Behold Him Knocking
An Advent Reflection
Advent is a favorite season of most Catholics I know. It is a season of preparing to meet our Lord, a season of longing for Him, of keeping watch for Him, a season of anticipation, of joyful hope. I believe that for one who is discerning her vocation, this season in particular captures all the aspirations of her heart: “Come Lord! Show me Your will. Let me hear Your voice.” And for a nun, even though she is already set in her path towards Christ, these aspirations only intensify and are expressed in a deep longing for union with Christ, a final fulfillment of her life given over to Him. In Advent, we find that the liturgy gives us the words to express our hearts deepest desires for Christ. This is also a time when we find a special closeness to the Blessed Mother, whose “fiat” made way for Christ to enter into our human world. She is our model, par excellence, of preparing for Christ’s entrance into our lives. In the Office of Readings (for us, heard at the Office of Matins) towards the end of Advent, we have a beautiful reading from St Bernard of Clairvaux addressing our Lady, in the name of all humanity, and begging of her to proclaim her fiat for all of us. In this moving reading, St Bernard says to our Lady, “Behold, the desired of all nations is standing at your door, knocking to enter.” 1
This image of Christ knocking, requesting entrance, though true for our Lady in a singular way, is also true for each of us. So often, it seems that we imagine that we are the ones knocking, pleading to be heard, and so seldom we realize that it is He who is knocking at our door. He is knocking, He is asking of us… what? A little time for Him alone, a little room where He can meet us in our daily lives, a little silence from talking, and from our whirl of inner thoughts. He is asking us for a heart that listens for His voice.
The listening heart is key to knowing God’s will. But your heart won’t be able to listen if you don’t intentionally quiet down your activities—both external and internal. This “quietening” is, I believe, the most poignant challenge of Advent. In a world that increases its hustle during the season before Christmas, we Christians are asked to do the opposite: be still, be quiet, listen! To a Benedictine, these precepts hearken the first words of the Rule of St Benedict; and I think all of us can take these words as our motto for Advent. In response to St Bernard’s pronouncement, we can hear St Benedict’s wisdom ringing, “Listen, O child, and incline the ear of your heart!” 2
- Office of Readings, December 20
- Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue, verse 1