Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever… For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship. (Bar 5:1,3-4)
The observance of Advent has a penitential aspect. This aspect is not as pronounced as in Lent when penitence is palpable in its sorrowful expression of Christ’s Passion. In Advent we liturgically mourn over what had been lost. In a properly and spiritually dramatic fashion we attempt to pray like those faithful Jews who suffered not only military occupation but severance and estrangement from God. For the loyal Jew – one of the remnant of Israel – this separation was part of his historical reality, for he was: a foreigner in Canaan, a slave in Egypt, one despoiled by Assyria, one carried away by Babylon, and one subjugated by the Greeks and Romans. In all these miseries, the ancient Jews felt not only the physical and material suffering of their malefactors, but also the punishment and loss of their benefactor, the Lord God.
Still, the righteous Jew was not without hope. The psalmist declares in today’s liturgy of the word sung between the readings from Baruch and Saint Paul, “those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing”. This describes precisely the crux of Advent: mourning awakening expectation; for our remembrance of sorrow is not without purpose. Our Advent tribute to mourning is one of beatitude, a ritual sadness leading to indwelling happiness. It explains the heart of every Christian who navigates his or her sufferings on earth through the straits of grace on the way to heaven.
To bring out the message of the Prophet Baruch we have created our own allegory of hopeful mourning. We place on our bulletin cover for this 2nd Sunday in Advent a work by the Spanish modern painter, Pablo Picasso, entitled, The Crouching Woman (1902). This work is representative of Picasso’s “blue period” said by him to have begun around the time of the suicide of one of his close friends. For about three years (1901-1904) Picasso is believed to have endured a period of deep depression that flowed off his palate and onto his canvas until he entered his cheerier “rose period” in 1904. During his blue period the figures in Picasso’s paintings were often alone and grieving.
Thus, we use the isolated figure of The Crouching Woman as a symbol of Jerusalem in “mourning and misery.” Jerusalem is encouraged by the prophet Baruch to take off her robe and “to put on the splendor of glory from God forever.” Interestingly, this image could have been used a few weeks back for the Sunday reading from the First Book of Kings about the widow, Zarephath. Here we see the sad and isolated woman whose jug of oil was running dry and who was making ready to lay down and die (1 Kgs 17:12). In a way the widow herself was a symbol of Jerusalem which suffered drought for its insolence toward God. However, Elijah brought the widow the hope of rain and sustenance in famine in the same way we are to experience spiritual recovery during Advent. Let us cast off the blue of sadness and place within out hearts the rose of peace and hopefulness.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services