On Running to Meet God – An Advent Reflection

Advent is beginning to wind to a close and even liturgically the focus has now turned toward the Christmas Feast. However, still in Advent, we look for the Lord to come. We still wait on the Lord, wait for him to come in glory.

We have all been well schooled in the in the understanding that the word “Advent” means “coming.”  This is fine and accurate but there is one danger to avoid in our current notion of Advent,  and that is that we are not merely passive as we look for the Lord or wait for him to come.  It is not just that the Lord is coming to us but we are also journeying to him. In fact we are running to meet him.

There is an image of the Prodigal Son that comes to mind. His Father saw him and ran toward him, but he too was hastening to his Father with contrition and hope. Yes, in Advent we do look for the Lord’s coming. But the Lord also looks for us as we come to him by faith.  We, like the prodigal son, consider our need for salvation, and with contrition, (did you get to confession this advent?), hasten to meet our Lord, whom we know by faith is coming to us.

This notion of our running to meet God has not been well articulated in the Liturgies of the English speaking world since about 1970. Since 1970 we have been using a translation that is really more of a paraphrase. Much has been left out of the current translation, including this notion of us running to the Lord in the Advent prayers. Happily it looks like a much more accurate translation will begin to be used next Advent. So let’s look at the how the new translation will set forth these prayers and how the theme of our running to meet God, even as he is coming to us, is set forth:

  1. Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.  (First Sunday of Advent)
  2. Almighty and merciful God, may no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your Son, but may our learning of heavenly wisdom gain us admittance to his company. (Second Sunday of Advent)
  3. Stir up your mighty power, O Lord. and come to our help with a mighty strength, so that what our sins impede, the grace of your mercy may hasten. (Thur of the First Week of Advent).
  4. Grant that your people, we pray , almighty God, may be ever watchful for the coming of your Only Begotten Son, that, as the author of our salvation himself has taught us, we may hasten, alert with lighted lamps, to meet him when he comes. (Friday of the Second Week of Advent)
  5. May the reception of your sacrament strengthen us O Lord, so that we may go out to meet our savior, with worthy deeds when he comes, and merit the rewards of the blessed. (post communion, Dec 22)

Thus, we are not counselled to “wait on the Lord” in a merely passive sense as though we were sitting still and waiting for a bus to arrive. Rather we are counselled to “wait on the Lord” in an active sense, much as when we speak of a waiter in a restaurant waiting on tables. Such a form of waiting is a very active form of waiting. Alert and aware, the waiter or waitress carefully observes the needs of others around them and serves their brothers and sisters. The good ones strive to avoid distraction and do their job of serving well and with swiftness.

Notice too how the prayers indicate what it means to “run.”  We do not run aimlessly or in frantic circles. Rather running to the Lord means:

  1. Being engaged in righteous deeds (holiness) by God’s grace.
  2. Not being hindered by worldly preoccupations and distractions.
  3. Learning heavenly wisdom.
  4. Receiving the Lord’s mercy unto the forgiveness of our sins.
  5. Being alert and ready for the Lord’s coming, the lamp of our soul trimmed (humble and purged of sin) and burning (alive with fiery love).
  6. Strengthened by the Eucharist which is our food for the journey.

St. Paul speaks of running too:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I discipline my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Cor 9:24-27).

Are you running to meet the Lord? Or are you just waiting? Advent involves looking and waiting, but it also means running, running to meet the Lord who is coming to us. Run!

11 Replies to “On Running to Meet God – An Advent Reflection”

  1. In the words of my pastor, and we know who that is “STAY ON MESSAGE” Thanks for the prayers. I prayed similia, personal prayers but did not know there were formsl prayers as well. Tha ks Msgr.

  2. Msgr. Pope. I look forward to the new translations. How did we ever let the present ones take hold?
    This was a timely written homily. You are so right, it means “running” indeed, not just waiting.
    Thanks so much, I have 4 days left to do my running.

  3. I will “run” the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart (Ps.119:32); – Draw me, we will “run” after thee (Song of Solomon 1:4); – But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall “run,” and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:31); – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us “run” with patience the race that is set before us (Heb. 12:1). – So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that “runneth,” but of God that showeth mercy (Rom. 9:16).

    Christ died with his arms streached out. Let us eagerly streach out our arms as we receive the ‘Love’ which we anticipate at Advent. Yes, let us “run” to meet our savior. “There is no salvation in any other person or place; nor is there any other name under heaven given to men, by which we should be saved (Acts 4:12; Is 9:6).”

  4. From a homily In Praise of the Virgin Mother by Saint Bernard, abbot (Taken from the Office of Readings; Liturgy of the Hours – Vol. 1; Dec. 20). In the theme of waiting for advent, I wanted to share this with your readers, Msgr. Pope.

    Your have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by a man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heaily upon us.
    The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.
    Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends the comfort for the condemmed, indeed, salvation for the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.
    Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather though the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breath a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.
    Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget purdence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten is devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, she says, “be it done to me according to your word.”

  5. Thanks, Grandpa Tom, for posting St. Bernard’s homily. A great addition to Msgr. Pope’s article. Merry Christmas!

  6. I see you cleverly chose a photo of a toddler running to meet a loved one…perhaps to remind us that we should approach him as a little child? 😉

  7. And God’s people shout, “Amen, AMEN!” Thank you for a beautiful reflection to savor and ponder, Msgr.

  8. I was’t sure where to post this Christmas message from our Holy Father. I was truly inspired by his words. If you have some quiet time during Advent please read his reflection. It is long but it’ the Holy Father, no thought of his is two lines. Here it is. http//www.zenit.org/article-31289?|=english

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