Imprisoned for his opposition to Hitler, Father Alfred Delp wrote “The Shaking Reality of Advent,” from which the following is an excerpt, in a Nazi prison shortly before he was executed in 1945.
Woe to an age when the voices of those who cry in the wilderness have fallen silent, outshouted by the noise of the day or outlawed or swallowed up in the intoxication of progress, or growing smothered and fainter for fear and cowardice. The devastation will soon be so terrifying and universal that the word “wilderness” will again strike our hearts and minds….
Not for an hour can life dispense with these John-the-Baptist characters, these original individuals, struck by the lightning of mission and vocation. Their heart goes before them, and that is why their eye is so clear-sighted, their judgment so incorruptible.
They do not cry for the sake of crying or for the sake of the voice. Or because they begrudge earth’s pleasant hours, exiled as they themselves are from the small warm companionships of the foreground. Theirs is the great comfort known only to those who have paced out the inmost and furthermost boundaries of existence.
They cry for blessing and salvation. They summon us to our last chance, while already they feel the ground quaking and the rafters creaking and see the firmest of mountains tottering inwardly and see the very stars in heaven hanging in peril. They summon us to the opportunity of warding off, by the greater power of a converted heart, the shifting desert that will pounce upon us and bury us.
O Lord, today we know once more, and in quite practical terms, what it means to clear away the rubble and make paths smooth again. We will have to know it and do it for years to come. Let the crying voices ring out, pointing out the wilderness and overcoming the devastation from within.
May the Advent figure of John, the relentless envoy and prophet in God’s name, be no stranger in our wilderness of ruins. For how shall we hear unless someone cries out above the tumult and destruction and delusion?”
martyred under Hitler