TODAY’S ADVENT REFLECTION FOR THE 4TH WEDNESDAY OF ADVENT, 2016
The end of the year is filled with hustle and bustle. Classes are nearing the end of the semester, concerts are held to present our work, decorations are set in anticipation of Christmas. The sales, the crowds, the shopping, the bills, the traffic, the taxes – all coming to a climax for the year. There is a lot to deflect the most wonderful time of the year.
The Gospel, thankfully, focuses my attention to Mary. It must have been an exciting time for her sensing the final days of carrying Jesus. I recall those final days just before my children were born. All the preparations were complete, we were just waiting in anticipation. But that was a personal experience.
Well, my neighbors are expecting soon, and we are excited! My colleagues are waiting for adoption, and we are excited! That’s what a baby does to us. In four days we will celebrate the birth of Jesus…and it is exciting! Soon, and very soon, we are going to meet the King. The final days before Christmas are a chance to reflect on the blessings of the year so that we can be more attentive to the reason for our Christmas celebration.
[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Fred Hanna, professor of music at Creighton University. He conducts the Symphonic Band and Symphony Orchestra, and teaches Foundations of Music, advanced Music Theory and Conducting.]
Let’s talk about angels. Angels are sort of a big thing in our culture; we even used to have a tv show about them. We buy angel figurines, decked out with wings and soft features. We tell people, “You’ve got an angel looking out for you!” But what do you really know about angels?
- Angels are real. God created them. They are as real as you, me, the sun, water and the rest of the created world.
- Angels are NOT human beings. We do not die and then become angels. Humans are always human and angels are always angels.
- Angels are “spiritual, non-corporeal beings.” That means they don’t have bodies, but they do have souls.
- Angels have intelligence and will. They can choose to serve God or not. (The “fallen angels” are one who chose not to serve God, but rather presumed they were greater than God. These beings now serve evil.)
- Angels are God’s messengers and servants. They glorify God unceasingly.
- Each and every person has a guardian angel that is unique to him or her, just as every angel is unique.
Angels are not “magical;” they are not fairies or some kind of good luck charm. Nor are they barely-dressed women touting lingerie. They serve God, and God is not about magic or luck. Nor are they chubby babies floating around our heads. They are warriors.
When God permits, angels can take on a physical form. After all, Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel: she saw an actual being, not a mirage or a ghost. In the Old Testament, Tobiah (son of Tobit) was accompanied by the angel Raphael on his journey to Media. Most of us will never see an angel, but they stand between us and evil. They protect us, body and soul.
Many of us were taught, as young children, to pray daily to our guardian angel for that angel’s protection, as God sees fit. This is a good practice for all of us, child or adult. If you haven’t spoken to your angel in awhile, now would be a good time.
Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
Yesterday, we began our week-long discussion of the Rosary, the beautiful prayer of the Church that allows us to meditate on the Gospel. Today, we will focus on the Joyful Mysteries, traditionally prayed on Mondays and Saturdays. (Some also pray these on the Sundays of Advent.)
In his apostolic letter, Rosarium Vifginis Mariae (The Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary), St. John Paul II teaches that these mysteries all focus on one incredible event: the Coming of Christ through Mary’s willingness to serve:
The first five decades, the “joyful mysteries”, are marked by the joy radiating from the event of the Incarnation. This is clear from the very first mystery, the Annunciation, where Gabriel’s greeting to the Virgin of Nazareth is linked to an invitation to messianic joy: “Rejoice, Mary”. The whole of salvation history, in some sense the entire history of the world, has led up to this greeting. If it is the Father’s plan to unite all things in Christ (cf. Eph 1:10), then the whole of the universe is in some way touched by the divine favour with which the Father looks upon Mary and makes her the Mother of his Son. The whole of humanity, in turn, is embraced by the fiat with which she readily agrees to the will of God.
The joyful mysteries are:
- The Annunciation: The angel Gabriel is sent to Mary to ask if she will assent to being the mother of the Savior. Her answer: “Be it done unto me according to the Father’s will.”
- The Visitation: Mary, upon hearing of her cousin Elizabeth’s unexpected late-in-life pregnancy, rushes to be with her. The baby Elizabeth is carrying is John the Baptist, who will grow up to herald the coming of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Elizabeth’s baby leaps with joy upon Mary’s arrival.
- The Nativity of the Lord: In the most humble of settings, our Savior is born. The news is announced to lowly shepherds, who are the first to witness the God-made-Man, a baby who sleeps in a manger.
- The Presentation at the Temple: Like all Jewish parents, Mary and Joseph bring their first born son to the temple in Jerusalem for consecration. There, Simeon (a man known for his holiness) declares that he may now die as he has seen his Savior – in the arms of these two young parents.
- The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple: As Mary and Joseph return from Jerusalem to Galilee following the Passover, they realize Jesus is not in the crowd they are traveling with. Rushing back to Jerusalem, they find the 12 year old Jesus teaching in the Temple. Despite how distraught they are, Jesus tells them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:50) Despite their joy upon finding Jesus safe, Mary and Joseph do not understand what this means. However, Jesus returns with them to Galilee where He “was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.” (Lk 2;51)
St. John Paul II said, “To meditate upon the ‘joyful’ mysteries, then, is to enter into the ultimate causes and the deepest meaning of Christian joy.” It is the joy of knowing that our Father in Heaven loved us enough to send His Son to save us from sin, to earthly parents who, despite not wholly understanding, were willing to always obey God’s will.