Waiting for the Lord to Come
Adapted from an Advent Sermon by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom
In these days of fasting as we approach the “holidays” as everyone now calls this season, our Lord Himself gives us a stern and clear warning. Are we going to be like the guests called to the bridal feast of the king’s son? One refused to come because he had acquired a plot of land. He wanted to possess the earth and instead became a slave to it. The others could not come because they were too busy– there was no time for God. The one who had taken a wife could not share in the joy of the Bridegroom because his heart was already too full. This parable will be read on December 11, just two Sundays before the Winter Pascha. How do we respond to the invitation?
Meeting the Lord in Holy Communion
Advent is a time when we should stand face to face before the judgment of God and listen to the voice of our own conscience. Every time we come to Communion we must have tried our best to make peace with those with whom we are at variance. We must have tried to make peace with the thoughts of our mind and heart that accuse us of disloyalty to God and to one another. We must have made our peace with the living God so that it cannot be said that He died for us in vain. It is a matter of pondering deeply within ourselves, of passing an honest judgement upon ourselves and coming to Communion through repentance and Confession, after a searching examination of our lives so as to not be condemned for coming lightly to the Holy Meal. This implies a certain number of simple things, but things that must be done.
- No one should come to communion who is deliberately late for the liturgy through laziness or carelessness. (pastor’s note: especially if you miss the Epistle and Gospel!)
- We should come to Communion after preparing ourselves in the course of the whole week by praying, by examining our conscience, and by reading prayers before Communion. If they are too long to be read on Saturday after the evening service or on Sunday morning, they can be distributed throughout the week and be part of our morning and evening prayers. This is a discipline which is required of us always, but especially during Advent, Great Lent and the other fasting periods.
- The Orthodox Church has always taught that those who wish to receive Communion should strive to do everything in their power to be present on Saturday evening at the service, so as to be prepared to meet the Lord on Sunday, the day of His Resurrection. This is often difficult, sometimes impossible, but if we never ever come…?
These are not simply rules of formal discipline; these are appeals for us to be guided into a more meaningful life and to encounter the Lord more worthily, or rather less unworthily.
May we enter into this period of fasting, preparing ourselves by being attentive to the ways in which we treat others, ourselves and God, to the way in which we learn from the Church to pray, to worship and to obey the Lord’s commandments. Pay attention more seriously to the fasting rules. Their purpose is to shake our physical complacency, to energize us spiritually and physically, to prevent ourselves from being “heavy” and incapable of soaring Godwards. Prepare yourselves throughout this period of Advent, waiting for the Lord to come, but waiting not passively, but with joyful anticipation in the way in which you would wait for someone beloved to arrive at your home. Re- member that being in the presence of God is not our right; it is the greatest privilege that He can confer on us, so let us behave accordingly. Amen.
The perfect way to receive Christ during this season is to receive the wonderful sacrament of His most pure Body and Blood in Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy on Christmas Day. Part of our preparation for this reception should include repentance and a sincere confession of our sins during this Advent. Confessions will be heard after any of the evening services or by appointment.