by Pope Benedict XVI.
…Advent is par excellence the spiritual season of hope. In it, the whole Church is called to become hope for herself and for the world….
…Our God is "the God who comes" and calls us to go to meet him. How?
In the first place in prayer, that universal form of hope and expectation. Prayer is eminently expressed in the Psalms, human words in which God himself has placed and continually places the invocations of his coming on the lips and in the hearts of believers.
Let us reflect on the two Psalms prayed at First Vespers for the First Sunday of Advent—Psalms 141 and 142 according to the Jewish numbering….
I have called to you, Lord, hasten to help me. Hear my voice when I cry to you. (Ps. 141:1)….
This is the cry of someone who feels he is in grave danger, but it is also the cry of the Church amid the many threats that surround her, that threaten her holiness, the irreproachable integrity of which the Apostle Paul speaks, the integrity which must be persevered for the Lord’s coming.
And in this invocation the cry of all the just also resounds, the cry of all those who want to resist evil, the seduction of an iniquitous well-being, of pleasures offensive to human dignity and to the condition of the poor….
In the cry of the Mystical Body we recognize the very voice of the Head: the Son of God who has taken upon himself our trials and our temptations in order to give us the grace of his victory.
This identification of Christ with the Psalmist is particularly evident in the second Psalm (142). Here every word, every invocation, makes one think of Jesus in his passion, and in particular to his prayer to the Father in Gethsemane….
I cry to you, O Lord. I say, "You are my refuge, all I have in the land of the living". Listen to my cry, for I am in the depths of despair…. Set me free from this prison, and then I will praise your name (Ps 142 5-7)….
In praying Psalm 142, the Church relives every time the grace of this compassion, of this "coming" of the Son of God in human anguish so deeply as to plumb its depths.
The Advent cry of hope then expresses from the outset and very powerfully, the full gravity of our state, of our desperate need for salvation.
…We await the Lord not as a beautiful decoration on a world already saved, but as the only way of liberation from a mortal danger. We know that he himself, the Liberator, had to suffer and die to bring us out of this prison (cf. v. 8).
In short, these two Psalms shelter us from any temptation to escape or flee from reality. They preserve us from a false hope, from a desire to enter Advent and move towards Christmas forgetting the tragedy of our personal and collective existence.
In fact, a trustworthy hope that is not deceptive can only be a "Paschal" hope, [a hope that comes through the Resurrection]….
Let us turn our gaze and our heart to Christ, in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Advent.
Let us place our hand in hers and enter joyfully into this new time of grace that God gives as a gift to his Church for the good of all humanity.
Like Mary and with her maternal help, let us make ourselves docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, so that the God of peace may sanctify us totally, and the Church become a sign and instrument of hope for all people. Amen.
—Excerpted from a homily at First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent at St. Peter’s Basilica, November 29, 2008.
If you enjoy our articles, we ask you to please consider subscribing to the print edition of Restoration; it's only $10 a year, and will help us stay in print. Thanks, and God bless you!