November 18, 2016
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I greet you from a Starbucks on the NYU campus, enjoying my first holiday beverage of the season. As I look down at my cup, I have just noticed that I didn’t get a festive red holiday cup, and now, only upon realizing this... I’m disappointed. “Alyssa, way to begin your Frassati reflection with your first-world problems.” You may have a point, but I think my slight sense of disappointment is indicative of something much, much deeper: half the fun of the holiday season and all the good things that come along with it, is the fun and energy spent in anticipation, getting into the mindset and collective spirit of whatever you are anticipating, and thinking about what it is you're anticipating.
The Church, in her own beautiful and mysterious way, has been preparing us, more proximally, for the feast day of Christ the King (this Sunday) over this past week with Mass readings from Revelation that may seem a bit dense, weird, and frankly, a little sci-fi. We’ve been hearing a lot about beasts bowing down and singing, people eating scrolls that give them indigestion but also a sweet taste in their mouth (McGriddles, anyone? Is that comparison blasphemous? And no Aidan, I didn't eat a McGriddle today...), but looking within the imagery of these seemingly weird readings will tell us a lot about the hierarchy of Heaven, and *spoiler alert* humans are not in charge. (I think we can all find hope and solace in this fact.) We are the ones that need to be saved and led by the “Lamb that seemed to have been slain,” the only One who could open the sacred, sealed scroll of God’s promises to us.
This time around in the Church reading cycle, these readings from Revelation are opening themselves up to me in new ways, making me feel new intimations of gratitude and understanding. In the reading yesterday, I felt anew the humble, service heart of our Savior, the Lamb who was slain; I could just sense the slow, limping walk of this Lamb after the angel let out a mighty call asking for someone worthy to open God the Father’s sealed scroll of the new covenant. This is a picture of Christ’s work completed, my friends! This is the King of the Heavens returning to His Father.
Today’s first reading shows us how we enter into this new covenant: by completely consuming it and embracing with it, the mix of sweetness and trials. In this, John, and all other Christians who seek to consume and be changed by God’s promises, enter into the trials of Christ, who bore all temptation and yet remained sinless so that He could rightly offer all of our sins to the Father as reparation, so He could be the one to break open the new promises of God to His people.
But more deeply and intimately (and this truth is the core focus of Advent) this Savior took on our flesh, and with it, our crooked society of hypocrites, our frustrations that seem so meaningless to us, our irritations that we so quickly avoid and diminish with our complaints. He sanctified even these mundane details of human existence by first becoming a helpless unborn child in His mother’s womb. And this is what these readings from Revelation really foreshadow: the celebration of the Incarnation of God in Jesus. The Kingship of Jesus marks the end of this liturgical year, but at the same time, frames the ultimate purpose of the unassuming baby in a cave who became the Savior of the world.
How beautiful and whole our faith is, my brothers and sisters! How much more we have to learn of God’s love each time we experience the rhythm of our Church calendar!
I will end with a prayer:
Jesus, our Savior, our Friend,
I worship and adore You,
for You chose to save me,
You chose to be my Friend.
And yet, how often
do I return your complete gift to me
with half-hearted, incomplete gifts of myself?
Capture my heart again this Advent season,
with the tenderness and helplessness of your infancy
and the immense trust you placed in your chosen family.