The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Second Sunday of Advent - 6th of December 2009

“From shadows and symbols to the truth,” (ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem): this was the personal motto of John Henry Newman (1801-1890).  Since ancient times Christian writers have used this expression, and others like it, to place Jesus in relation to the prophets who went before him.  In him there is a coming out into the light after the long night of darkness and half-light; he is “the loving-kindness of the heart of our God who visits us like the dawn from on high” (Luke 1:78). 

But the coming of this Light is a more precise event than dawn.  The birth of Jesus, though we may not know its precise hour or date or even its year, is an historical event, and so it is precise in principle.  Luke seems insistent on pinning it down, in the cumbersome way that people dated events in the ancient world.  This insistence on real history sets our faith in contrast with some other profound faiths.  In the Rig-Veda, for example, you read:
            Like a youthful maiden, Dawn shines brightly forth,
            Stirring to motion every living creature.
            Divine Fire was kindled for human use;
            Dawn created light, driving away the dark. 
John's gospel says, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (1:9), but it is Luke's gospel in particular that paints in the humble details of Christ's birth.  And it is Luke's gospel that we are reading on the Sundays of Advent this year. 

Light can be contemplated for itself, but its practical purpose is to illuminate a path.  Ultimately it is “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:79). 

Our lives are a practical matter.  Thomas Merton wrote, “The spiritual life is first of all a life.  It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived….Jesus lived the ordinary life of the people of his time, in order to sanctify the ordinary lives of people of all time.  If we want to be spiritual, then, let us first of all live our lives.”

Article posted on 4th of December 2009

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