December 2019 / January 2020 - Vol.107

                  shing through prison cell window with cross
.Advent of the Heart and Ultimate Reality
of Heaven's Homeland

by Alfred Delp, priest and martyr in Nazi Germany
(1907 - 1945)

“Those who wait for you will not be disappointed” (Psalm 25:3).

Somehow unaffected by all that has happened in the course of one year, somehow untouched by all the great and all the small, all the lovely and all the loathsome things that, in the course of one year, might affect the earth, on this first Sunday in Advent the Church gives voice to her ancient prayer: “Ad te levavi animam meam”“To You I lift up my soul.” And, wherever they are still allowed to express the idea of this day as they wish, the people give voice to traditional Advent hymns.

Letting go of our concerns about all that we are going through in our lives, we recognize this one thing: the season of Advent is a time with its own special access to our hearts, its own special access to our souls and minds. This season is more to us than just remembering devout, blessed childhood days, when we awaited the great and happy holiday and spiritually prepared ourselves.

The spiritual preparation is still there for all those who have eyes at all, who have ears at all, and who are listening and watching with their minds, hearts, and souls for the things dealt with here.

The main point of Advent is not merely to remember and reenact some kind of historical waiting. No, Advent centers on fundamental principles and fundamental attitudes of our lives, of life in general, and of existence in general. These will be presented in the context of historical waiting, physically and visibly, while being modified like a motif. This motif will be visualized, actualized, and thought through in a new wayand prayed over in a new way as well. That is the very deepest meaning of Advent. Our holy seasons always ought to be something special. They are really holy mysteries, and they should awaken a mystery as echo, as consideration, as prayer, in our minds and in our hearts.

The theme of this Advent is that, somehow, each person will be confronted with the Last Things, will be placed in the final order, will face the definitive questions, and definitive answers will be expected of them.

Whenever the Church dons solemn purple vestments, it always means that serious questions are being set forth and we are facing the great connections, the principles of universal validity. Indeed, after all, the ultimate and deepest meaning of this coming feast, this Christmas and Coming-of-the-Lord for which we are preparing ourselves, is that the created being, man, actually finds himself in the presence of the Absolute Ultimate.

Moreover, the basic readying of our souls for this feast of the coming Lord is that we now consider the ultimate reality. This means that we think about man, about ourselves, from the perspective of the ultimate reality and, in so doing, become ready—really ready—to encounter and respond to Him, the Ultimate, in an appropriate way, as befits a creature encountering the Ultimate. It means really being ready to meet Him in this way. Therefore, that should be our theme for these Advent reflections: man from the perspective of the ultimate reality; what ultimately is, and what ultimately will be.

The ultimate reality cannot be affected in any way by any whirlwind, any turmoil, any arrogance or hubris. It cannot be shaken in its own validity, and, when it is tampered with, those raising a hand or fist against it only affect themselves.3 The liturgy introduces man to the end through statements and instruction. The first thing the liturgy emphasizes and tries to evoke in us through this encounter with the end is a shaking. In today’s Gospel, once again we hear the message of the last days of the world, briefly summarized and compact, compressed together into this one point: everything will be shaken.
“There will be signs appearing in the sun, moon, and stars. Great anxiety will be among the people because of the violent rushing of seas and rivers. The people will languish in fearful expectation of the things that will come over the entire face of the earth. The powers of Heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great might and glory. Now when all of this begins, then look up and raise your heads, for your redemption is near” (Luke 21:25-28).
This tells us one thing. Here, in the shaking of the world, when the foundations are collapsing, then lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near. The Son of Man will come.

 Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans expresses something similar, but approaches it from the ethical sphere:
“Brothers, you know the hour has come to arise from sleep, because now our salvation is nearer than before, when we began to believe. The night is far advanced; the day is breaking. Let us lay aside the works of darkness and put on the weapons of light. Let us walk honorably as in the daytime... Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:11-14).
This depicts personal redemption as the experience of being shaken, being awakened, becoming sober, and being transformed; personal redemption as an experience of preparing to go from night into the day.

