A long time ago I was walking one night along Broadway just when the theatres were disgorging their crowds.
Near the doors of one, straddling the curb, was a wearied old man, trying to rewrap a dirty bandage around his ulcerated leg.
One of the theatre patrons, without missing a step, hefted her evening gown and stepped over him and into her limo.
The man noticed and looked up towards her.
His expression stunned me, for his face radiated compassion.
When I recall that incident the man’s face comes to my heart as a reminder of the Icon named: “Not Painted by Human Hands”.
Walking the streets near the soup kitchen where I volunteer from time to time that brother from Broadway so many years ago came back to my heart as I strolled the streets and alleys praying, alternating the Jesus Prayer and the Holy Rosary.
We cry out, this First Vespers of Advent that the splendour of Christ fills the earth.
Sometimes we can miss that splendour if we do not contemplate the face of each of our brothers and sisters, be they on the curb – or stepping into a limo.
I have never been in any city that is not filled with poverty.
The visible poverty to be sure.
It is that more invisible poverty hidden in vacant hearts, lonely hearts, abused, rejected, abandoned hearts, which is the most crushing, and the one perhaps we don’t take seriously enough.
Because I grew up at a time when the human devastation of the so-called “Great War”, the Depression and the Second World War was all around, in the broken bodies and hearts of countless veterans, widows, orphans, be it at Thanksgiving or Christmas, even in our low-end working class neighbourhood, some widow, some veteran, some alone person was always invited to the table.
Christ is everywhere, if we wish to meet Him.
He hangs around on curbs, in limos. He waits in prisons, hospitals, old age homes.
He sits alone at night, often times disguised as a security guard or lone gas station attendant or…..well He has many disguises.
His splendour is all around.
Each Advent as I get older I muse: is this the last Advent I shall pilgrimage on this earth?
Will I fritter away this one as so many others, or will THIS be the Advent I truly prepare for His coming?