Advent of Lions and Lambs

Good stuff, today from Magnificat Magazine:

The first reading at Mass:

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jess, and fro his roots a bud shall blossom. the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. Not by appearance shall he judge, not by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lied own with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.
– Isaiah 11:1-9

A beautiful prophecy! But I especially like the very useful Magnificat meditation that precedes it. Written by some anonymous and brilliant contributor, it reads:

What is so new about the promised “mountain of the Lord” is not that the wolf and the lamb are both there, but that the wolf remains a wolf and the lamb a lamb, and yet they dwell together without harm or hurt in God’s kingdom. Under God’s rule, conversion and obedience do not mean the loss of identity but the discovery of our true identity as one in Christ.

Have you not found this to be true, in your life? That making the constant “conversion” that involves turning to God with every concern, every idea, every problem, every joy, every petty annoyance, every minor inconvenience or major upheaval tends to reveal you to yourself, in all your generosity or meanness? That obedience, even when it is a hard one, stubbornly resisted, ends up proving things to you that are revelatory, and also -perhaps more importantly- demonstrates the practical rewards and workability of faith, itself?

I remember a friend telling me that he and his wife made a decision to be obedient to God, rather than to their own leanings; though they initially found the changes in their life to be tough going, after a brief while he wrote to me, “the blessings do not end.” He and his wife attributed those blessings specifically to their willingness to obey -like lambs- rather than run by their own lights, like determined lions. In doing so, they in no way gave up anything that they believed to be true about themselves. Both of them will tell you, now, that they are more completely, more fully, more authentically themselves than they ever were before.

Advent gives us a chance to think about these prophecies, and to try to understand them intellectually and instinctively; with mind and heart, so as to nourish the soul. Where is our Holy Mountain of the Lord? Is it the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, City of Peace? Perhaps. Perhaps it is also wherever we plant our flag and declare, “as for me and my house, we will follow the Lord.”

There is no harm, there; nor ruin, “for the earth will be filled with knowledge of the Lord,” as it already is, although imperfectly. The knowledge is there; it is shrugged off, or dismissed, or sneered at, or forgotten in a moment’s anger, or cast off in misunderstanding. Our Holy Mountain is shaken each day, mostly through our own inability to live as we know we ought, and as our hearts do desire.

While we are waiting for that day to be made perfect, we should consider that it has also already come; is here, even now. Today, a Word goes forth; today another word responds with perfect obedience, her holy “yes.” Today, wood is being plied for a manger. Today wood is being plied for a cross. They are both for us. Each day we begin again, and choose whether we will accept them; each day begins the journey, from Genesis to Revelation, to that Holy Place.

Each day the question; “do we believe, do we step on that path, and walk it to conclusion?” Lighting our Advent candle to dispel the darkness, we rise and wait for the escort: the angel, the pillar of cloud, the star that leads, the dove descending, the One ascending, the tongues of fire.

O Delicious anticipation. We shiver with it.

Related: You know neither day nor hour

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • Renetta

    “Silent Night,” is my all-time favorite Christmas song. It’s the quiet hush of this song that stirs me along with the lyrics that honor our Blessed Mother.

  • Chelsea

    Deep and meaningful thoughts, as always! And thanks again for the link!


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  • Lori

    I loved this meditation on the Lord’s holy mountain. It makes me think of a wonderful passage from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy:

    “It is true that the Church told some men to fight and others not to fight; and it is true that those who fought were like thunderbolts and those who did not fight were like statues. All this simply means that the Church preferred to use its Supermen and to use its Tolstoyans. There must be some good in the life of battle, for so many good men have enjoyed being soldiers. There must be some good in the idea of non-resistance, for so many good men seem to enjoy being Quakers. All that the Church did (so far as that goes) was to prevent either of these good things from ousting the other. They existed side by side. The Tolstoyans, having all the scruples of monks, simply became monks. The Quakers became a club instead of becoming a sect. Monks said all that Tolstoy says; they poured out lucid lamentations about the cruelty of battles and the vanity of revenge. But the Tolstoyans are not quite right enough to run the whole world; and in the ages of faith they were not allowed to run it. The world did not lose the last charge of Sir James Douglas or the banner of Joan the Maid. And sometimes this pure gentleness and this pure fierceness met and justified their juncture; the paradox of all the prophets was fulfilled, and, in the soul of St. Louis, the lion lay down with the lamb. But remember that this text is too lightly interpreted. It is constantly assured, especially in our Tolstoyan tendencies, that when the lion lies down with the lamb the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is–Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity? THAT is the problem the Church attempted; THAT is the miracle she achieved.”

    [That's a terrific quote, Lori; Haven't read Orthodoxy in years. Time to pull it out again -admin]

  • Timaay

    As you read in my blog, I recently decided to obey the Lord in everything and I must agree with that couple, there has been spiritual blessing after spiritual blessing ever since. Its been 5 weeks of more of the most wonderful peace…
    I know it wont last forever but this is very pleasing to my soul…

    [Eventually, as you advance, you encounter difficulties. Trust. Then all gets stronger -admin]

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  • SallyJune

    5 weeks??? I have spent a lifetime jumping from 0 to 1 and back again.

  • NY Mom

    I’d love to hear more about your friends who you describe as deciding to live fully obedient to God. This decision intrigues me on many levels. Is there a chance that they might elaborate? (such as, were they under spriritual direction; were they living comparatively disobediently prior; how did they discern what God’s will was, and so forth.)

    [It was a very private matter regard their marital intimacy and I doubt very much they'd want me going into details. Suffice to say, it was obedient to God, over their own desires. -admin]

  • Hantchu

    Well, I’m a day late and a dollar short, but I had to mention what a beloved view that photo is to me, the Mt of Olives, from that angle. It’s one of the sights you see as you take the bus to the Western Wall. Further down in the valley is Yad Avshalom, which probably has nothing arecheological to do with David’s son Absalom, but has moving assotiations nonetheless.

    On a personal note, we sped down the Mt of Olives and through all this magnificent scenery when I was in the middle of contractions and on the way to the hospital for the birth of my first child. I remember thinking that the juxtaposition of my pain and panic with one of the most beautiful areas in the world might be worth thinking about, but not just now.

  • vanessa jackson

    Hi Anchoress,

    Where can I go to find material that is available for single people who want to celebrate Advent?


    [GOsh, I'd have no idea. I imagine if one goes to various lessons and carols held at parishes? Or volunteers to help out with the giving trees? =admin]