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Second Sunday of Advent

December 8, 2013

During these days between a late Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas Day, we are invited to consider the Incarnation, which brought to the weary world a vision of God’s dream for humanity. Over the centuries, Church councils and countless theologians have wrestled with this mystery. The Catechism of the Catholic Church #458 puts it succinctly, “The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God’s love.”

To paraphrase the words of Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, “How may we be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love, and thus to know the love that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled up with the fullness of God.” To come to appreciate the breadth and length and height and breadth of God’s love as revealed in the Incarnation, I suggest that we take a lead from the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola.   

Throughout the Spiritual Exercises Ignatius urges us to pray with our imagination. During the second week of the Exercises, for example, we are invited to accompany Jesus in His public ministry as recorded in the gospels. Ignatius recommends that we engage in what is called the “composition of place” by putting ourselves in the scene through the use of the senses. In this Advent Reflection, I invite you to experience the Contemplation on the Incarnation, which takes place at the outset of the second week.

Contemplation on the Incarnation

  • First, carve out some time, find a comfortable place, and invite the Holy Spirit to be with you.  Ask for the grace to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love, to see as God sees, and to love as God loves.
  • Next, imagine God beholding the world before the annunciation. 
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  • Try to enter the vision of God, in His triune life, looking upon our world:  men and women aimless, despairing, hateful and killing, men and women sick and dying, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the happy and the sad, some being born and some being laid to rest. The leap of divine joy: God knows that the time has come when the mystery of his salvific plan, hidden from the beginning of time, will become manifest.[1]
  • Allow yourself to imagine God’s eye view and God’s outpouring of emotion.
  • We know that God beheld the world and responded in human history by sending His only Son, Jesus the Lord. We also know that God beholds the world still, that God sees our joys and sorrows, our tragedies and our triumphs. Then and now, God beholds humanity in all of its confusion, grief, and messiness. I invite you to watch a lovely brief film produced by the Cleveland Clinic. For me, this simple and beautiful film illustrates how God sees human beings in all of our richness and complexity. Enjoy this view of humanity from God’s perspective.

  • The 16th century saint and martyr, Robert Southwell, S.J., wrote a beautiful poem entitled Nativity, with a lovely refrain that describes the Incarnation: 

“Greater gift than Himself God doth not know.”

  • When God beheld the world two millennia ago, “Greater gift than Himself God doth not know.” When God beholds you and me today, “Greater gift than Himself God doth not know.” When God beholds above all those who are burdened in any way, “Greater gift than Himself God doth not know.”
  • End your prayer by thanking God for His boundless mercy and love. Ask for the grace to know how much you are loved and cherished by God. Ask that, more and more, you will see others as God sees them. And ask that, more and more, you will love others as God loves them.

 

[1] David Fleming, SJ, The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius:  A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading p. 71-73.

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