In the Office of Readings for Monday in the First Week of Advent, St. Charles Borromeo tells us that God sent his only Son “to free us from the tyranny of Satan, to summon us to heaven, to welcome us into its innermost recesses, to show us truth itself, to train us in right conduct, to plant within us the seeds of virtue, to enrich us with the treasures of his grace, and to make us children of God and heirs of eternal life.”
We might be tempted to read such beautiful words and think of them as a promise of a future reality. But as St. Paul puts it, “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).” The Church thus invites us during Advent to “climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths (Reading, Morning Prayer).” This is something we do every time we share in the Church’s Sacred Liturgy. Every time we assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or pray the Divine Office, we enter the Holy of Holies, share in the mysteries of Christ, and are instructed to walk in His ways.
But to make this climb, we must leave behind everything that hinders us. Therefore, during Advent we cry out “Come and set us free, Lord God of power and might (Responsory, Evening Prayer).” And that is what the Lord Jesus desires to do for each one of us – He longs to set us free from the tyranny of Satan, our enslavement to the passions, and our disordered love of self. He gives this time of waiting and anticipation in order to empty our hearts of all that does not satisfy and set them aflame instead with a love for that which alone can satisfy.
Today is the Feast of St. Andrew. In the Office of Readings for the feast, St. John Chrysostom describes the apostle as “a soul waiting with the utmost longing for the coming of the Messiah, looking forward to his appearing from heaven, rejoicing when he does appear, and hastening to announce so great an event to others.” This reading’s responsory then goes on to say, “As soon as Andrew heard the Lord preaching, he left the nets which were his livelihood and way of life and followed the Lord who gives eternal life.” Andrew thus serves as an icon of the true spirit of Advent. He waits with utmost longing, looks forward to the coming of the Messiah, rejoices when he does appear, and leaves everything behind in order to follow Him.
May we commit ourselves this Advent to being like Andrew. Let us allow the waiting and anticipation to fan into flame a love for what truly matters. Let us empty ourselves of all that hinders us, so that we may climb the Lord’s mountain. In doing so, we will be prepared to rejoice in the Lord’s birth at Christmas, be instructed in His ways, and follow Him without reserve.