Once a well-known and highly sought-after French philosopher and theologian, Father Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet has become a name unfamiliar to most. In the late 15th century, Father Bossuet memorized the Scriptures and became an eloquent preacher and prolific writer of his time, having mainly studied the works of St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas. Several of his most beloved reflections comprise “Meditations for Advent,” which was translated from French into English more recently.
Featuring meditations with specific titles, such as “The Creation of the Universe” and “The Fall of Man,” readers travel theologically from the beginning of Scripture through the incarnation of Jesus. But Bossuet didn’t write in an overly intellectual or academic manner. In fact, he was well-loved precisely because of his ability to powerfully convey dense doctrine with clarity and incredible heartfelt love to the populace.
Intended to be read from Thanksgiving Day through the Octave of Christmas, readers are introduced to “Meditations for Advent” and Father Bossuet by Father Romanus Cessario, OP, in the introduction. Father Cessario explains both the writing and writer thus: “Here we find the stirring calls to poverty, silence, and simplicity of life within the context of reflections on the Blessed Virgin and — in one of the earliest and most celebrated examples of its kind — a sermon in appreciation of the holy patriarch Saint Joseph.”
It is with this simplicity and silence that Father Bossuet’s works invite hearts to be moved to interior peace. Peace is the fruit of a mind and heart not cluttered with the distractions of daily living, but rather emptied of self and both ready and willing to welcome God to fill it with thoughts of clarity and devotion.
Perhaps one of the most difficult spiritual fruits to acquire, yet one that is longed for in modern, frenetic society, is peace. It is often elusive, with the constant bombardment of diversions from various sources of technology. The fast pace of technology spurs the belief that people should operate that way as well.
But Father Bossuet offers a reminder to slow down, regardless of what might have to be given up in a person’s holiday schedule. There can be no other way to truly enter into the liturgical season of Advent than by making deliberate attempts to pause, reflect, pray and listen to God. It is why silence sought in times of solitude is sacrosanct, and why it is impossible to attain when one is overscheduled, overworked and overwhelmed.
“Meditations for Advent” beckons all to carve time in their schedules this Advent to rediscover the refreshing gift of God’s peace. Each reflection is short — only about a page and a half to two pages long — but full of insight, wisdom and an invitation to become poor in spirit so as to fully welcome Jesus to be born in His faithful in whatever ways He wishes this Christmas.
Consider Bossuet’s words in the meditation, “He Has Put Down the Mighty from Their Thrones”:
“He raised [Mary] above all others because she declared herself to be the lowest of all creatures. When he made for himself a dwelling place on earth, it was not in the palaces of kings. He chose poor, humble parents and all that the world disdained in order to cast down its pomp. This was the proper character of divine power in the new alliance: to make its virtue felt by its very weakness … It is when God alone remains great that the souls finds peace.”
Journey alongside Father Bossuet in this daily Advent devotional to earnestly ask God to make lowly those who seek Him, as He did Our Lady and St. Joseph; to make them poor and humble, as He made His only Son. God’s immense power and strength are made more apparent as people step aside and allow Him to work His greatness through their littleness. As a result, this Christmas the reader might find himself more fully alive, filled with wonder and awe at the Lord’s great love for His children.
“Meditations for Advent” by Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet Publishing house (Sophia Institute Press, 2012). 173 pp., $12.95
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