If we look at the etymology of the word Advent we notice how the true meaning is not simply "coming" but rather "coming towards". This is not a superficial difference because it brings in itself the name of God. The name of God which is his identity. We know what it means to know the name in the culture where God was incarnate. God has revealed his name to Moses and now is coming towards us to reveal his face: Jesus is the countenance of God:
The desire of Philip is to see the Father, he does not need anything else, this is enough, he will be satisfied. [Q1]. We shall also notice that Philip is not talking only for himself, he does not say "and I will be satisfied". The experience of God is not only personal, it is also an experience of the community, of the "ecclesia". It means that the community is satisfied when they are beneficiaries of one relationship. Philip has the desire to see the Father, not God. Jesus himself will underline very clearly this concept in Jn 20, 17
God is God, but has revealed himself as Father and he did it by sending his Son towards us. Only a son/Son can show the Father. We cannot claim to know God as such, we know Gos as much as Jesus has revelaed him/her/it… to us and Jesus revealed us a Father.
In these last chapter of John Jesus is finally revealing the Father, a Father who has a house were each and everyone is welcome. Here Jesus reveals that in the house of his Father - the image he himself applied to the temple, which however ceases to be such as a result of his coming and purification (cf. Jn 2,13-17) - there are many dwellings, there is room for many. The paternity of God is not only fatherhood to the Son, Jesus, but also to his disciples, so the house of God can accommodate them, can be their home as it is for Jesus: a reception that does not require merit, but free reception, Father, who welcomes all the children with the same love. Jesus leaves, visibly leaving his disciples, but "passed from this world to the Father" (cf. Jn 13: 1), he prepares rooms for us, opening the way of access to the affiliation with God the Father.
But here, Thomas, the "twin" disciple (Dídymos: 11,16; 20,24; 21,2) of each of us, addresses an objection to Jesus: "Lord, we do not know where you are to go; how can we know the way?" For Thomas, as it is for us, it is certainly not easy to understand that death itself, as an act of love, an action of not selfishly preserving life, but of giving it for the love of others, it is the way, the way to live with Jesus in God. Jesus then does not answer the question directly ("Where are you going?"), But he says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me".
Wonderful and unheard words on a man's mouth! Jesus uses the metaphor of the path to say:
I myself am the way to go to the Father;
I myself am the truth as the knowledge of the Father;
I myself am eternal life, life forever as a gift from the Father "
The incarnation is all this, it is the Way of God, it the Truth of God it is the Life come which has come to us. The invisible God made visible to us (cfr Col 1,15ss).
We therefore believe in God because Jesus has revealed the Father to us and only through him we go to the Father. We do not believe in Jesus because we believe in God, it is viceversa. Our faith, as christians, begin there:
Advent is just the beginning of all of this and it should inspire in us one question, one very simple question: Why did God, or better, why did the second Person of the holy Trinity was incarnate? Why did he came towards us?
According to a long tradition in the Church God was incarnate to redeem men from their sins. During the night of the Pasqual Vigil we sing, before the liturgy of the Word begins "Felix Culpa", that means, "Happy Fault". Following this tradition the sin "obliged" God to incarnate to save his creatures and he did it our of love. Yet, there is also a second understanding of the incarnation of Christ. Since ever, God intended to incarnate, and the whole of the creation was made for this purpose, everything was created for the incarnation of Christ so that God could have shared his love with his creatures. Incarnation is not a consequence of the sin, but because of the Love of God. He created because he wanted to share his love and incarnation has always been in his mind even before sin. Redemption came because of sin, not incarnation. the incarnation is the model for the Creation, the whole universe is for Christ and Christ for the Universe. Incarnation is greater than redemption therefore redemption cannot force incarnation. The understanding of the incarnation as a matter of pure love and desire to share this love refuse an idea of sin-centered view. Christ is the beginning, middle and end of the creation and he is at the centre of the Universe as the reason for its existence. We read in fact:
The reason for incarnation is Love. The love of God, the infinite love God wanted to share it with someone who could love him back as he – the Father – loves. Christ was the only capable and therefore he created everything to let Christ come into existence as incarnate. No soul, that is ever created, will be able to love the Father as the Christ did, but it is for very same reason and everlasting desire of the Father that Jesus leaves us a new commandment:
If mankind had not sin Christ would still have come, since this was predetermined from all eternity in the mind of God as the supreme manifestation of his love. The incarnation is centered in love and not on sin. At some point God chooses to leave is "isolation" and create someone to love, Christ and in order to have Christ he created all things for love, so that all could love Him through Christ.
