A Special Time of Grace and Preparation
Today a new liturgical year begins with the four-week journey through Advent. The season of Advent has always been a special time of grace and preparation for Christians. The theme speaks to some of our deepest human longings: peace, hope, light amid darkness, and the coming of a Savior. Welcome to Advent! This is the time in our liturgical year for quiet hope and joyful expectation.
God is about to do something new. It is also the time in our calendar year of hours of darkness for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. The early darkness and cold weather tend to bring people indoors and create an atmosphere for quiet reflection. There is wonderful symbolism here: the winter solstice, when the sun’s hours begin to gradually increase, comes just before Christmas. Advent ends at Christmas, when we celebrate the gift of God’s Son to us. Jesus is the Light of the World.
A Franciscan priest, Father Martin Pable, offered us advice on how to make this Advent spiritual. Here are his few points on the symbols of Advent:
Quiet: As opposed to noise. What if each person or family would take fifteen minutes a day to stop talking, turn off the radio, internet, and television, read a brief passage from the Bible or a spiritual book and then just spend some time in quiet reflection and prayer?
Darkness: December is the darkest month of the year. It reminds us of the darkness and cold of the world without Jesus Christ. That’s why we love to turn off lights, light candles and make Advent wreaths. It would be easy to do that at the evening meal.
Fasting: As opposed to stuffing. When we don’t open a box of candy or once in a while give up dessert, we remind ourselves that we have those deeper, spiritual hungers that only the Lord Jesus can fill.
Waiting: as opposed to rushing around. It’s so easy to practice impatience during Advent. It seems we have to wait longer than ever. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could redeem those moments? If we could start a cheerful conversation with the people in line, offer to help our neighbors rake their leaves or remove snow, or say a quiet prayer for the people in the cars around us?
After all, the Lord we are waiting for is already present in the people we are waiting with. And the whole purpose of His coming is to make us more peaceful and more loving. Despite all the evil and hatred in our world now, we should never fall into a pessimistic or despairing spirit. Optimism and hope should characterize our outlook.
No matter what others may do, our concern should be to work with God in His purifying action by cleansing ourselves of sin here and now. Our prayer should be: “In Your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Happy Advent Season!
Fr. Vitalis Anyanike