4th Sunday of Advent
In this last week of Advent, our gaze turns closer toward Bethlehem and the child who will come to change the course of human history. Before the Midnight Mass begins each year, there is the tradition in many Catholic churches to sing the Kalendas, the “Proclamation of the Birth of Christ.” This is a text that comes from the Divine Office. Prior to the liturgical reforms of the 1960’s, part of the Office of the Church included the hour “Prime.” At Prime, prayed after Mornings Prayer and before Midmorning Prayer, it was customary to read the daily Martyrology, which listed all the saints who passed that day into eternal life. On December 24 each year, it also included an announcement that proclaimed what the Church has been waiting for and the beginning of the Christmas season.
The Kalendas is quite a text. It announces Christ’s birth as an historical reality. It states Christ’s birth in reference to spiritual and temporal realities: “Unkown ages since God created the heavens and earth…,” “Twenty-one centuries after Moses led the people of Israel…,” “one thousand years since David was anointed King…,” “In the forty second year of Cæsar Octavian Augustus…,” and “In the one hundred ninety fourth Olympiad.” After these important dates, there is, in my opinion, a fabulous line: “the whole world, being at peace.”
That line had always caught my attention. Since I am a nerd, I spent some time one Advent researching the time of Christ’s birth. Truly, the whole world was at peace! The last major conflict ended in 19BC with Rome’s final conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. After Christ’s birth, the next major skirmish was the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, an escalation in the Roman-Germanic Wars in 9AD. In effect, God in his providence provided that Christ’s birth would come at a time in which the whole world truly was at peace. No distractions and literally nothing else that anyone could say, “Look here,” or, “Look over there!” There was only Christ on that night. There was only peace.
In this vein, Advent reminds us each year of our heart’s need for peace. With my recent diagnosis, I am forced to take a step back and slow down. It may be that God is forcing me into a meaningful Advent! But each of us is indeed called to voluntarily take a pause. Are there conflicts in our heart? Are there divisions and wounds to which we are holding on? Spend time in front of the empty crib. See how hollow that crib looks without the Christ child there filling the blank space. That is an image of our wounded heart: empty. But we do not want our heart to remain empty. We have a few more days until the birth of Christ. Let us remove the rocks and pebbles from our heart. We can attempt to achieve peace in our souls, and by our acts of generosity and healing, we line our hearts with the straw that will make our hearts a bed for the Divine Infant. “Come, let us adore him.”