Almighty God who command us to prepare
the way for Christ the Lord,
mercifully grant that we may not grow weary in our infirmities
as we wait for the consoling presence of the heavenly Physician.
Advent is about waiting, but in this waiting there is nothing passive, nothing of the quietism that would have one sit like an inert lump without passion, energy, or desire. Advent has been called the Lent of Winter, and with good reason. The very qualities that characterize the Lent of Spring, should characterize Advent. Does not Saint Benedict say that “a monk’s life ought at all times to bear a Lenten character” (RB 49:1)? What is the essence of this Lenten character? Saint Benedict, after inviting us to a spontaneous generosity in prayer, in self-denial, and in silence, sums it all up by saying, “and so with the joy of spiritual desire, look forward to holy Pascha” (RB 49:7). The “joy of spiritual desire” is the key to “preparing the way of the Lord” (Is 40:3).
The second part of today’s Collect is another example of the realism and confidence found everywhere in the Roman liturgy: “mercifully grant that we may not grow weary in our infirmities as we wait for the consoling presence of the heavenly Physician.” The prayer does not deny that we are beset with infirmities. It makes us admit our weakness. It does not minimize the temptation we all have to weariness, to the classic monastic complaint of accedia: a loss of energy, a kind of “throwing in the towel,” a giving in to the dullness and inertia of routine.
Christ the Physician
We are waiting for the “consoling presence of the heavenly Physician.” Christ, the Physician of our souls and bodies is sent to minister to us in our infirmity. This is the thrilling message of the first reading: “It is he that giveth strength to the weary, and increaseth force and might to them that are not. Youths shall faint, and labour, and young men shall fall by infirmity. But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Is 40:29-31). We are waiting for the consoling presence of Him who says, “Come to Me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you” (Mt 11:28).
The “heavenly Physician” of the Collect comes to us today in the mystery of His Eucharistic Advent: the sacrament of our healing, the remedy for every infirmity. Approach then the Holy Mysteries with Saint Benedict’s, “joy of spiritual desire” (RB 49:7). The heavenly Physician “stands at the door and knocks” (Rev 3:20).