For the past four decades Advent came to represent the times in my life when I could do little more than helplessly hope for and await rescue from my Christ moments. As my spiritual guides explained at the time, these are the moments when we experience the death like dives into despair, the “Dark Nights of the Soul”, those moments of defeat and depleted spirit that can only be redeemed through the birth of Christ the Messiah into our individual lives.

And, much in the same way Isaiah prophesied to the Hebrew branch of the People of God, my three priest guides foretold that on His arrival, He would empower me to “… build up the ruins, raise up the devastations and repair the ruined cities … of my former times”.

Then, out of the darkness of hopeless aloneness I would ask, “But, how?”, and they answered as Paul instructs us in Thessalonians “… pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances … (because) … the One who calls you is faithful, and He will do this.” So, my wise guides invited me to pray the Jesus prayer. 

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have mercy upon me, a sinner”. 

Pray it “unceasingly”, for, “Within this prayer is the summation of the Gospel of Christ.” And throughout the years since, I have given thanks for this prayer in the many moments of anxiety, doubt and uncertainty when I could only hope for and await the Advent of Christ to light the way forward.

As I’ve reflected on the words about John the Baptist in this Advent Gospel, “He came as a witness to testify to the Light so that all might believe”, I’ve come to know that the Christ who is the Light of whom John speaks and for whom we await in this season will always enlighten, clarify and empower us to “make straight the way of the Lord” in both our individual and communal lives.

Finally, it seems to me during this particular time in history we are also … as in Isaiah’s time … the people of God. And, whatever our faith, we are hopeful that we can remain one whole and peaceful nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.

Mike Cerullo

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