Greetings and Blessings to the Members of the Antiochian Women, The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch, The Fellowship of St. John the Divine, Teen SOYO, and all of the beloved faithful of this archdiocese.
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight the paths of our God” (Isaiah 40:3).
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary offers the following as one of the definitions for the word “prepare”: “to make yourself ready for something that you will be doing or something that you expect to happen.”
How appropriate it is to focus on the word “prepare” as it relates to the goal of the Advent Season. We are called to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus Christ Himself, the Incarnate God. We are called to remove ourselves from the distractions and unhealthy lifestyles which characterize our material existence. We are called, during a season when our culture calls for indulgence in material things, to reject this indulgence, and focus on our spiritual health.
The quote given above from the Book of Isaiah is of course the prophecy of the ministry of John The Forerunner, who came to prepare the way for the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. On another level, it is a call to each of us to prepare ourselves for the “way of the Lord”. What is this “way of the Lord”?
The quote above gives us a strong clue in the text “make straight the paths of our God." The implication is that we have caused our path to become “crooked,” and not straight. Something that is “crooked” can be said to be dishonest, or tainted, and this is exactly what we wish to avoid in our lives. The Advent Season is a time for taking that which has been tainted, and reaching out to the Lord to make it straight and pure.
The entire message of the bible is a message of the call by God to His children to be reconciled to Him, and to be united to Him in love. This effort passes through the judges, kings and prophets of the Old Testament where God, through these holy people reaches out to His children. The ultimate outreach from God to His people is the Incarnation of God as man, embodied in the nativity of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ in the Flesh. God chooses to come into this world in partnership with His creation. He chooses to come as a humble babe in the cave, born to the Theotokos, so that humankind could share as intimately as possible in His coming. The question for us is this: Will there be room in the “inn of our hearts” for Him to lay His head, or will the “inn of our hearts” be filled with carnal things and clogged with passions so that there is no room for the Lord?
It is clear then, that there is only one appropriate response for us to the incarnation of God in the flesh, and that is a response of a loving child who returns their loving Father. A response which offers up to God the only thing that we can offer, and the only thing that He asks of us. That is the offering of ourselves, which requires a change in heart, a radical departure from all of the things of this world which separate us from God. A departure from all of the things which prevent us from fulfilling our ultimate destiny, that is to strive to “be perfect just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
Therefore my beloved in Christ, I ask you to join me in this Advent journey which will culminate in the Nativity of Christ. I ask you to join me in resisting the ways of our secular culture and to utilize this season to cleanse, renew and restore our souls and our hearts. I ask you to join me in waiting patiently for the time of this season when we will indeed leap for joy at the coming of the Lord. I ask you to simply open your hearts to God so that He may fill them with the peace, love, and joy that can never be taken away, and that we may worthily exclaim “Christ is Born! Glorify Him!”