Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!
In the brief moments I've had to reflect on this antiphon over the last couple of days, the image that keeps getting my attention is the burning bush. That's understandable as that is one of the most vivid, if freaky images in the Bible. The idea of a bush burning, but not being consumed is enough to get the attention of anyone and it sure got Moses'. It startled him into realizing that God was right in front of him and he was standing on holy ground. In that sense, the image is truly sacramental- a physical sign of the divine presence. The uncanniness of this should unsettle us, even if familiarity might insulate us from how weird a sight that bush must have been.
What is more, it seems to me that we are also looking at an image of God in all His strangeness and power. The image of the burning bush makes me think of the unusual power (and unpredictability) of God's love which cannot be consumed, but rather blazes on and on. It reminds me of the tongues of fire at Pentecost which descended on the disciples and allowed them to praise God in the languages of the world- foreshadowing the translation of Christianity for many peoples. The fire of the Spirit is supposed to burn in the hearts of all believers as we seek God's way in this world. The burning desire which I think all of us have for justice, for goodness and for peace serves as a reflection of the fire of the Spirit. Those desires are a reflection of God's faithful love for us and for the world He created. They are part of the fire which burns for the good of our neighbour and the world around us and is not consumed, not matter what we ourselves do because the fire doesn't originate with us, but rather with God.
Yet, I admit that I don't often tap into that fire. In truth, I am rather more like the Abba Lot, who is reported to have gone to another desert monk, Abba Joseph and confessed "Abba, as far as I can, I keep a moderate rule, with a little fasting, and prayer and meditations and quiet, and, as far as I can, I try to cleanse my heart of evil thoughts. What else can I do?". I manage my daily prayer. I try to meditate and pray (some days are definitely better than others!). I try to let go of 'bad thoughts' which lead me places that aren't good for me. I don't really fast and quiet is at a premium in my life, what with two children running around the house. And I share that sense that all that, while good, falls short of that exhortation that, if I wanted, I could become all flame with the love of God. That fire seems to be thousands of miles away from me pretty much every day, but that love which blazes for into the world reminds me to hope for better, even when I am trudging along spiritually, day to day. That fire, which didn't consume the burning bush, which didn't consume the disciples or even Abba Joseph, shines forth on my good days and guides me to seek God where I am, reminding me that I am ever on holy ground where redemption is found. May that redemption shine forth for you and yours this Advent season.