| || ||
Advent with Jean Daniélou
by Carl E. Olson
Father Jean Daniélou's The Advent of Salvation, originally
published simply as Advent in 1950, may be the best $3.00 purchase I've
ever made. The out-of-print book is a classic work on the meaning of Advent. Here
are a few of Daniélou's thoughts about this wonderful but often overlooked
Salvation and History: The Old Testament is the story of God's
education of mankind, preparing man for the reception of supernatural gifts.
God's covenant with Abraham marked the "opening of sacred history," just as
creation had marked God's action upon the cosmos and the Incarnation marked the
beginning of the world to come. The Abrahamic covenant promised salvation to the
nations, to be realized in and through the God-man, Jesus Christ.
The first Advent was an outpouring of God's grace upon an unsuspecting world.
Grace is "that bond between mankind and God which can never be broken, because it
is founded on the manhood of Christ, in whom Godhead and manhood are henceforth
joined together forever. . . . Christ has brought our humanity into the inmost
life of God to stay." We enter that life through baptism, are nourished with the
Eucharist, and become partakers of the divine nature: "The mystery of history is
summed up in God's design of giving His spiritual creatures a share in the life
of the Trinity."
John the Baptist: He prepared a way for his cousin, the Messiah, by
proclaiming that the Kingdom was at hand. John, who brings grace by preparing the
way for conversion, compliments Mary, who brings grace by being the Mother of
God, "Since the coming of Christ goes on foreverHe is always He who is to
come in the world and in the Churchthere is always an Advent going on, and
this Advent is filled by John the Baptist. It is John the Baptist's peculiar
grace that he prepares the way for what is about to happen." We can emulate John
by calling for conversion, beginning with our own, and preparing the way for the
world to meet the Messiah.
The Blessed Virgin: The Mother of God "did not imitate Solomon by
asking for wisdom," he reflects, "She asked for grace because grace is the one
thing we need." How simple and how amazing! Mary's example of faith should inform
our thoughts and shape our actions during Advent. "She is the faithful virgin,
who is never anything but faithful, whose fidelity was the perfect answer to the
fidelity of God; she was always entirely consecrated to the one true God." Mary
anticipated the birth of her Son for nine months and she now anticipates the
birth of the New Creation when He returns in glory.
The Cross: It's unpopular, of course, but it is the way of
Christand of His disciples. "The Christian, following Christ, must resemble
Him wholly; and the only way to do this is by the Cross." We can only long for
the coming of Christ and eternal life if we die to ourselves. We must know our
placein both this world and the world to come. God desires a unity of all
men, in communion with the Father through the Son. The Cross leads to unity;
pride leads to death: "The greatest obstacle anyone can put to unity is to want
to make himself the center of things."
The Return of the King: "We live always during Advent," writes
Daniélou, "we are always waiting for the Messiah to come." Jesus came once
and He will come again, but He is not yet fully made known. "He is not fully
manifest in mankind as a whole: that is to say, that just as Christ was born
according to the flesh in Bethlehem of Judah so much he be born according to the
spirit in each of our souls." Advent is anticipation, preparation, and
contemplation of the King.
To think I got all thatand much moreout of a $3 purchase. Thus is
a well-focused Advent the pre-Christmas gift that keeps on giving all life
[NOTE: Although The Advent of Salvation is no longer in print, you might enjoy what is my
all-time favorite Daniélou book,
God and the Ways of Knowing.]
This column originally appeared in the December 12-18, 2004
issue of National
Olson is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com.
He is the co-author of The
Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code and author
Catholics Be "Left Behind"?
He resides with his wife and daughter in a top secret location in the Northwest somewhere between Portland,
Oregon and Sacramento, California.
| || || |