At a recent Christmas party of a parish ministry, I was requested on the spot to give a “surprise talk” about the meaning of Advent and how it relates to Christmas. Briefly I said that Advent is a 4-week preparation for the commemoration of Christ’s coming on Christmas, and Christmas is a season of rejoicing for God’s love made manifest in His Son’s taking human flesh to dwell with us and to save us.
When I was on my first year as a young seminarian out of high school many decades ago, Advent was the time I waited for my parents to come and take me home for my first Christmas vacation. It was an event that I not only waited for, but more importantly, longed for.
But during those four weeks of Advent, I was made to realize what this season was all about: a season that commemorates the long centuries of waiting by the Chosen People for their Messiah, Who would save them from their oppressors. And for us, it is a season where we prepare our souls to receive Christ when He comes in a special way at Christmas, and for when He comes again at the end of time.
The mood in the seminary during those days was clearly evoked and enhanced by two beautiful hymns in Latin: the first is “Rorate Caeli Desuper” and the second is “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel.” They both express yearning, and eager expectation of the coming of the "Just One" and the "God with Us." The "Veni, Veni" is still sung (in English) in Catholic churches nowadays, but not the "Rorate Caeli," which is part of the Gregorian chant treasury of the Church and is still chanted in convents and monasteries, and seminaries in the old tradition.
I am posting below these two songs from YouTube, with their English translations, to show not only the tonal beauty of Gregorian chant, but the beauty of the thoughts and sentiments expressed in them.
In these two hymns the feeling is not just one of waiting, but of longing. Just like a child longs for his father to come home from a job abroad, or the longing of aged parents living alone for their children and grandchildren to come home for Christmas, or the longing of a persecuted Christian in prison to receive his Lord in the Eucharist,
I think that for us who are pilgrims on this earth, there comes a time in our life when the usual material things do not matter anymore or as much, that we long for that Someone to come not only to stay with us in the here and now, but for Him to take us Home.
In the midst of the trials, disappointments, conflicts and divisions we see around, our longing for God to come can only be heightened and fulfilled, when we are finally HOME!#
"O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise." Psalm 63
"Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you." Confessions of St. Augustine
"Rorate Caeli Desuper"
"Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down the Just One."
"Rorate Caeli Desuper"
With English Translation
"Veni, Veni Emmanuel"
"O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear."