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Advent Light: Ask for a sign, high and deep! Then prepare for the Reality to come


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Elizabeth Scalia - published on 12/20/17

A reflection and prayer for December 20, 2017, Day 18 of Advent

The LORD spoke to Ahaz:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary men,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel. (
Isaiah 7:10-14)

These Advent readings in Isaiah are fraught with beauty and mystery, and they often perfectly capture the sense of human smallness that always accompanies Advent, at least for some. Here, the Lord invites Ahaz — who does not believe — to request a sign, and not just any sign, but a great one. Ahaz, using language that sounds pious but is in fact slyly meant, says he will not ask; he will not tempt the Lord.

In truth, Ahaz does not want a great sign from God, because he knows that if God delivers, he will be forced into belief, or at least acknowledgement, of what he prefers to keep at a distance.

For an unbeliever, God’s invitation is a challenge. EWTN Foundress Mother Angelica, PCPA, liked to tell a story about a woman who accompanied a friend of the monastery’s for a visit. The woman was invited to take some of the nun’s books as a parting gift, but refused the offer, and when Mother asked why she replied, “If I read them I know I will have to change, and I don’t want to change.”

This was Ahaz’s challenge, and he did not wish to meet it, because change — whether it be a new job, a new neighbor, a wedding or a new baby in the family — always brings with it a measure of vulnerability.

And as we read early on in Advent, to be vulnerable terrifies us, and makes us want to self-protect, to secure ourselves from any surprises out of our control.

Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!

What would you ask of God, were he to offer such a sign, understanding that the sign would not be a mere symbol, but a condition of reality, just as something as pretty and distant as a rainbow is a sign and also a real effect of water droplets and light refraction? God’s sign, in Isaiah’s prophecy, is the advent of the Constant Reality of God-With-Us.

God. With us. Not for a little while, not for 33 years, not as a metaphor, but forever, and in the Flesh. In the tabernacle of your nearest Catholic church. Every day, in every timezone on Earth, again, and still, and still, and still.

Yes, it’s a great change, and it makes us vulnerable because the Living God as Reality sees us as we are, and we want to hide, because we know our sins, and think we don’t want to change and be vulnerable before God.

We’re not so far from Ahaz, most of us, because — as St Paul writes — “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a Living God.” And yet all he really wants us to do, is be willing to draw near, and return his gaze, in trust.

Come, Lord Jesus! As we near Bethlehem, increase our desire to see you, to know you, which will help us to better trust you. Increase our trust until it is as deep as the nether world, and high as the sky, so there is no room left, for our fear. Amen.


Aleteia is bringing you reflections — Advent Light — for each day of this 2017 liturgical season. Follow the series here.

AdventAdvent Light 2017
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