November 27, 2016
“As it was in the days of Noah…” (Mt 24:37)
Noah with his great ark, constructed on sand in a waterless place. I see him daubing on pitch, as he is daubed by taunts from skeptical neighbors, and his own doubts. But there will always be someone like Noah in the desert, waiting for God’s water, and preparing.
Noah’s vocation is a profound one: to build and to wait, to make a place of refuge and to welcome all, excluding no-one. His ark, made to accommodate two (or perhaps seven pairs) from every kind of animal in creation, so as to save them from death, is a symbol of the Church, whose mission is to save everyone.
But did Noah know what he was waiting for when building that ark? What are we waiting for, as we look to the day of the Son of Man? We are told that he will be like lightening flashing from one end of the sky to the other, like a cataclysmic flood which sweeps everything away, like a thief in the night, who takes one and leaves another. Will we be taken as his booty? What will this mean for us?
Guerric of Igny speaks in his First Advent Sermon of this waiting: “What am I waiting for,” a righteous man may ask, “but the Lord?” “I know,” he says, turning to him, “that you will not disappoint me after such a wait as mine.” We wait with “hope mounting upon hope as trial comes upon trial, delay upon delay.”
“But certainly he shall come, that Lord of ours, our dread and our desire.”
Do we not also dread the coming of him whom we desire? Might not love burn?
“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand firm when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lye.” (Mal 3:2)
In this Advent season, we wait with the prophets, who did not know what they were waiting for. Do we know more than they? Perhaps. But even so the one who comes is strange to us, breaking in to our securities. Who is this one with feet like burnished bronze who draws us to himself, inexorably? Our dread and our desire. Our salvation. Our all.
As we enter these days of expectancy, may our longing be salted with fire. For the one who comes may carry us off into the unknown.