Thursday, December 4, 2014

Friday of the First Week of Advent - St. Odilia

On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book;
And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord,
and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

- Isaiah 29:18-19

 In reflecting on the light of the Lord that illumines the darkened heart of the sinful person, Quaker writer Isaac Pennington wrote, “But of what nature is this light, which shineth in man in his dark state? It is of a living nature; it is light which flows from life; it is light which hath life in it; it is the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Word eternal, which is the light of men.” Pennington recognized that it is only the Light of the World who can drive away the darkness of sin and death which seeks to cover the earth with its heavy pall. And yet, Isaiah the prophet understood the Advent of the Promised One would bring light where there was once darkness and unstop that which was once closed. The wonder that Jesus performed when he gave sight to the blind men is a confirmation that it was he of whom Isaiah spoke. 
A stained glass window
depicting St. Odilia (ca. 1500);
the eyes above the chalice
represent his restored sight.

The gift of sight, unobscured by sin, despair, and doubt, is truly a grace and allows the Christian to view the world with the eyes of faith. Saint Odilia, who lived in the Alsace region of France, knew the true value of the gift of sight—both physical and spiritual sight. Born blind and rejected by her father because of her physical limitation, she lived in darkness and isolation until she was given the gift of sight and a name (Odilia is a form of Sol Dei, “God’s light”) at the time of her baptism. Saint Odilia later became a highly regarded abbess who dedicated her life to the care of the nuns of her community and to works of mercy, feeding the hungry and caring for the sick and pilgrims - the poor in whom she saw the presence of Christ. Today, Saint Odilia (along with Saint Lucy) is honored as a patron saint of the blind.

Advent is a season of darkness, a time of watching and waiting for the coming of the Light of the World. It is faith which enables us to recognize that God's Providence is at work, even though events in our world and our individual lives may make us feel that there is only darkness around us. The faith of the two blind men healed in today's Gospel and of the saints - like the once-blind Saint Odilia - remind us that if our faith is strong, we will never be disappointed in our waiting (cf. Psalm 27:13-14): "Behold, our Lord shall come with power; he will enlighten the eyes of his servants" (Alleluia Verse).

Today, pray for the faith to believe in the Light.

Prayer for Friday of the First Week of Advent +
Stir up your power, we pray, O Lord, and come,
that with you to protect us,
we may find rescue
from the pressing dangers of our sins,
and with you to set us free,
we may be found worthy of salvation.
Who live and reign with God the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)

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