November 28, 2020
by Prior Michael Brunner O.S.B.
Welcome to Advent… a nice Latin word meaning something like “the arrival.” It also has the connotation of looking forward.
So now is the Church’s season of Advent, which looks forward to Christmas. And in that sense it is a time to get ready, prepare. Of course the Church did not have in mind lots of shopping and decorating when it established this season. They had in mind a personal and community getting ready for not just the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus in Judea in something like 5 BC. But also, getting ready for, re-minding one’s self of, the coming of Jesus into our own lives, and the coming of Jesus whenever He decides to come again, as He surely will.
So there is a certain uncertainty in Advent, perhaps this year more than any in our lifetimes. The joy of anticipation has an edge to it. Our Advent and Christmas celebrations will be different….no standing room only crowds in Church, no choirs singing, no big Christmas parties, all those seasonal events. We are used to having our spiritual joy supercharged by such exterior experiences in our communities, small and large. Now it’s really up to us, each of us to experience spiritual joy, to prepare and consider… how much room have we given to Jesus Christ for Him to work in our lives….what room have we shut him out of… what do we need to do to open ourselves up more to His presence. Odds are we won’t be here for His official second coming, but we each are destined to come to Him as we individually leave from this world. There will be our surprise advent in the next world, which this pandemic has made most of us more aware of, especially those of us in at-risk categories. How ready are we for that ? Our Advents here should be a preparation for that. As the first reading for this First Sunday of Advent says “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!” (Is 64:4)
Saint Benedict says in his Rule that Lent should be the happiest time of year for his monks. He doesn’t mention Advent. I don’t know if Advent was observed much in his time, although by the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great it was established. But the whole spirit of the Rule is to be a guide for making one’s whole life an Advent looking forward to union with Jesus Christ by living a radical Christ-like life. Easier said than done, obviously. But the Didache, the earliest Catechism we know of, wisely says…. “If you can bear the yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect. If you cannot, do what you can.” Advent is a time to stretch ourselves toward our meeting Jesus Christ. Stretching is great exercise perfect in a time of social distance, which makes us stronger. Over time we can do more, and we get closer to our goal. And the closer we get to God, the closer He comes toward us. As on that first Christmas, He meets us more than halfway. What a God ! “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for Him.” (Is 64:3)
Happy Advent !