For me, the word ‘advent’ has a double connotation. It means the arrival of a new liturgical season, the preparatory time for Christmas, for ‘the coming of Our Lord’ as a Child on earth, for His incarnation in time. But it also means that other advent—the parousia, the second coming of Christ, in glory, at the end of the world. That is an advent which Russian hearts long for and expect. They hope it will happen in their lifetime, but, even if it doesn’t, they rejoice that it will happen in someone else’s lifetime.
These two Advents blend in my soul, mind, and heart. They bring a hunger and a longing that beggars words, for they are the seasons of expectation. Expectation of what? Of whom? To me, of the Tremendous Lover, of the Lord, Christ.
To me, the bells of this season, whenever they ring, either for Mass or for the Angelus, always have the joyous sound of wedding bells. For Advent is ‘the springtime of love’, when the soul awaits her Lover, knowing deep down that He is coming and that He will make her His own!
To meet this Lover, our Bridegroom, we must be awake for Him. In his letter to the Romans (13:11–14), St. Paul calls us in a loud voice to arise from our sleep! Our salvation is nearer than we believed; the night has passed, and the day is at hand. This call of his means now! Today! Every day of the year, every hour of every day is the hour for us to arise from our sleep.
We have so many ‘sleeps’. We have that strange inner sleep that wants to escape from whatever we have to conduct in the marketplace with the powers of secularism. And we have that other emotional sleep that drags us into bed (literally, if we only could get there) to escape an even bigger fight with the powers of darkness within ourselves. For we know that we have to ‘die to self’ so that we may live in Christ, and this is hard for us to face.
Yes, St. Paul is right: we must arise from our sleep. Let us come out of the night of our emotions—the night of our anger, of our hostility, of all those negativities within us. Let us walk in the daylight of simplicity, of friendship, of forgiveness, of understanding, of tenderness and gentleness to one another. Advent is a time for this arising. It is such a joyous season, such a loving season! Let us enter into its joy.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Donkey Bells
Reflection – This is a great little book, packed with meditations, family customs, stories, all leading us through Advent and into Christmas. Of course the trouble with the modern loss of Advent, the immediate rush to Christmas understood primarily in its material aspects, like shoppers on Black Friday, is precisely the loss of this beautiful reality: expectancy, longing, watchfulness, waiting.
We are a culture that wants it now, and doesn’t like to wait. Our computers are faster every year, and the high speed of the digital world is reflected in many levels of expectation and entitlement: we want the world, and we want it now.
Well, God is not at our beck and call that way. God calls us into a different rhythm of life, a different speed. God can indeed move very quickly in our lives, and in fact God requires no time at all to do His work in us. He requires, not time, but faith. But it is just that which Advent beckons us into.
Advent is a call to faith, to moving out of ourselves and our imperatives and our demands, to a confident, expectant, longing desire for the One who is above all and in all and through all. Advent calls us to a wakefulness, an attentiveness, an inner alertness. God is coming; God is acting; God is doing something—what it is, how it is affecting us, where it is taking us, all is not quite clear, perhaps.
But Advent tells us to us to pay attention, keep looking beyond ourselves and our demands and our rather narrow self-interest and our small and low horizons, our myopic field of vision. There is something much bigger going on, something much grander and greater. God is coming. The earth shakes under his feet. Pay attention – he is coming, the great Lover and Bridegroom of our souls.
Advent is the season to be awake, and to stir up our desire for this coming, and to broaden our horizons, our hearts, and our own loving response to this God of ours, so as to give Him a fitting welcome on the day of his arrival.