Today we begin Advent – our yearly pilgrimage through the events of our history of salvation starting with the preparation for the birthday celebration of Jesus and ending with the reflection on his glorious “second coming” as a judge at the end of the world. Advent means coming. We are invited to meditate on Jesus’ first coming in history as a baby in Bethlehem, his daily coming into our lives in mystery through the Sacraments, through the Bible, and through the worshipping community and finally, his Second Coming at the end of the world to reward the just and to punish the wicked. We see the traditional signs of Advent in our Church: violet vestments, violet altar linens, the Advent wreath, etc. These signs remind us that we have to prepare for the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives, enabling him to radiate his love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness in and around us.
With the Thanksgiving/post-Thanksgiving rush, Advent immerses us further into the busiest season of the year. “A mad rush,” “no time,” “too many things to be done,” and “I’m not ready yet,” are some of the frequent expressions of the inability to cope with this season. In this mad rush, we lose something very precious: living and enjoying the present moment. Fr Richard Rohr, a contemporary spiritual master, writes that faith and spirituality begin with “seeing.” It is not about earning or achieving but about “paying attention”: paying attention to the presence of God in every joy and sorrow, in every pain and trauma, and in every victory and setback before us. Advent calls us to “watch,” to be “alert” to the presence of God in the love of family and friends and to find the true meaning and purpose of our lives in moments of compassion, forgiveness, and generosity.
Theologian Henri Nouwen, In A Spirituality of Waiting: Being Alert to God’s Presence in Our Lives, suggests that we focus on the ‘waiting people’ in the scriptures of this season. “If you really think about Zechariah and about Mary and about Elizabeth, you realize that they were living with a promise that nurtured them, that fed them, that made them able to stay where they are so that it could grow so that it could develop.” The waiting person, says Henri, is someone who is “very present to the moment, who believes that this moment is THE moment.”
Living in the present! Focusing on the moment! That is a tall order for most of us as our culture does not value waiting or silence. We are constantly reminded that we need to fill our days with activity and noise, with more things than we need or can handle. We fill our days and nights with ‘doing’ rather than ‘being.’ Hence, the challenge for us all is to slow down and be present in the moment, even while we know we need to plan and do a myriad of things.
The Advent wreath we light is not only for the Church but also for families. Many families set up an Advent wreath at home. If you don’t have one, why not get one this year and start a family tradition? This bulletin has a nice short prayer service that you can pray as a family when you light the candle each week. It will help your family to live the spirit of Advent expressed in slowing down, waiting in patience, and prayer.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal