Advent Journal: Day 16–O Adonai


O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.


Therefore, the days will come, says the LORD,
when they shall no longer say, “As the LORD lives,
who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt”;
but rather, “As the LORD lives,
who brought the descendants of the house of Israel
up from the land of the north”–
and from all the lands to which I banished them.

-Jeremiah 23:6-8


“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”

-Matthew 1:18-25


He did not show hatred for us or reject us or take vengeance; instead, he was patient with us, bore with us, and in compassion took our sins upon himself; he gave his own Son as the price of our redemption, the holy one to redeem the wicked, the sinless one to redeem sinners, the just one to redeem the unjust, the incorruptible one to redeem the corruptible, the immortal one to redeem mortals.

-Letter to Diognetus

Redemption.  Fulfillment.  Salvation.  These are what we expect from our God.  Why, when we are so disappointed, so much a failure in the eyes of the world–the world, in which me must live, but must not live of it–why do we still hope? For we know, most of us, of eternal life, only by our hearing, only by way of faith.  We have no knowledge of it ourselves.  When we hear, “he will save you from all your sins,” we must think of those things we have done to make us failures, despised and looked down upon by the world.  For we cannot accomplish what we set out to accomplish, and those we would love do not love us in return.  We seek to do great things, to achieve, to make a name for ourselves, and yet we accomplish nothing.  We feel it a sin not to be something great, but not to harm our fellow man.  Of course, this is not the path of God at all.  He will save us from our sins; when we are in despair over some worldly good, his salvation is to prevent us, in our anguish, from harming our brothers and sisters, from cursing and hating them, and making our selves even more wicked in the process.  Not only this, but He himself teaches how to love, even in the midst of despair and shame.  For Christ was born to parents of low station; his father was not famous, his mother a mere peasant girl; he himself took up the trade of a carpenter, as was Joseph.  He died in the most shameful manner, humiliated on the cross–the failed prophet, in the eyes of the world:  “if you are the Christ, come down from the cross, that we may see, and believe.”  In the film Amadeus, the fictional Antonio Salieri mocks the priest by asserting that he will intercede for him because Salieri is “the patron saint of mediocrities.”  This was not the real Salieri, but it is instructive.  It presumes that our failures are the end, the final word.  But it is not so.  For we have a God who transcends all human failures, and as humans, we all fail.  Even Mozart failed, and died penniless at the age of 35, though he was a genius.  Our defects, our physical shortcomings, our mental deficiencies, our moral corruptions, our wounded feelings, our pestilent obsessions–Christ has borne them all, he bears them all for us.  He knows our hearts, and he alone can heal them.  What a scandal, and a shame, must it have been for Joseph, to find his betrothed pregnant before they were wed! How humiliating must it have been.  Perhaps one of the few times in a ordinary man’s life when he will be feted, made to feel important, is his wedding and taking of a wife.  And Mary must not have been (please forgive me O Virgin, I only speak to know the truth) the most desirable match in the eyes of the world, or else she would have been betrothed to someone of greater status than Joseph.  And to be shamed by her like that! But then, to listen to God in a dream, to still be open to truth, when ever fiber in his being must have been angry–blessed be St. Joseph for his humility, and chastity.  For though it is holiness, and eternal happiness with God that we seek, I like to think that, for St. Joseph, and for all who await the redemption of Christ, that this will be accompanied by a rectification of our worldly sense of shame.  Not that God need grant us any of the ultimately good but superfluous things which we obsess over and suffer for–a beautiful spouse, a good job,  wealth, fame, achievement in our fields of endeavor, and many others–but that the anguish which greets our failure to possess these things, which fills us with such a sense of dislocation, desolation, abandonment, and ennui, that makes feel as if we do not belong in this world or any other, shall be recompensed by having those feelings taken away, and replaced by the love of God, which will return us to our “own land again” as Jeremiah promised.  Only this will not merely be a place, but a world made whole in our hearts, where Christ will take the place of our disappointments and failures, and where we will no longer be strangers to God or to our fellow man, but will be at home in charity with all the blessed forever.

~ by Alypius on December 18, 2017.

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