“We long to see thee so”
These are the opening lines of an old hymn I used to sing every Advent at my infant school. It had a rousing chorus
“O Come O Come O come, Our Saviour dear to be
O Come O Come O come We have no king thee”
Yes, Advent is all about longing: the longing of the Jewish people for the Messiah as we read in the prophecies of Isaiah, the longing of Our Blessed Lady as she journeyed towards Bethlehem and the longing of the Church for the Second Coming of Christ which heralds the consummation of all the Gospel promises. We may like to add this Advent the longing of the end to the global pandemic and a return to being able to behave normally in our social interaction. There is a lot of longing.
Advent is not only a season of longing it is also a time of preparation. The figure of John the Baptist looms large over our Scripture readings. John encourages us to look into our hearts, to confess our sins and to experience a new beginning and an awareness of the closeness of the Messiah. It is no mistake of the Church to signify the beginning of the liturgical year with Advent. The key to the religious life, of living a life of faith, is the remembrance of the closeness of Christ. We will not wander into the wilderness of self-absorption, self-indulgence and all the other self-delusions that lead us into a wasted life if we know Christ is close to us.
If I have learnt one lesson during this year of pandemic it is to realise the gift of Time and Space. There is time to pray and the space to discover it. God often speaks to us in silence.
May we all discover during this time of Advent: the closeness of the Messiah, the need to share the longing of the prophets, to share the call to confess with John the Baptist, to share the excitement of the Blessed Virgin as she pondered the mysterious workings of God in her life and to look forward with blessed Hope in the second coming of Christ.
We long to see thee so
To see thee newly born
The sands of time run slow
We long for Christmas morn