We begin our Advent pilgrimage this year with a reading from the 63rd chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah. But first, a little context…
Isaiah is writing at the time of the Babylonian exile--a particularly dark period in the history of the Jewish people. The Babylonians had completely decimated the population; they destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem, slaughtered livestock, and imprisoned the Israelites, carrying them off to a foreign land as slaves. The outlook for many of the Jews at this time was beyond bleak. And it is from this scenario that Isaiah relates the cry of the Israelites--their cry of sheer desperation and agony, praying to their God for deliverance: Lord, tear open the heavens, and come down to save us! Break the barrier of that which separates us from you and, with the might of your arm, deliver us! It is a heart-rending plea for salvation.
Yet the Israelites know what it is to wait. And despite their desperation, they liken their trials as like being clay in the hands of a master potter. For those of you who have never worked with clay, it is not easy. It involves a great amount of precision and work on the part of the potter. But the expert craftsman can take all but the hardest, most brittle clay and do amazing things with it. The clay has little to do other than cooperate by being pliable and retaining its moisture. This is, of course, a perfect analogy for the soul of the Christian during Advent.
God, our Lord and Master, is a potter of immense skill. And he works amazing deeds through us, as we turn on His wheel. However, we must be pliable, we must be docile. Our ability to be formed according to the will of the Father necessitates our cooperation with His will. Because clay that works against the hands of the potters soon breaks under the weight of the potter's hand!
Advent is a season of preparation--of prayer, of penance, of fasting and of good works. But most of all, it is a season in which we permit the hands of God to work in our lives to make our souls ready--ready for the immense joy of the coming of His Son, the sweet Lord Jesus! Because, the reality of Jesus' birth is not merely an historical fact, but an event that takes place outside of time and space. We do not simply commemorate an event--we re-live the great mystery of the Incarnation in a manner that transports us beyond merely the physical! And so we must be made ready!
We use this period of Advent to permit God to work on us--to mold us--to shape us according to His will--to make of us a vessel that is both worthy and able to receive the great mystery of the Incarnation--Love in the flesh!
But we cannot expect to be formed according to the will of God when we presume to place demands on Him. The clay does not make demands of the potter! We do not insist on being pushed in one direction, or pulled in another; to be permitted to do one thing, and given license to avoid something else. No! As clay in the hands of the potter, we can only seek to be worthy to receive God's gift by allowing the potter to mold us. Our role is to be passive, to be docile--to take what is given to us by God, both good and bad. And it is in the silence of this spiritual passivity that God comes to us and enables our hearts and minds to receive the gift of His Incarnate Son, and to mold us into vessels that are able to contain the great Mystery that we so eagerly anticipate.
May this Advent Season be for us a season of interior peace and stillness. May we be given the grace to be docile and easily molded by the hands of our Divine Potter. And may our prayer be that same heart-felt prayer cried out to the heavens by the Israelites so many years ago in Babylon: LORD, TEAR OPEN THE HEAVENS AND COME DOWN TO SAVE US!
Come, Lord Jesus! Come into our midst!