|Detail of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel (1512)|
Today is the start of the new liturgical year for the Roman Catholic Church. It also marks the first Sunday of Advent for the Latin Church (other Eastern Churches started a fortnight beforehand). In our secular society, we can be tricked into thinking that the Advent calendar is only a countdown for Christmas shopping. But scripture during Advent reminds us of the dual nature of the season: to prepare for the cyclical celebration of Our Lord’s birth as well as Parousia (the Second Coming).
The Lectionary during Cycle A features Isaiah’s prophetic vision (IS 2:1-5) when God reigns Supreme and swords are hammered into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, a professor of liturgy at Loyola University in New Orleans, uses a detail of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel to illustrate the scripture.
The Gospel (MT 24:37-44) alludes to the Second Coming where Jesus exhorts the faithful to be prepared as Noah was for the Flood. This is sobering “Good News” but it should help lead us with our walk with the Lord, especially in this period of preparation.
The Isaiah panel on the Sistine Chapel prompts a ponderous thought. Zsupan-Jerome wondered if position of Noah’s Ark about Isaiah prompted the prophet to think of Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark landed, as he handed the vision of God’s Holy Mountain? This would lend the aspiration that man should seek God’s holy mountain to, borrowing a phrase from the Responsorial Psalm (PS 122), “dwell in the House of the Lord.”
The Noahide Covenant established that the Lord would not destroy humanity through a flood. The Messiah’s admonition to be prepared has some soothing subtexts rather than relying upon our own inadequate righteousness. The name Jesus can be translated to “Yahweh Saves”. Moreover, the Lord so loved the world, He sent His only son to be born of this world in all things but sin and be an intregal part of our salvific history.
As we come into this season of devout and joyful expectation, it would behoove us to consider the nuances, hermaneutics and deeper meanings of Advent, as expressed through art, scripture and the easily overlooked holiday trappings.
h/t: Loyola Press