Thanksgiving is past and today we enter into the season of Advent, a marked departure from what we experience in stores and shopping malls. Yes, there is a spirit of anticipation and preparation, but for what? In the stores and advertisements, we are invited to buy what we think other people need, or we try to respond to the wish lists family members generate. In one respect it is a great season because people demonstrate qualities of selflessness providing food for the hungry, gifts for children, and countless volunteer hours at shelters and community service centers. In that way, we are anticipating preparing for one who is to come anew into our midst.
Morning Prayer, on Monday the first week of Advent prays “Lord, our God help us to prepare for the coming of your Son. May he find us waiting, eager in joyful prayer.” That phrase “eager in joyful prayer” is a marvelous anthem, a precious thought and direction for us entering into this season.
Advent emerged not so much in Rome or Jerusalem, but out of Spain and especially in Gaul in the late 400’s A.D. Bishop Perpetuus of Tours called for three days of fasting per week during the period from the feast of St. Martin to Christmas. Advent had a penitential quality in preparation for the feast of Epiphany because it was a day intended for the celebration of the sacrament of Baptism, a true penitential and new life experience. Later in the 5th century the preparation for Christ’s birth began to develop.
In truth Advent celebrates Christ’s first coming, the birth in Bethlehem, his ongoing coming in our hearts through grace, and his glorious return at the end of time. As the editor of Sourcebook relates, Advent celebrates the incarnation and the parousia in Greek, translated “adventus” in Latin, and “coming” or “waiting” in English with sense of the past, present and future all intertwined, a sense of the already and not yet.
We can also pause to reflect on the wood used for the manger connected to the wood used for the cross, one a resting place for a babe and the other an instrument of death and triumph. Advent recognizes that in-between time, the time of the Lord’s coming and the time of his final coming.
So, together we can spend this time productively offering hospitality, getting ready for the feast of Christmas and the Christmas season, getting ready for Christ to be born anew in our lives and hearts, thankful that he redeemed and saved us and calls us now to greater service to our brothers and sisters.
Let us enter into this season of hope and longing with open hearts so that He may find us “eager in joyful prayer.”