“A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; The rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all mankind shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. — Isaiah 40: 2-5
We’ve turned a new corner on the Church Year – it’s goodbye to the green of Pentecost (which this year seemed to last forever, given the early date of Easter), and hello to the purple of Advent. My prayer table is decked out in deep purple and the candles I have been using are being allowed to burn down so I can start fresh new ones in my first Matins of the year Sunday morning.
You could tell a new liturgical season was at hand at Mass earlier today – everything was a bit off-kilter as the priest, the readers, and the band all seemed to struggle with the new material they were dealing with given the new church season. I’m glad this wasn’t the Saturday Tracey was going to attend Mass with me – she would have wondered what the heck was wrong!
I love everything about Advent. To me, Advent is not just about expectation – in my case, wanting to clean out my own spiritual house in preparation for welcoming the Christ child anew into my heart four weeks hence – but also about hope. This is not an insignificant part of the Advent season. As Fr. Tim mentioned in his homily today, we can all take great comfort in the fact that, rather than giving humankind up for lost and leaving us to our own devices and ultimate destruction, God saw just enough in the human soul and spirit that warranted His sending a part of Himself to redeem humankind and all creation through Jesus the Christ. And it is in this holy season that we need to contemplate how God is calling each and every one of us to live up to our part of that bargain.
An Advent question: How do we show ourselves to be truly children of the light, as children of God? How we do sweep aside the cobwebs of our inner spiritual selves, the better to welcome Christ into our hearts and lives this Christmas? Do we destroy innocent others, as extremists have done in Mumbai, or as rabid shoppers have done in New York? Or do quiet ourselves and look inward – and then outward – at ways in which we can somehow become greater than ourselves? How do we learn to give of ourselves when everything in this information-saturated day and age we live in lures ourselves into thinking we are the masters of our own destiny, the center of our own universes?
Surely God is calling each and everyone of us to be more than that – for some in more subtle ways, for others He is calling us to greater things.
I don’t know where I fall into this equation, in all honesty. I’m just grateful that this past Church Year has brought me back to regular attendance at church and the resumption of my daily offices for the first time in more than eight years. I don’t feel as if I’m 100% “there” yet, but I feel more like the person God has called me to be than anytime in more than a decade, and for now I’m just happy to simply attend Saturday Mass at St. Anne Catholic Church and learn once more the blessings and challenges of committing one’s self to a particular parish family. I do know one thing: at this time last year, I could never have imagined myself writing these words. Whether or not it is through St. Anne’s I finally become Roman Catholic remains to be seen, but I can’t see myself ever being a part of an Episcopal or Anglican community ever again.
The following is an excerpt from a lovely website for Advent, I hope you’ll check it out:
The first day the wreath is in the home, the leader may say:
As our nights grow longer and our days grow short,
we look on these earthly signs–light and green branches–
and remember God’s promise to our world:
Christ, our Light and our Hope, will come.
Listen to the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“The people that walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those who lived in a land as dark as death
a light has dawned.
You have increased their joy
and given them gladness;
They rejoice in your presence
as those who rejoice at harvest,
as warriors exult when dividing spoil.” — Is. 9:1-2
Then all pray:
we remember the promise of your Son.
As the light from this candle,
may the bless of Christ come upon us,
brightening our way
and guiding us by his truth.
May Christ our Savior bring life
into the darkness of our world,
and to us, as we wait for his coming.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
Then the first candle is lighted.
A blessed Advent season to everyone. May we all find our hearts and minds enkindled to welcome the Light of Christ into our hearts as these final darkening days of a year now old and embittered unwinds before us. Surely there lie better days ahead.