• December 16, 2017

The Joy of His Advent

The liturgy of the second Sunday of Advent places John in the time imme­di­ately before Christmas. In the gospel, John’s his­tory is described as an intro­duc­tion to the his­tory of Christ. Thus John’s voca­tion is closely con­nected with the coming – the advent – of the Word. At the time of Mary’s vis­i­ta­tion, John was filled with the Spirit and leaped with joy in his mother’s womb. It was the close­ness of Jesus which aroused this joy in him. For this was the joy which the Word alone gives when He touches the heart more deeply than any crea­tures can, and causes it to expe­ri­ence that hap­pi­ness which He him­self is and which He com­mu­ni­cates to others…

Here again, John’s great joy was not some­thing sec­ondary. It was the very sub­stance of his being touched by divine joy, bearing wit­ness to that joy, hidden in that joy. He was already rejoicing in the great event to come. For the one who was coming and for whom he was preparing the way was the one who gives to his own the joy which the world cannot give and which far exceeds any mere sen­ti­ment. As he pre­pared men’s hearts for the heroic act of faith, so he also pre­pared them to bear the extremely heavy weight of joy; hearts which had to a cer­tain extent become accus­tomed to despair, he helped open up to the hap­pi­ness which only God can give.

Thus it is that every hill must be brought low and every valley raised up. That little hope which per­haps still sur­vives in the most hard­ened heart must be awak­ened. Obstacles must be destroyed, but expec­ta­tions aroused… After this long sleep, this long winter, this period of slug­gish­ness, now the voice of the dove – the harbinger of spring – is heard in the land. Now the flowers appear and hope is born again in the hearts of men: “Now is the time to rise from sleep.” Men deceive them­selves in trying to arouse their hopes, for they are pow­er­less to respond to such hopes. And every man is a liar. But John knew that he had a right to awaken hope, for he knew that hope would not be deceived.

Extracts from “The Work of John the Baptist” by John Cardinal Daniélou

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