Thick fog blanketed the morning. We couldn’t see our neighbor’s home. Tree branches like gnarled fingers reached out of the whiteness toward the sky. Everything was still, muffled, mysterious.
"The form of one approaching through a fog is at first ambiguous. It can be almost anyone. Only two will know him: he who loves him and he who hates him," writes Romano Guardini in "The Lord."
At first, we might feel alarmed when we see a mysterious figure emerging from the mist. But then, we hear a familiar footstep, or recognize that particular ambling gait, or catch the scent of his favorite cologne. Alarm turns into joyful recognition. This recognition presumes the familiarity of a beloved friend, someone we talk with daily, someone with whom we share confidences, with whom we sit comfortably even when there’s nothing to talk about.
As we enter the season of Advent, we wait in expectant silence for Christ’s coming. Will we recognize him when he comes?
"If anyone says to you then, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it" (Matthew 24: 23). Even the elect will be deceived.
Prayer helps us draw closer to him.
God reaches out to us through the gift of prayer, and we respond. We seek God’s will, we want to deepen our friendship with him, through Christ. This is how we will recognize him.
"See that you not be deceived" (Luke 21: 8). Sometimes we are deceived our false image of God. We think he is a harsh taskmaster, demanding, never satisfied with what we do. We are afraid to commit ourselves to him fully, because who knows what he will ask of us? He is a testing, punishing, sacrifical God.
Or perhaps we think he is just a sweetheart, a Hallmark Jesus, a Kumbaya-singing Lord.
We can’t know him if we never spend time with him. Saint Teresa of Avila says that the fruit of authentic prayer is detachment from everything that doesn’t bring us closer to God. Our false images of God lead us away from him: either through fear or complacency.
We can resolve to draw closer to Christ in prayer each day this Advent, so that when he draws near, perhaps obscured by the mysterious veil of fog ("at present we see indistinctly") we will recognize recognize him, because we love him.