A reading from the Pastoral Letters of St Charles Borromeo on the Season of Advent.
The present season is one of particular importance. It is a sacred season. As the Holy Spirit says, it is the time of the Lord’s favour, the day of salvation, peace and reconciliation. The patriarchs and prophets longed and prayed and yearned with all their hearts for this time. That just man Simeon at long last saw this time and his joy was boundless. And the Church has always kept this season in a special way. So, we too must continue to celebrate it fittingly, giving praise and thanks to the eternal Father for the mercy he has shown us in this mystery of the coming of his Only-begotten Son.
The Father sent his Son out of his immeasurable love for us sinners. He sent him to free us from the tyrannical power of the devil, to invite us to heaven and lead us into its innermost sanctuary. He was sent to show us truth itself, to teach us how we should live, to share with us the source of all goodness, to enrich us with the treasurers of his grace. Finally, he was sent to make us sons and daughters of the Father and heirs to eternal life.
The Church calls this mystery to mind each year to stir us to renew constantly our memory of the great love God has shown us. This commemoration teaches us that our Saviour came not only for the benefit of the people of his own time. His goodness is still there for us to share in. But, for our part, through faith and the sacraments we must lay hold on the grace he won for us and live by it in obedience to him.
The Church wants us to understand that as he came once into the world in the flesh, so now, if we remove all barriers, he is ready to come to us again at any minute or hour, to make his home spiritually within us in all his grace.
Like a devoted mother, keenly concerned for our salvation, the Church uses the rites of this season, its hymns, songs and other utterances of the Holy Spirit to teach us a lesson. She shows us how to receive this great gift of God with thankfulness and how to be enriched by its possession. She teaches us that our hearts should be as prepared now for the coming of Christ our Lord as if he were still to come into the world. The Fathers also have taught us the same lesson, giving us words and examples from the Old Testament to imitate.
Charles Borromeo, (2 October 1538 – 3 November 1584) was Roman Catholic archbishop of Milan from 1564 to 1584 and a cardinal. He was a leading figure of the Counter-Reformation combat against the Protestant Reformation together with St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Philip Neri. In that role he was responsible for significant reforms in the Catholic Church, including the founding of seminaries for the education of priests. His feast day is November 4.