Advent 2011: Live Anew

The fullness of time

Written by Br. Innocent Smith, O.P.

Sometimes people are nostalgic for an era they never lived in. They might prefer the fashion, the music, or the mores of a bygone era, or they might look forward to some future period when all of their political or cultural aspiration will be realized. On one level, a critical evaluation of the glories of the past can be helpful in giving us a measuring stick for our own achievements. Nevertheless, we must be always conscious of the importance of living our lives to the full in the world in which we really exist, not obsessed with our own imaginary construction of the past or future.

The reason for this is that although there is a certain contingency to our existence at this moment in history—I did not choose to enter the world I did, but happened to do so following upon the concrete decisions of others that ordered their lives in a certain way—nevertheless my existence at this moment fits into God’s providential plan. There is no contradiction between contingent human decisions and divine providence. God freely creates the soul of each of us at the moment of conception, a moment that occurs on the basis of the union of our parents. This, incidentally, is the core of the tragedy of abortion—although this child may not be desired by his or her parents, whatever the contingent circumstances may be, he or she is created and loved by God.

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we celebrate the marvelous congruence between the contingent human action and divine providence in the conception of Mary. The parents of the Virgin conceived her in the normal manner, but on this occasion God not only created her soul but did so in a way that preserved her from every stain of sin by virtue of the death of his Son, which he foresaw, preparing her to be a worthy dwelling for Jesus. Mary’s parents lived at a particular moment of history, unchosen by themselves, and decided to marry each other at a time they themselves chose. The child that was born to them, whom they decided to name Mary, was to play an integral role in the mystery of redemption: in the fullness of time, at the exactly appropriate moment, she was to bear a son, and name him Jesus.

Meditation: Reflect on the ways God’s providence has worked in your life through contingent events. Pray for your parents, and those who have played an important role in your life.