"But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." -Matthew 24:36-44
About This Weeks Prompts for Personal Meditation
Three things come unexpectedly: Messiah, the discovery of a treasure, and a scorpion. -Rabbinical Saying
Come, Lord Jesus, but let me repent first...My soul wallows in its long habit of laziness: of disregard, of thoughtlessness, heartlessness, a hibernation against feeling and against knowing - a torpor of uncaring. I'm not ready to greet either the horrors or wonders of the dawning of the Great Day. My body stands dumbly looking at the sky, but my soul lies dormant like a rodent deeply buried in its underground nest in darkest winter, far from my heart.
Advent calls the Christian to awaken to the coming mystery and to an examination of the state of the soul (Meditation One). Awaken us, touch us, prepare us (Meditation Two). We welcome the Great Day, but give us time to repent … (Meditation Three).
Meditation One (introit) awaken me
The end draws near, my soul, the end draws near; Yet you do not care or make ready. The time grows short, rise up: the Judge is at the door. The days of our life pass swiftly, as a dream, as a flower. Why do we trouble ourselves over what is all in vain?
I am deprived of the bridal chamber, of the wedding and the supper; For want of oil my lamp has gone out; While I slept the door was closed; The supper has been eaten; I am bound hand and foot, and cast out.
-St. Andrew of Crete c.650-712/726/or740
The Wise and Foolish Virgins, William Blake
On Matthew 24:41b-44
to break in
"Sleepers, wake!" the watch cry pealeth,/ while slumber deep each eyelid sealeth: / Awake, Jerusalem, awake! / Midnight's solemn hour is tolling, / and seraph-notes are onward rolling; / They call on us our part to take. / Come forth, ye virgins wise: / the Bridegroom comes, arise! / Alleluia! / Each lamp be bright / with ready light / to grace the marriage feast tonight.
Zion hears the voice that singeth / with sudden joy her glad heart springeth, / at once she wakes, she stands arrayed: / her Light is come, her Star ascending, / lo, girt with truth, with mercy blending, / her Bridegroom there, so long delayed. / All hail! God's glorious Son, / all hail! our joy and crown, / Alleluia! / The joyful call / we answer all, / and follow to the bridal hall.
Praise to him who goes before us! / Let men and angels join in chorus, / let harp and cymbal add their sound. / Twelve the gates, a pearl each portal: / we haste to join the choir immortal / within the Holy City's bound./ Ear ne'er heard aught like this, / nor heart conceived such bliss. / Alleluia! / We raise the song, / we swell the throng, / to praise thee ages all along.
Philipp Nicholi was the Lutheran pastor of the town of Unna, when, in the late 16th century, an outbreak of plague killed over 1300 inhabitants. Nicholi also fell ill and prepared to die. He survived, and from his journal notes of the time of his illness he wrote two hymns, Wachet Auf and Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern (How lovely shines the morning Star).
We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.
-Henry David Thoreau 1817-1862
The Second Coming, Icon, Greek, c. 1700, the bosom of Abraham lower left, the "Good Thief" in lower right.
Meditation Two (insight) make me pure...
But what are Heaven's alarms to hearts that cower In wilful slumber, deepening every hour, That draw their curtains closer round, The nearer swells the trumpet's sound? Lord, ere our trembling lamps sink down and die, Touch us with chastening hand, and make us feel Thee nigh.
-John Keble 1792-1866 Advent Poem (last verse)
There is always a moment in the experience of discipleship when fear comes upon the disciple, for he sees at a certain moment that death is looming, the death that his self must face. Later on it will no longer be death, it will be life greater than his own, but every disciple will have to die first before he comes back to life.
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom 1914-2003 Meditations: A Spiritual Journey
Meditation Three (integration) ...but not yet
At the round earth's imagined corners blow Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise From death, you numberless infinities Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go; All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow, All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies, Despair, law, chance hath slain, and you, whose eyes Shall behold God, and never taste death's woe. But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space; For, if above all these my sins abound, 'Tis late to ask abundance of Thy grace, When we are there. Here on this lowly ground, Teach me how to repent, for that's as good As if Thou hadst seal'd my pardon with Thy blood.
-John Donne 1572-1631 Holy Sonnet VII
The Last Word
It is sufficient for us to know that God has appointed a latter day for the restoring of all things; but when it will be is hidden from us all for our sake, so that we may be all the more watchful, so that we are not taken as those were taken in the flood years ago.
- John Calvin The Geneva Notes (on Mt. 24:36) 1599
The Church year begins with the ending of time itself. The unfolding of this vision of the end of time is meant to shake you awake, toward repentance and conversion, changing, turning you around so that you might be fit to bear Love. Contemplating the end of time itself, opens a new kind of time. Now it is time to enter Sacred Time.
Something New begins. And to perceive it, the church asks you to enter into another dimension, to take the path diverging off chronological time, to enter the series of sacred events leading toward the birth, the teaching, the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, and then, the descent of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit sends you out into the suffering world to be the loving Kingdom. And then, you walk in two kinds of time in the same world. Because the sacred world is all about helping to fulfill the holiness of the temporal one.
Apocalypse means “revelation.” It is time to enter the Revelation of time unfolding like an open door – inviting you and me onto the difficult path of Love.
Awaken me. Awaken my cold heart. Make me fit for the path to which You call me. Help me to bear your Love in this world.