“Let me see you, let me hear your voice.” These final days of Advent lift our hearts to the coming of Christ and are meant to move us to pray. How can we not make prayer part of our lives when we consider what it means that the Word of the Father came in history and what it means that Jesus continues to come to us in mystery? To help us feel this in our souls, to help us raise our hearts before this great truth, to nourish us with the sweetness of what God has revealed, our liturgy includes readings from the great love poem – the Canticle of Canticles. In this poem, the Bride calls us to listen to the Bridegroom and to feel the joy of seeing Him gazing at us. And for his part, the Bridegroom of Advent longs to find us, to see us and to hear our voices. God longs for us to pray.
“Arise my beloved!” This is what God asks of us to prepare for Christmas. Who is it who calls us his beloved and who commands us in love to rise up? We cannot know until we enter the silence of prayer for our own self. Have you allowed silence to be part of your Advent Season? Do you hear Him calling to you? Do you see Him gazing at you? Why not seek him now? Why not take this moment to listen for his voice?
He is the one who comes to us in our poverty, in dark stillness, in sacred silence. As vulnerable as a baby, He descends into our hostile world so that we might ascend with Him into heaven’s eternal love. He who cannot find a place to lay his head, He for whom there is no room in this world, this Pilgrim God longs to lead us to the place prepared for us from all eternity, our true heavenly homeland, the bosom of the Holy Trinity.
This Child who comes to us does not come as an avatar who merely appears in our likeness – the Image of the Invisible God embraces our life, drinks in our existence and makes it His very own. His first cries in the manger reached their climax on the Cross: cries of prayer, cries in the face of our distress and misery, cries for love. Have you allowed this holy cry to reverberate in the hollows of your heart? By His cry into our world–this Son of Man and the only begotten Son of God, this Son of Mary and Son of the Father, He empties himself into our existence, empties Himself of His Divine Life. Why does He empty Himself and humble Himself? He pours Himself out in love into our lives holding nothing back to show us our dignity, what it means to be fully human and fully alive, what it means to live by love, to live like God, and, at the same time, gives Himself in love to fill us with the fullness of life so that we might embrace His very being, drink His very existence and make His life our very own.
His love for us is passionate, stronger than death: a love nothing but love alone can quench. More than any bridegroom this world has ever known, He yearns for our love and longs to enter our world anew – but He through whom the heavens and earth were brought forth waits for us. He holds his divine breath like He held His breath waiting the fiat of the Virgin. He longs to fill the world with His Holy Spirit and to renew His whole mystery anew in our lives, in our time, in our families, in our culture, in our society, today. Yet He has made his plan dependent on our saying “yes”, on our feeble “fiat.” He counts on our prayers more than we allow our prayers count on Him. The Word listens attentively for our quiet voice, even as the heavens and the earth resound with the cries of the Divine Infant.
What does our true Bridegroom cry out and what does He yearn for this Christmas? He cries for heartfelt prayer washed in tears of contrition and gratitude, bowed in humble adoration, ready to boldly say yes to His presence, generous and eager to welcome his love. The words of the Word of God reveal this cry, “Let me see you, let me hear your voice” (Song of Songs 2:14).
Art: The second leaf of ”Canticum Canticorum”, ca 1430, author unknown probably German, from “A Brief History of Wood-engraving from its Invention” by Joseph Cundall, 1895, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.
Editor’s Note: For more of Anthony’s insights on prayer, don’t miss his book, Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, an experience like no other. Anthony has an unusually profound understanding of mystical theology and lives a life of deep prayer. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute.