This time of year the readings are disconcerting and, while the days grow shorter and darker, Holy Mother Church leads us into contemplation of the end of time. Daniel prophecies that, it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time. Jesus also gives us a glimpse into those end times: “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” Even the antiphon that precedes the Gospel admonishes us, in the words of Jesus, to “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.”
These are confusing words to hear. On the one hand, we have 2,000 years of history behind us and it’s easy to think that these prophecies are in the distant future but, on the other hand, Jesus says, “of that day or hour, no one knows.” How we handle this uncertainty can be either an act of Faith or a presumption of escape.
It is difficult to imagine the stars falling from the sky or the sun being dark or the heavens being shaken but every time I hear of an asteroid passing close to the earth – that is, close in space terms – I am reminded just how tenuous is our existence. We spin like a top and travel around the sun with the moon always on our heels, keeping our spin in balance as it constantly moves the waters that cover 3/4 of the surface of this planet we call home. When you delve into the science of the universe and of our own existence it is hard not to see God, or what Aristotle and his Greek buddies called the logos, divine order, of Creation and that time, by it’s very nature, has an end point.
To presume that we will never see the end of time is to deny our own mortality. As we prepare to enter into the emptiness and longing of Advent, Holy Mother Church reminds us that time itself will pass into eternity where “the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” We should all want to be stars!