Important consequence is that what incarnation shows us is not the need of redemption, but the need to love for each one of us. Not only to be loved, but to Love and share this love. The Love of God is entirely free and since the beginning it embraces our own limitation, which is the incapacity to love as God loves simply because we are not love. From here the necessity to be entirely united to the Christ. If in nature we cannot love as God loves, we can by the grace. Where nature is limited grace is infinite. This is why we have been given the Way, the Life, the Truth; the Word of God. The Word of God must find place in us so that we can be satisfied and can say with Philip "show us the Father".
Seeking the face of God has always been the greatest desire of the human kind and it is well said by St. Augustine who wrote:
"You made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you" .
The first step to re-animate this desire is understanding and believing that we need to leave beyond our self-centeredness and step into the sacredness of the other (cfr. Evangelii Gaudium, 105). Pope Francis reminds us that it is the duty of every consecrated person to seek the true God in the sequela Christi. The vows we have promised to live are this call for us, to make us every day more similar to Christ which is the Love that the Father desires and for which has created all things. By not living our vows and not becoming like Christ, alter Christus, we nullify the plan of the Creation. As consecrated persons we are called to see the signs of God in everyday life. Seeking God's face requires perseverance! With the eyes of faith in a world which ignores his presence and to continue to offer that world Christ's life of chastity, poverty and obedience as a credible and trustworthy sign.
It follows that evangelical counsels are, above all, a gift of the Holy Trinity. Consecrated life proclaims what the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit, brings about his love, goodness and beauty (Vita Consecrata 20). As God the Father was made visible in Jesus his Christ so our life as consecrated people must make visible the marvels brought by God amongst the human family, we are witnesses not with our words, but by way of our life. We shall all sing the song of Symeon the new Theologian:
I see the beauty of your grace,
I contemplate its radiance,
I reflect its light: I am caught up by ineffable splendor;
I am taken outside myself as I think of myself;
I see how I was and what I have become.
O wonder, I am vigilant, I am full of respect for myself, of reverence and fear
as if I were before you.
I do not know what to do, not know where to sit or where to go,
where to put these members which are yours,
in what deeds in what works shall I use them,
this amazing divine marvels.
Consecrate life become a tangible sign of the Trinity in history. As God was made tangible in Christ as John said:
Does our life bring joy to others? Not because of we say to them, but because the way we live.
God in his advent, has come towards us and he has called us to go towards others bringing them what he has brought to us: he made us know the Father, by the way of our life we shall made him known too.
· Chastity is a reflection of the infinity love of God which links the three Divine Persons in the mysterious depths of the life of the Trinity, the love to which the Incarnate Word bears witness even to the point of giving his life, the love poured into our hearts through the holy Spirit (Rom 5,5) which respond of love for God and our brothers and sisters.
· Poverty proclaims God as the only treasure. It is the total gift of ourselves as the gift of the three Divine persons that give to one another. This exchange of love within the Holy Trinity overflows into the creation to make it able to receive the Incarnate Christ.
· Obedience shows the liberating beauty of dependence, which is a filial attitude, the behavior of the son and of the servant and shows the harmony amongst the three people of the Holy Trinity.
This time of Advent could really be the time, for each one of us,
· to renew our life
· to renew the desire to see the Father in our brothers and sisters
· to renew our desire to welcome He who comes towards us
· to renew the desire to go towards others
· to renew our capacity to bring evangelical joy
· to eliminate everything that is against Chastity, and Poverty and Obedience
· to eliminate anything which is between me and God
Where shall we start for all this? Consecrated life should be nourished from the wellspring of a sound and deep spirituality! this is the primary requirement inscribed in the very essence of consecrated life as consecrated people should aspire, more than anyone else to the perfection of charity. The way is the way of Christ and with Paul we shall all say:
Indeed I count everything as a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord […] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection. [Phil 3, 8.10].
Let's make Advent a time to GIVE UP whatever impeeds us to make of Jesus Chrsit and the love of the Father in the Spirit our only desire, a desire that come twards us.