The Lord’s coming is near. And though we have all been well taught that the word “Advent” means “coming,” there is the danger that we think that we are only passively waiting for Him to come. It is not just that the Lord is coming to us; we are also journeying to Him. In fact, as the Advent prayers in the Roman Missal instruct, we ought to run, not walk, and hasten to greet Him as He draws near.
This notion of running to meet God is set forth as a consistent theme in the prayers of the Roman Missal. Consider the following prayers and how the theme of our hastening to go out to meet God, even as He is coming to us, is set forth:
- 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).
- 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).
- 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 (Thursday of the First Week of Advent).
- 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).
- 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).
So, more than merely waiting passively, we should be running and hastening to meet the Lord.
The image of the prodigal son comes to mind. In this parable, the father sees his son and runs toward him. But at the same time, the son is hastening toward his father with contrition and hope. In the same way, we look for the Lord’s coming during Advent. But the Lord also looks for us to come to Him by faith. Like the prodigal son, we should consider our need for salvation. With contrition (have you been to confession recently?) we should hasten to meet our Lord, who by faith we know is coming to us.
Thus, we are not counseled to wait for the Lord in a passive sense, as though we were sitting around waiting for a bus to arrive. Rather, we are counseled to wait for the Lord in an active sense, in much the same way that a waiter in a restaurant waits on tables. Alert and aware, the waiter carefully observes the needs of the patrons in his care and serves them. Good waiters strive to avoid distraction and to do their job of serving well with an alert swiftness.
Notice, too, how the prayers above indicate what it means to run to the Lord. We should not run aimlessly or in circles. Rather, running to the Lord means
- being engaged in righteous deeds (holiness) by God’s grace,
- not being hindered by worldly preoccupations and distractions,
- learning heavenly wisdom,
- receiving the Lord’s mercy unto the forgiveness of our sins,
- being alert and ready for the Lord’s coming, with the lamp of our soul trimmed (humble and purged of sin) and burning (alive with fiery love), and
- being strengthened by the Eucharist, which is our food for the journey.
St. Paul also speaks of running:
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 passively? Advent involves looking and waiting, but it also means running to meet the Lord, who is coming to us. Run, don’t walk, to the nearing Jesus!
The name of the piece in the clip below is Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina (Lord, make haste to help me). It was composed by Antonio Vivaldi and its series of eighth notes create the image of energetic, joyful running. Vivaldi loved to run a melody up and down the musical scale. In this piece he created a sense of running up and down the hills as we hasten to the Lord. (The video below goes on to include the Gloria Patri.) Just try not to tap your toe during the first and third movements of the Vespers of Vivaldi in G Major!