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Hearing the Call of the Bridegroom

December 21, 2015 by  
Filed under Advent, Anthony Lilles, Contemplation, Prayer

Hearing the Call of the Bridegroom

“Let me see you, let me hear your voice.”  These final days of Advent lift our hearts to the coming of Christ and are meant to move us to pray.  How can we not make prayer part of our lives when we consider what it means that the Word of the Father came in history and what it means that Jesus continues to come to us in mystery?  To help us feel this in our souls, to help us raise our hearts before this great truth, to nourish us with the sweetness of what God has revealed, our liturgy includes readings from the great love poem – the Canticle of Canticles.  In this poem, the Bride calls us to listen to the Bridegroom and to feel the joy of seeing Him gazing at us.  And for His part, the Bridegroom of Advent longs to find us, to see us and to hear our voices.  God longs for us to pray.

ErnestKarlovichLipgartTheParableOfTheWiseAndFoolishVirgins1886“Arise my beloved!” This is what God asks of us to prepare for Christmas.  Who is it who calls us His beloved and who commands us in love to rise up? We cannot know until we enter the silence of prayer for our own self.  Have you allowed silence to be part of your Advent Season?  Do you hear Him calling to you?  Do you see Him gazing at you? Why not seek Him now? Why not take this moment to listen for His voice?

He the one who comes to us in our poverty, in dark stillness, in sacred silence.  As vulnerable as a baby, He descends into our hostile world so that we might ascend with Him into heaven’s eternal love. He who cannot find a place to lay His head, He for whom there is no room in this world, this Pilgrim God longs to lead us to the place prepared for us from all eternity, our true heavenly homeland, the bosom of the Holy Trinity.

This Child who comes to us does not come as an avatar who merely appears in our likeness – the Image of the Invisible God embraces our life, drinks in our existence and makes it His very own.  His first cries in the manager reached their climax on the Cross: cries of prayer, cries in the face of our distress and misery, cries for love.  Have you allowed this holy cry to reverberate in the hollows of your heart?  By His cry into our world–this Son of Man and the only begotten Son of God, this Son of Mary and Son of the Father–He empties himself into our existence, empties Himself of His Divine Life.  Why does He empty Himself and humble Himself?  He pours Himself out in love into our lives holding nothing back to show us our dignity, what it means to be fully human and fully alive, what it means to live by love, to live like God, and at the same time gives Himself in love to fill us with the fullness of life so that we might embrace His very being, drink His very existence and make His life our very own.

His love for us is passionate, stronger than death: a love nothing but Love alone can quench. More than any bridegroom this world has ever known, He yearns for our love and longs to enter our world anew – but He, through whom the heavens and earth were brought forth, waits for us.  He holds His divine breath like He held his breath waiting for the Fiat of the Virgin.  He longs to fill the world with His Holy Spirit and to renew His whole mystery anew in our lives, in our time, in our families, in our culture, in our society, today. Yet He has made His plan dependent on our saying “yes”, on our feeble “fiat.”  He counts on our prayers more than we allow our prayers to count on Him.  The Word listens attentively for our quiet voice even as the heavens and the earth resound with the cries of the Divine Infant.

What does our true Bridegroom cry out and what does He yearn for this Christmas?  He cries for heartfelt prayer washed in tears of contrition and gratitude, bowed in humble adoration, ready to boldly say yes to His presence, generous and eager to welcome His love. The words of the Word of God reveal this cry,  “Let me see you, let me hear your voice” (Song of Songs 2:14).

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For more of Anthony’s insights on prayer, don’t miss his book, Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, an experience like no other. Anthony has an unusually profound understanding of mystical theology and lives a life of deep prayer. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute.