In the Opening Prayer, we prayed:
“Awaken Your power, we beseech You, O Lord, and come. Then we will be rescued by Your protection and saving action from the dangers that threaten us because of our sin. You who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.”
Again, salvation; redemption; encounter with the Lord; a rescue from being threatened, from being insecure, from being shaken, from being in danger.

Perhaps what we modern people need most is to be genuinely shaken, so that where life is grounded, we would feel its stability; and where life is unstable and uncertain, immoral and unprincipled, we would know that, also, and endure it. Perhaps that is the ultimate answer to the question of why God has sent us into this time, why He permits this whirlwind to go over the earth, and why He holds us in such a state of chaos and in hopelessness and in darknessand why there is no end in sight. It is because we have stood here on the earth with a totally false and inauthentic sense of security.

So now, God lets the earth resound, and now He shudders it, and then He shakes it, not to call forth a false anxietyI will speak of that later. He does it to teach us one thing again: how to be moved in spirit. Much of what is happening today would not be happening if people were in that state of inner movement and restlessness of heart in which man comes into the presence of God the Lord and gains a clear view of things as they really are. Then man would have let go of much that has thrown all our lives into disorder one way or another and has thrashed and smashed our lives. He would have seen the inner appeals, would have seen the boundaries, and could have coordinated the areas of responsibility. Instead, man stood on this earth in a false pathos and a false security, under a deep delusion in which he really believed he could single-handedly fetch stars from heaven; could enkindle eternal lights in the world and avert all danger from himself; that he could banish the night, and intercept and interrupt the internal quaking of the cosmos, and maneuver and manipulate the whole thing into the conditions standing before us now.

That is the first Advent message: before the end, the world will be set quaking. And only where man does not cling inwardly to false security will his eyes be capable of seeing the Ultimate. Only then will he get down to basics and preserve himself and his life from these pedagogical terrors and horrors into which God the Lord must let the world sink, so that weas Saint Paul saidwill awaken from sleep and see that it is just about time to turn around. It is just about time to change things. It is just about time to say: Fine, it was night, but let the night pass, and let us decide now for day. Let us decide with a determination that comes directly out of these terrifying experiences, out of these lived connections, and that is therefore completely unshakable, even in the midst of instability.

If we want to transform life once more, and if it really ought to become Advent once more  Advent of the homeland, and Advent of hearts, and Advent of our people, and Advent of all peoplesand, included in all that, the coming of the Lordthen the one great Advent question for us is whether we can come out of these shakings with the resolve: Yes, arise! It is time to awaken from sleep. It is time for an awakening to begin somewhere; and it is time that someone places things again in the order that they were given by God the Lord.

Moreover, now it is time for each individual to use every opportunity to guide life into this order nowand to do it with the same “unshakeability” with which the Lord will come. Where life heeds your word, you must not misrepresent the message. Where life rebels before your very eyes, you must set it right. These days life lacks people who can come through the final shakings as well as through these present shakingswith the knowledge and the consciousness: those who are watching for the Lord will not be affected, in the eternal sense, even if they are hunted off the face of the earth.

> See related article, Joy in the Face of Death: Alfred Delp, S.J., by Jeanne Kun

Fr. Alfred Delp (1907-1945) was a German Jesuit priest who was imprisoned in Berlin. At the time of his arrest, he was the Rector of St. Georg Church in Munich,Germany, and had a reputation for being a gripping, dynamic preacher, and one who was an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime. He was an important figure in the Resistance movement against Nazism.

Accused of conspiring against the Nazi government, he was arrested in 1944, tortured, imprisoned, and executed on February 2, 1945. While in prison, Fr. Delp was able to write a few meditations found in Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons and Prison Writings, 1941-1944, which also includes his powerful reflections from prison during the Advent season about the profound spiritual meaning and lessons of Advent, as well as his sermons he gave on the season of Advent at his parish in Munich. These meditations were smuggled out of Berlin and read by friends and parishioners of St. Georg in Munich, Germany.

[bio source:]
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