“I can’t believe Thanksgiving is here already!” “It can’t be December already!”
How many times have we heard or spoken these statements that express our wonder at how time seems to move so quickly.
In her wisdom, the Church, the Incarnate Body of Christ, has provided us every year with the season of Advent, a time to slow down and prepare ourselves for the great mystery of God’s love enfleshed in the person of Jesus Christ. Advent, the season of moving towards light, requires, as Mark admonishes us, to “be watchful, be alert!”, so that in the hustle and bustle of our lives we don’t miss Christ in our midst.
The Church provides us with the season of Advent as a time to be attentive to the call to be awake, so that we might more consciously enter into the contemplation and meaning of the mystery of the coming of Christ in history, the in-breaking of Jesus in our daily lives, and the anticipation of his coming again at the end of time.
Advent is a time of waiting, a time to enter into the mystery of a liminal period of the already but not-yet. It is a time to stop our frantic attempts at trying to keep up with everything in this fast-paced world, so that we, like Christ, might enter into the vulnerability of our humanity. Advent-waiting has the potential of helping us to let God be God in our lives and catch a glimpse of ourselves in the child born in Bethlehem, full of trust in the arms of his Mother.
Advent is a time for us to contemplate how the coming of Christ at Christmas depends on us and how we give witness to our belief in the value of waiting for the God who gives shape to our existence. Our waiting during Advent is graced with the time to ask ourselves what gives meaning and substance to our lives, how have our encounters with God’s love shaped our actions and our choices.
We might see Advent as an opportunity to recommit ourselves to moving toward this God who is always moving toward us. We might remember during Advent that we have to do our part to bring Christ’s love into the world. We are reminded by Meister Eckhart, OP, “We are celebrating the feast of the Eternal Birth which God the Father has borne and never ceases to bear in all eternity… But if it takes not place in me, what avails it? Everything lies in this, that it should take place in me.”
Christmas celebrates the in-breaking of God’s love into our history, and Advent is the period of waiting and preparation that allows us to experience the Christ event with hearts and spirits renewed. Our hopeful waiting during Advent is a graced opportunity to open ourselves to the transforming and transfiguring love present in the mystery of the Incarnation. The Word made Flesh, invites us into celebrating the Word of God enfleshed in our lives.
Advent, this season of moving toward, is an opportunity to prepare ourselves for what it might mean to be watchful and alert for the signs of the Kingdom in our midst. It’s a time to make our experience of Christmas more meaningful.
There is a term in the popular culture, “woke”, defined by the Urban Dictionary as: “being aware. Knowing what’s going on in the community.”
Mark’s call to be watchful and alert might be our call to be “woke” to what it means to proclaim and live the reality of the Incarnation. To be “woke” might be the first movement of the Holy Spirit calling us to attentiveness so that we might pay attention to the coming of Christ in our world and in our communities. Our longing for the coming of Christ during Advent, Karl Rahner, SJ, reminds us, culminates in our Advent prayers of “Come, Lord Jesus!” God has answered our prayers, and now our cry to Come, Lord Jesus has to be met with our willingness to live the reality of the Christ present in our world.
Most Reverend George R. Lucey, FCM, Presiding Bishop
St. Francis of Assisi ANCC (Glen Ridge, NJ)