03 December 2023

Homily - 2 December 2023 - On the light of God's Face

The First Sunday of Advent (B)

Dear brothers and sisters,

In words that are almost despairing, the prophet of God says to the Lord, “…you have hidden your face from us…” (Isaiah 62:7). His is a lament of sorrow for the dreadful times that fell upon Israel, but also a cry of hope that the Lord will again show his face to his people.

It is the same hope frequently found on the lips of the Psalmist:

  • “Lord, show us the light of your face!” (Psalm 4:7);
  • “Let your face shine on your servant” (Psalm 31:17);
  • “Not with their own swords did they conquer the land, nor did their own arms bring victory; it was your right hand, your own arm, the light of your face, for you favored them” (Psalm 44:4);
  • “May God be gracious to us and bless us; may God’s face shine upon us” (Psalm 67:1).
  • “Let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:4).

Darkness and doubt go together. Similarly, light and hope go together. Advent is a time of hope, a time to seek the light. When we need hope, what do we often do? We look for light. We watch the sunset, we gather around a campfire, we look to the stars. Light - real light - speaks in the depths of the human soul because it sings of hope.

When Israel walked away from God, from the one who “is light, and in [whom] there is no darkness at all,” calamity fell upon the people, and darkness came upon them. (I John 1:5). It is the same with us; if we do not keep to the light, we will find ourselves in the darkness of sin and say, “…you have hidden your face from us.”

The Church prays each morning the words of the father of Saint John the Baptist: "In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death" (Luke 1:78-79). Perhaps this is why J.R.R. Tolkien said, “Yet dawn is ever the hope of men.”[1]

Each night, the Church prays the words of Simeon, who held the Divine Infant in his arms in the Temple:

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:

my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:

a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel (Luke 2:29-32).

The Church always looks for the light of God and desires her children do the same.

The great artists knew light is both attractive and overpowering. We are, for example, drawn to the light of a bonfire and blinded if we look too quickly at the sun. They depicted the peacefulness of the light of the Face of the Christ Child, as well as the dazzling splendor of the light of the Face of Son of God at his Transfiguration or his Second Coming.

Yes, dawn is ever the hope of humanity because it is the hour of the Resurrection, it is the hour of the Lord’s coming forth from the tomb, it is the hour at which we hope to see his coming on the Last Day in the fullness of his glory.

Photo: Paul Badde, Ecco l'angelo di Dio

Let us, then, look to his coming and strive in such a way never to stray from his light and have cause to lament, “you have hidden your face from us.” Rather, let us draw ever nearer to him, to bask in the wondrous splendor of the light of his Face until we possess the realization of our hope. Amen.

[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, III.7. The Two Towers, Being the Second Part of The Lord of the Rings (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994), 524.

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