November 30, 2023
On the Sunday before Advent, we celebrate: Christ, King of the Universe. Although very present in the Bible, this invocation was given a special feast rather lately (1925). Pope Pius XI, well aware of the dangers of atheism and ideologies as well as the fragile peace between nations, wanted to encourage Christians to turn more ardently to the mediation of Christ: "We must seek the peace of Christ through the reign of Christ." (Encyclical letter: Quas primas - instituting the Solemnity of Christ the King - 1925)
Advent is given to us to prepare for Christ’s coming (Adventus in Latin), for the day of his glorious return when he will definitively establish the Kingdom of his Father. The Christian year opens and closes with the prospect of Christ's coming. And how could we lose sight of this coming, when every day we implore his Coming in the prayer of the Our Father: Thy kingdom come...? This watchful waiting is joyful because we are not awaiting the return of a Judge, but of the One whom Saint Paul calls our Blessed Hope, the One who comes to save us, who comes to give us his life in fullness. Advent is also the time when we prepare to celebrate Christ's first coming into our humanity, his Nativity, with thanksgiving.
So how do we wait for him? The Gospel encourages us to be vigilant: "Take heed, keep watch: for you do not know when the time will come; Keep watch therefore, for you do not know when the Master of the house will return; Keep watch..." (Mark 13) Four weeks to prepare for this coming, for this event! This year, the 4th week of Advent will be summed up on Sunday December 24. Our God is in a hurry to come and meet us. Advent is short, so we must lose no time in keeping active watch to hasten the reign of Christ, the reign of the Father: an eternal and universal reign, a reign of life and truth, of grace and holiness, of justice, love and peace (Preface Christ the King).
How can we hasten this reign? If peace doesn't yet reign in our world, let's make it reign in our hearts and in those of our loved ones. We can't stop wars and violence, but we can hasten Christ's reign: an outstretched hand, a kind word, a smile, an encouragement, a silent presence next to someone who is suffering... "If we put into practice love of neighbor, we will be able to bring about peace. If we put into practice love of neighbor, according to the Gospel message, then we make way for God's lordship, and his kingdom is realized in our midst. If, on the contrary, each of us thinks only of his own interests, the world can only go to its ruin." Let's also use the means the Church gives us: let's prepare an Advent wreath in our homes and bear witness to the light of Christ already present in our midst. Let's prepare the Manger scene in our homes, but above all in our hearts: let's use the right means of prayer, the Word of God and reconciliation to make our hearts the most beautiful crib for the Infant King, who wants to reign there more and more.
"Our world needs watchmen and bearers of hope. Let's not wait passively, let's actively and joyfully use this time of grace by opening wide our hearts and minds to the light of the Gospel. Following in the footsteps of the Virgin Mary, let us watch and pray in expectation of the Lord's return! Happy liturgical year!" (Pope Benedict XVI)