Saturday, November 29, 2014

“The end of all our desires…” Advent and Expectations

What do you expect from life? What do you desire from it? What do you really expect from God, and what are your desires as a consequence of your faith? If you believe in Christ Jesus, how are your expectations different, your desires changed, from those of one who has no such belief? Is your faith a truly expectant one? If not...why not?

Advent marks the beginning of the Church Year; it is also a good time to renew our expectations and desire. A materialistic or secular person often expects little from life, but desires much in the short space allotted to it. Built into this attitude—exemplified by consumerism—is a deep frustration that begs to be relieved by self-medication and ecstatic behaviors.

The believer expects eternal life with God and lives in ever-greater accord with God’s will—exemplified by Jesus Christ and the Gospel way of life—desiring what leads to the experience of that communion with God in the now, as well as at the end of life. Such an attitude is based on a present joy, a deep mindfulness, and a searching love.

Each Advent we look beyond the reach of human vision into the promises of God made known in Holy Scripture. Those promises give us courage to live even now what we know from experience only partially. Faith is fed on these promises. We need to dwell in them, like a thirsty pilgrim on a summer’s day. For that, in truth, is what we are.

Here are some words from “the Angelic Doctor” about this season in the Church’s year and our faith…
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The first point about eternal life is that man is united with God. For God himself is the reward and end of all our labors: I am your protector and your supreme reward. This union consists in seeing perfectly: At present we see through a glass, darkly; but then we shall see face to face.

Next it consists in perfect praise, according to the words of the prophet: Joy and happiness will be found in it, thanksgiving and words of praise.

It also consists in the complete satisfaction of desire, for there the blessed will be given more than they wanted or hoped for. The reason is that in this life no one can fulfill his longing, nor can any creature satisfy man’s desire. Only God satisfies, he infinitely exceeds all other pleasures. That is why man can rest in nothing but God. As Augustine says: You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our heart can find no rest until it rests in you.

Since in their heavenly home the saints will possess God completely, obviously their longing will be satisfied, and their glory will be even greater. That is why the Lord says: Enter into the joy of your Lord. Augustine adds: The fullness of joy will not enter into those who rejoice, but those who rejoice will enter into joy. I shall be satisfied when your glory is seen, and again: He who satisfies your desire with good things.

Whatever is delightful is there in superabundance. If delights are sought, there is supreme and most perfect delight. It is said of God, the supreme good: Boundless delights are in your right hand.

Again, eternal life consists of the joyous community of all the blessed, a community of supreme delight, since everyone will share all that is good with all the blessed. Everyone will love everyone else as himself, and therefore will rejoice in another’s good as in his own. So it follows that the happiness and joy of each grows in proportion to the joy of all.

(St. Thomas Aquinas, from “Collation on the Creed”)