Advent celebrates the mystery of the Lord’s Parousia, his promise to return in glory, his hidden presence even now as we wait in longing for his revelation to the world. St. Paul reminded the Colossians, Set your heart on what pertains to higher realms where Christ is seated at God’s right hand. Be intent on things above…your life is hidden now with Christ in God. When Christ our life appears, you will appear with him in glory. This rings true for us today. We live in hope in this world for the life of the resurrection to come. We labor in prayer for the salvation of the world that all people might share in the saving work of Christ. Spe salvi facti sumus, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us in his second encyclical: by hope we are saved. Not by faith without hope, but faith sustained by hope. This season of remembering God’s promises to his people, of being mindful of God’s faithfulness to us, of not doubting his purpose for us, of growing in saving hope, that describes the faith of Advent.
We know well St. Benedict’s focus in his Rule on the season of Lent, that the whole life of a monk must have a Lenten character about it. Why? so that by sharing in the sufferings of Christ though our own sufferings, we may also share in his Kingdom. This is the grace of our vocation as disciples of St. Benedict. But when the reformers of Citeaux sought to live St. Benedict’s Rule more authentically, they discerned a devotion to seeking God’s presence among us. St. Benedict’s school of the Lord’s service was transformed into the school of charity. God is charity and whoever lives in charity live in God and God in him. And this movement opened up the depths of longing for God, his promised coming in glory and his ever-present coming into our midst, even now. The Cistercian Fathers led their followers through faith into hope as the completion of faith, its fulfillment. Charity is grounded in faith and infused with hope: there are three things that last: faith, hope and charity.
So the season of Advent stirred our Fathers of Citeaux, to longing for the fullness of life which Jesus promised his disciples would be theirs. They lived in this hope and they honored the Mother of God as the mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. If there is a dominant virtue in the Cistercian vocation it is hope: hope in a hopeless world; hope for God to accomplish what he has promised us; hope that, by God’s grace, we can become what he has destined us to be. We are God’s children now. What we shall later be has not yet been revealed. We know that when it is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on [God] keeps himself pure as he is pure.
Pure in faith; pure in hope. Advent is our season, the season of saving hope. Through the Mother of hope may we grow in the pureness of hope and trust in the Lord.