We think of the Advent Season as the coming of Christmas, the advent of the holidays and all the fun and joy we anticipate. As we grow older, we calculate in the expense and the trouble, and depending upon our personalities, we give ourselves a reality check or two, but strange as it may seem, that isn’t what “real,” that is to say, traditional, Advent is meant to depict.
If we celebrate Advent with the lighting of candles and the reading of Scripture, it lends a certain depth to the season and creates beautiful memories for our children, those of us blessed to have them. What could be more beautiful, though, than a young woman or a young couple, living alone, lighting the first, then the second and third, candles of the Wreath and praying through the season? What could be more inspirational than an older man or woman, in solitude, preparing to dine alone, as he or she must do night after night, lighting that fourth candle with joy that the celebration of the Birth of Christ is upon the world?
As with so many of the things we investigate here in Cor Unum, we want to see the deepest beauty and the truest purpose that can be found in the living of our lives. We don’t have to have Christmas at all, and some don’t, but if we have it, let it be pleasing to the Lord.
“Real” Advent is not about the coming of Christmas, however. Real Advent is about the coming of the Lord! When we see Him coming again, something profound takes place at the culmination of four weeks of readiness for His birth. Not a rapture theology, but a true reminder that He who was born in humility will come again in glory. After a concentrated devotional season spent looking for the Return of the King, we travel with the shepherds to the stable where it all began. Like the Magi who were on their way to Him, on their way to pay homage to His Majesty, we will see the Babe as He ought to be seen, and certainly He will be far more to us than the religious ornament on our tree, the crèche in the midst of all our candy canes and sugar cookies.
Like everything else in this Abbey and everything else in life, Christmas will be what we make of it. We can subtract some things and end up with more. We can even have loads and loads of fluff, but still find the One of Whom the prophets wrote and the angels sang.
Choose, if you will, your Advent fast. Let it be simple and appropriate for the season, as you must spend it. “No sweets” might be difficult; “no sweets except in company” is doable. The reading of the Magnificat each day can be life-changing, with perhaps Zechariah’s “Canticle” in the evening (Luke 1:46-55 and 67-79) Many devout Catholics read both of those every day of the year! Take a look and see why! Perhaps the best part of an Advent Fast would be the keeping of the Advent tradition, the lighting of the candles and the reading of Scripture from an appropriate book … many have been written for the purpose. The Abbess hopes that these daily texts will be pertinent and meaningful and memorable for all of us. Stay tuned …
The Journey of the Magi
James Tissot, by permission