The long night of Advent ends with Zechariah singing: “In the tender compassion of our God, the Dawn from on high break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Oppressed by sin, all humanity dwelt in the shadow of death: for through the disobedience of Adam sin entered into the world and together with it, death. Tonight, the skies will be filled with light as angels would sing of the glory of God and proclaim to shepherds the birth of Christ. The Lord Jesus is that Light whose coming breaks the dark reign of sin. The impending birth of the Lord Jesus is truly the rising dawn. It is the end of the night and the beginning of the day.
But remember that Advent is not just a preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth. This season also is our preparation for the end of time when Christ shall come to judge the living and the dead. This season speaks our joyful expectation of the end, either the end of our lives or the end of history. As we have said before, from the time the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles on that Pentecost day, the Church has been living in the end times. History presses forward. It inches its way towards that blessed day when Christ returns with salvation for his people. The Lord bids us to raise our heads and stand erect for salvation is at hand.
As we await for that blessed day, we are guided by the light of faith. Faith, as we have said in the past, helps us walk in the middle of darkness. We walk by faith and not by sight. There are many times when we feel disheartened by the difficulties and trials of life. Such difficult times leave us weak and discouraged. St. Augustine tells us: “Believers strengthen themselves by believing.” “Only through believing…does faith grow and become stronger; there is no other possibility for possessing certitude with regard one’s life apart from self-abandonment, in a continuous crescendo, into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly because it has its origin in God.” (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 7.)
Therefore, as we move through history towards the blessed day of the revelation of our Lord Jesus, let us go forth with confidence that God has sent us a mighty Savior who sets us free from the hands of all who hate us. Let us be confident that this Savior frees us to worship him without fear by making us holy and righteous in his sight. Our faith gives us knowledge of salvation by having our sins forgiven. This Savior who shines upon our darkness will guide our feet into the way of peace. Like a shepherd, he leads us to restful waters.
“Having reached the end of his life, St. Paul asks his disciple Timothy to ‘aim at faith’ (2 Tim 2:22) with the same constancy as when he was a boy (cf. 2 Tim 3:13). We hear this invitation directed to each of us, that none of us grow lazy in the faith. It is the lifelong companion that makes it possible to perceive, ever anew, the marvels that God works for us. Intent on gathering the signs of the times in the present of history, faith commits every one of us to become a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world. What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many of the desire for God and for true life, life without end.” (PF, 13.).
We ought to get back the dimension of the sacred in the liturgy. The liturgy is not a festivity; it is not a meeting for the purpose of having a good time. It is of no importance that the parish priest has cudgeled his brains to come up with suggestive ideas or imaginative novelties. The liturgy is what makes the Thrice-Holy God present amongst us; it is the burning bush; it is the Alliance of God with man in Jesus Christ, who has died and risen again. The grandeur of the liturgy does not rest upon the fact that it offers an interesting entertainment, but in rendering tangible the Totally Other, whom we are not capable of summoning. He comes because He wills. In other words, the essential in the liturgy is the mystery, which is realized in the common ritual of the Church; all the rest diminishes it. Men experiment with it in lively fashion, and find themselves deceived, when the mystery is transformed into distraction, when the chief actor in the liturgy is not the Living God but the priest or the liturgical director. - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Chile, 1988)
Do we still need sacred space, sacred time, mediating symbols? Yes, we do need them, precisely so that, through the "image," through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven. We need them to give us the capacity to know the mystery of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified. - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Spirit of the Liturgy )