Oh Lord, purify me, make me a chalice in which you dwell, offer your sacrifice in me and spread your love through me. Let me shine like gold, adorn me with the jewels of virtue that I may always be open to you. Fill me. Overflow me. Let me be like that most perfect vessel, the Singular Vessel of Devotion, She to whom I cry for protection against the Evil One. I ask this for your glory, for the vessel is nothing without the sustenance inside, the cup nothing unless it is filled. Oh Lord, purify me.

Give me a word, Abba

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent and Anticipation

Advent is such a wonderful season because it’s all about hoping, anticipating and something most of us don’t like to do: waiting. It would be excessive to list examples of how we must go through periods of waiting in our lives because it happens so often whether it’s for something as trivial as laundry to finish washing or as important as a wedding day. Regardless of the situation, waiting tends to quickly annoy and frustrate us though it shouldn’t and doesn’t have to.

During this season advent calendars are methodically opened each day, there are hymns and antiphons with a tone of restless anticipation urging the savior to come “ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile" and a new candle is lit on the advent wreath as another week goes by. Yes, we are counting down the days because we cannot wait until the big event, the fulfillment of the long wait. But what are we supposed to do during that time besides dream about when we no long have to wait? In current society poor Advent takes a beating because there hardly is this time to properly reflect before Christmas. We’re already thinking about what gifts we’re giving and getting and whether that shirt will turn out to be the wrong size and have to be exchanged, and all the while Christmas music is following us in the background on the radio and getting stuck in our heads. Our culture isn’t very understanding of the idea of having to wait. (Technology certainly doesn’t help this when everyone is glued to a smartphone.) People don’t like being told that they cannot have whatever they want right now and often decide like spoiled children to reach for it anyways.

The reason I like Advent so much is not because I enjoy holding off on the joy of Christmas for as long as possible but because our entire lives are one very long season of Advent. Maybe that’s why every year as much as I love the liturgical season it’s often hard to feel like it is Advent now because it always feels sort of like it. I have not read as much C.S. Lewis as I wish I currently had but he seems to understand this very well. Life is a period of waiting and anticipation as we try to get home to heaven and it would be foolish during that time to try to speed the current situation along or to waste our time. The two extremes are: 1) that you should just start celebrating now because if Christmas is so good what's the reason not to extend the party? and 2) that since you can’t do anything about rushing along time you might as well sulk until you can finally open your presents on December 25th. The third option, like always, is the balance. Advent is a time to prepare. There is so much one can do while waiting and so much one must prepare for. There's something about the journey of the wait that makes us appreciate the final prize that much more. When we deny ourselves of something we realize how we miss it and how much more we want it. And when it's Christmas day and we experience all of the joy and then feel the letdown with shreds of wrapping paper on the floor and trees on the street curb we can look back to the crib and remember that we are still waiting for a fuller happiness and rejoice in the promise of that. Lewis said it in Till We Have Faces, "It was when I was happiest that I longed most...the sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing...to find the place where all the beauty came from."


witheagerfeet said...

There's always a certain pleasure, however, in making Christmas presents for friends and family as part of preparation for seeing them open it. There is something very satisfying in pouring love and care into a gift; this creation is its own form of preparation. (And this might just become a post on my own blog!)

Mary Catherine said...

Most definitely! Like you said, that's part of the preparation of Advent.