Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Guerric of Igny
“Why should I be honored with a visit
from the mother of my Lord?” (Lk: 1:43)
Our King and Savior is coming; let us run to meet him! “Good news from a far country,” in the words of Solomon, “is like cold water to a thirsty soul” and to announce the coming of our Savior and the reconciliation of the world, together with the good things of the life to come, is to bring good news indeed.
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good tidings and publish peace!”
Such messengers truly bear a refreshing draft to the soul that thirsts for God; with their news of the Savior’s coming, they joyfully draw and offer us water from the springs of salvation.
In the words and spirit of Elizabeth, the soul responds to the message, whether it be of Isaiah or of his fellow-prophets: “Why is this granted to me, that my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears,” my spirit leapt for joy within me in eager longing to run ahead to meet my God and Savior.
Let us too arise with joy and run in spirit to meet our Savior. Hailing him from afar, let us worship him, saying: “Come, Lord, save me and I shall be saved!” Come and “show us your face, and we shall all be saved. We have been waiting for you; be our help in time of trouble.” This was how the prophets and saints of old ran to meet the Messiah, filled with immense desire to see with their eyes, if possible, what they already saw in spirit.
We must look forward to the day, so soon to come, on which we celebrate the anniversary of Christ’s birth. Scripture itself insists on the joy which must fill us—a joy which will lift our spirit out of itself in longing for his coming, impatient of delay as it strains forward to see even now what the future holds in store.
I believe that the many texts of scripture which urge us to go out to meet him speak of Christ’s first coming as well as his second. This may raise a query in your mind. Surely, however, we are to understand that as our bodies will rise up rejoicing at his second coming, so our hearts must run forward in joy to greet his first.
Between these two comings of his, the Lord frequently visits us individually in accordance with our merits and desires, forming us to the likeness of his first coming in the flesh, and preparing us for his return at the end of time. He comes to us now, to make sure that we do not lose the fruits of his first coming nor incur his wrath at his second. His purpose now is to convert our pride into the humility which he showed when he first came, so that he may refashion our lowly bodies into the likeness of that glorious body which he will manifest when he comes again.
Grace accompanied his first coming, glory will surround his last; this intermediate coming is a combination of both, enabling us to experience in the consolations of his grace a sort of foretaste of his glory. Blessed are those whose burning love has gained for them such a privilege!
And so, my brothers, though we have not yet experienced this wonderful consolation, we are encouraged by firm faith and a pure conscience to wait patiently for the Lord to come. In joy and confidence let us say with Saint Paul: “I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am confident of his power to guard what has been put into my charge until the day when our great God and Savior Jesus Christ comes in glory.” May he be praised for ever and ever! Amen.
Second Sermon for Advent 1-4: SC 166, 104-116
Guerric of Igny (c.1070/l080-1157), about whose early life little is known, probably received his education at the cathedral school of Tournai, perhaps under the influence of Odo of Cambrai (1807-1092). He seems to have lived a retired life of prayer and study near the cathedral of Toumai. He paid a visit to Clairvaux to consult Saint Bernard, and is mentioned by him as a novice in a letter to Ogerius in 1125/1256. He became abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Igny, in the diocese of Rheims in 1138. A collection of 54 authentic sermons preached on Sundays and feast days has been edited. Guerric’s spirituality was influenced by Origen.
Edith Barnecut, OSB
**From Saint Louis University