Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I want to know things. Human beings, by nature, desire to know. We look at the world and try to understand why it is the way it is, we ask questions, we explore, we try to grasp the nature of the world. Sometimes we even find answers. There are, of course, things beyond our ability to comprehend, or for which humanity has yet to find a complete explanation. We don’t know how many different species exist since new ones are constantly being discovered, history cannot explain the etymological origin of the English word “dog,” and mathematicians are still calculating pi. We human beings are hardwired to seek knowledge.
Applying a theological lens to this basic fact, we see that God is all-knowing and the source of all knowledge. Humanity is created in the image and likeness of God. Thus, we share in God’s knowledge. However, ever since the Fall, our knowledge has been limited. Just as humanity has gradually come to discover and unlock the mysteries of the world, so too has humanity gradually learned about God’s nature. We call this process “revelation.” God begins the process of revealing Himself immediately after Adam and Eve leave the Garden of Eden. There is, in the context of world history, also a history of God revealing Himself, which we call “salvation history.” In this, God shows the plan for all of creation. Why does God do this? God created everything that is out of love, and so much does He love His creation, that he desires unity with us. And so God took action and began to reveal Himself to His creation. Over time, the truth of the Divine Nature is revealed to humanity, reaching its culmination in the Incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This revelation of God is passed on to us in the Scriptures and in the teaching of the Apostles of Jesus.
There is a temptation to view revelation as an event for which humanity is a passive spectator. We can think of it as a lecture, rather than a seminar: if I sit and listen, I’ll learn everything I need to learn and won’t have to make much of an effort. If it was mentioned in the lecture, it will be on the test. But the will of God for us is that, just as He is active in revealing Himself to us, so too we would be active in searching for Him. The more we seek God in our lives and in our world, the more we learn about Him, the more we understand revelation. Understanding revelation helps us better understand our world and fuels the desire for knowledge in its many forms.
Today we light the second candle on the Advent wreath. In the gradual lighting of the wreath, I see a reflection of the gradual revelation of God in history. In the cycle of the liturgical year, repeated again and again throughout our lives, we are reminded that God’s desire for us is not completed with the ending of a particular year, but rather extends throughout all time. The season of Advent calls us to action. We cannot sit as passive spectators, but rather must actively prepare ourselves to meet Christ when He comes. In the Scripture we read at Mass this season, we are reminded that there is much we still do not know about God. Let us not be discouraged by our lack of knowledge about divine things, but be renewed in this season in our pursuit of the knowledge of God. We are hardwired to seek knowledge, especially of the divine. As the wreath gradually lights up our Advent, so may our minds and hearts gradually receive light to better know the Christ for whom we prepare a place in these holy days.