Art: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, Ernest Karlovich Lipgart, 1886, PD-US copyright expired, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Anthony Lilles

Anthony Lilles, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, completed his graduate and post-graduate studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. He and his lovely wife, Agnes, are blessed with three children and live in California, where he is the Academic Dean, and Associate Professor of Theology, St. John's Seminary, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Academic Advisor at Juan Diego House, House of Formation for Seminarians. For over twenty years, Dr. Lilles worked for the Denver Archdiocese directing parish religious education, R.C.I.A. and youth ministry, as well as serving as Director of the Office of Liturgy for the Archdiocese and as Coordinator of Spiritual Formation for the permanent diaconate. In 1999, he became a founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary where he was Academic Dean for nine years and Associate Professor of Theology. He is a Board Member for the Society of Catholic Liturgy. Dr. Lilles has provided graduate level courses on a variety of topics including the Eucharist, the Sacraments of Healing, Church History, Spiritual Theology, Spiritual Direction and on various classics of Catholic Spirituality. His expertise is in the spiritual doctrine of Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In 2012, Discerning Hearts published his book "Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer," a compilation of discussions with seminarians, students, and contemplatives about the spiritual life. He collaborated with Dan Burke on the books "30 Days with Teresa of Avila" and "Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux". And, his book "Fire from Above" was published in 2016. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute. He blogs at BeginningtoPray.blogspot.com

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  • Catherine Nagle

    Thank you so much Anthony Lilles for your beautiful reflection! Yes, he has come for us as a child to welcome His presence! And, As we grow in spiritual maturity, the truth becomes clearer to us, and some of us begin to see who we really are. Even as innocent young children, we somehow knew that our suffering was not from God. But we didn’t know then what to do with the pain, and we don’t learn this even as adults until we begin to PRAY as children, asking God to help us. The cries and pain in our life, no matter our age, are no different from the cries of the Divine infant who calls us home. “What does our true Bridegroom cry out and what does He yearn for this Christmas? He cries for heartfelt prayer washed in tears of contrition and gratitude, bowed in humble adoration, ready to boldly say yes to His presence, generous and eager to welcome His love.” The words of the Word of God reveal this cry, “Let me see you, let me hear your voice” (Song of Songs 2:14).
    Read more: http://www.spiritualdirection.com/2015/12/21/hearing-the-call-of-the-bridegroom#ixzz3uxfhOd00

  • Patricia

    Perfect and true – wonderful post! Jesus calls each of us, in our everyday lives, not only those in religious life, to this deep relationship in Him. It takes our desire for Him, our “yes” to live it. This Christmas, let Jesus be born again and welcomed in your heart anew and make time everyday for your love to grow so that He will truly be the one and only Bridegroom of your soul. He is the Prince of Peace!

  • Cynthia Diane

    Lord, as I prepare to go out today to finish up my shopping, I want to spend time with YOU, the reason for all this hustle and bustle. We poor children get so lost in the worldliness of this season of love. Somehow, we get it wrong and confused, and turn it into something other than what it was meant to be. Despite that, You still come…. with patience, love, understanding, and mercy. You take our misconstrued meaning of what we are celebrating, accepting meager crumbs from your beloved children in our glittery celebrations. But that is what You do, as pointed out in this exquisitely written article. And so, today, as echoed in the last paragraph above, let my prayers be heartfelt, washed in tears of contrition and gratitude, bowed in humble adoration, ready to boldly say yes to Your Presence, generous and eager to welcome Your Love. Today, let my cry be “Let me see You, let me hear Your Voice”. (Song of Songs 2:14). Amen!

  • http://www.littlestepsalongtheway.com/ Amanda

    Thank you for this beautiful explanation and expansion upon my favorite verses from Song of Songs (which happened to be a liturgical reading of the day!). I had turned to read Song of Songs last night, but stopped reading after a bit to read the nativity gospels. I didn’t understand how they connected. What a gift to be able to connect the two…it now opens up new meaning to be discovered through-out my favorite book of the Bible. What a wonderful Christmas present – thank you, Lord!

  • Cathy

    When I went to mass this morning,the priest had another perspective.”For see the winter is past/the rains are over and gone/the flowers appear on the earth….
    Fr taught that today is the shortest day of the year,the first day of winter.But for those of faith it is not winter but Spring.So for me it is Spring ,the BrideGroom calls Arise…..

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