“The hour has come for you to arise from your sleep… the night is almost over, it will be daylight soon. Let us cast aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light!” In the second reading St Paul describes the whole of human history as a long night to be succeeded by an eternal day. The world at large conceives of this night as all there is, and as such it sleeps. But while living in this night Christians have received in Christ a light that enables them to begin to awake. They can await with hope the day that is already beginning to dawn, and cast its light back on the night of this present age. In this light Christians see the world and their own lives differently and so must cast off “the works of darkness”. What St Paul means by this he expresses bluntly in describing for the Christians of Rome the pagan world that surrounds them: a world gone wrong in limiting its horizon to purely material hopes and desires, a world of outer excess and inner strife, which the Christian must break with. And if both St Paul and Christ in the Gospel insist so much on staying awake, it is because Christians are just as capable, despite the light they have received, of pursuing as blindly their own worldly ends without reference to God. But in the measure that we resist and live by the light of our Faith we awake: in Pope Benedict’s words, “to rise from sleep means to rise from conformity with such a world, courageous in virtue, courageous enough in faith to shake off the dream that prevents us from recognizing our vocation and our highest potential”, and able “to lift up eyes to acknowledge promises so much greater than those based on money, power and pleasure!”
The prayer after Communion today speaks beautifully of these greater promises: “Even now as we walk amid passing things, you teach us by them to love the things of heaven and hold fast to what endures, through Christ our Lord.” To hold fast to what endures through Jesus, this is what counts. The saints tell us that when the day at last dawns only what was lived in charity will remain of us, that everything that isn’t given will be lost. We are not there yet and when we will be it will be the work of grace! But to be actively seeking God’s light, to be always trying to live our lives in view of what is of real and eternal value: this is the essential wakefulness that is asked of us. And never forget that we do not stay awake for ourselves alone! The world that sleeps is the world which Christ died for! “To keep vigil for God and for our neighbour- this is the meaning of the Advent call to stay awake.” The more we live in the light the more we will become lights for the rest of the world. Let us ask Our Lady by her prayers this Advent to keep our lamps burning for her Son and our hearts awake!
Quotes from “Co-Workers of the Truth”, Pope Benedict XVI