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Watches of the Night
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"Watches of the Night"

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"

          Perhaps the most well known Advent carol in the Catholic Church is, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". The word, Advent, means "coming". The use of the double phrase, "O Come, O Come" in the song title reminds me of the twofold character of the season of Advent: 1) Remembering the first Coming of Jesus (the "already"); and, 2) Awaiting the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of time (the "not yet"). We live in the time between the first and second comings of Jesus. This in-between time is 'the time of the Life-giving Spirit', 'the time of the Church', 'the time of Christian witness', and 'the time of intercession': The time when the missions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit continue now through the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. "The time of the Church" spans that period between the Ascension of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and Christ's glorious return"(The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II, pp. 113-114).

          At the end of The Book of Revelation, we read, "The Spirit and the Bride say Come…Come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:17,20B):  ["The Spirit (the age of the Spirit) and the Bride (the age of the Church) say Come (the age of intercession)…Come, Lord Jesus"]. The prayer of an intercessor is, "come, Lord Jesus" :Come and heal this person; or come, let this person experience your Love and Mercy; or, come and remove the darkness from this situation. In this time between the first and second comings of Jesus, intercessors unite their prayer with that of Jesus who always stands perfectly between God and humanity, and who "lives forever to make intercession…" (Heb. 7:25B): "Sitting at the right hand of the Father, he is continually active in the world" (Lumen Gentium, # 48).

           After Jesus was raised from the dead he sent his Life-giving Spirit to manifest and empower his Bride, the Church. Now that the Spirit has been given to humanity, all of creation longs for the final revelation of the Sons of God. This longing can express itself in "groanings" of the Spirit in this 'age of intercession': "We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves…the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings" (Rom. 8: 23, 26B):

"They are led invisibly in their hearts by grace. At times they are like men who mourn and lament over their fellow men, and pouring forth prayers for the whole human race, they plunge into tears and lamentation, on fire with spiritual love for mankind" ("From a homily by a spiritual writer of the fourth century". LH, vol. III, p. 162).

          At this time of year in the season of Advent, it is not uncommon for intercessors to experience feelings of emptiness, loneliness, spiritual dryness in prayer, fatigue--even feelings of spiritual heaviness and spiritual death--as we pray with love for graces of new 'spiritual birth' for others: "So death is at work in us, but life in you" (2 Cor. 4:12). Referring back to our Advent song title, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel", how many people today truly struggle to believe "Emmanuel" which means, "God is with us" (Mt. 1:23B). Rather, many people live in unbelief, feeling lost, forsaken, abandoned and distant from God. Intercessors can feel this sense of abandonment and distance from God at times as we pray for people to experience the nearness of God in their lives.

          We must always keep in mind that the particular type of Incarnation that God chose for himself is a "Redemptive Incarnation": He en-fleshed himself in order to offer himself for us. He took upon himself a nature in which he could die in. He took upon himself a human nature in order to "take upon himself" all of our sins and save us in this same nature. By taking upon himself a human nature God has changed the destiny of humanity forever. Through Jesus we have an eternal destiny. He entered into human life so that we could enter into eternal life: Come, Lord Jesus! 

Questions:

1)   If you are praying for particular people or situations during this season of Advent, are you experiencing any of the feelings mentioned in the text? If so, how are you praying through these?

2)   What do you long for this Advent season?

Scriptures:

Any scripture from the text; John 4:23-24; John17:17; 1Tim. 3:15; 2Tim.2:25

"TWO-ZERO-ONE-SEVEN, TIME TO STORM HEAVEN"

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