron bars.  I erased them. 

 A fence around one of the grave plots illuminated with flash.

A Celtic cross atop a hillock in the cemetery. 

Black and white also records more complex scenes beautifully.  This was taken toward the end of the retreat on a chilly threatening morning.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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