“Drop down ye heavens, from above.” Isaiah 45:8
The new Church year begins with a plea for God to come amongst us: “Drop down ye heavens, drop down,” as we hear the voice of Isaiah in the Advent Prose, the anguished voice of Israel imploring God to look down from heaven to save and shepherd a lost people.
The language is simple. But these ancients express the penitential attitude – the people of Israel realizing, waking up to, their sinful ways, their failure to keep God’s covenant, and especially to their inability to save themselves.
In this Advent season, we see our own lives through the experience of Israel. We examine our consciences. We wake up to the fact that God is coming amongst us. We ask God to soften our hearts so that we may not refuse God’s reign, wander further from God’s ways, or withhold our love from the God who comes to us in unexpected ways and at an unexpected times.
God is faithful, St. Paul reminds us. God has hearkened to the cry of his children, coming down from heaven for Israel’s sake . . . and for ours – to redeem us from our exile, to restore us to his love.
God wants to give us his presence and to bless us; but we need to ask. We need to wake up to the fact that God wants us to ask so that we may receive, being awake to his love.
In Jesus, we see the Father (John 14:8-9). The Father has let his face shine upon us. Jesus is the good shepherd (John 10:11-15) who has already come to guide us to the Kingdom of God. No matter how far we have strayed, God will give us new life if we turn again, if we call upon the holy name of Jesus, and if we commit to follow Him.
As St. Paul says, God has given us every spiritual gift – especially the gift of Penance with Absolution and the Holy Eucharist to strengthen us as we await Christ’s final coming. He will keep us firm to the end – if we will remain awake to God’s love.
So, in this season of repentance, we should heed the warning – be watchful, for we know not the hour when the Lord will return or how God will bless us, if we ask.