Michael Di Gregorio, O.S.A.
Province of St. Thomas of Villanova
Jer 33: 14-16
Psalm 25: 4-5, 8-10,14
1 Thess 3:12-4:2
Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36
The taste of Thanksgiving turkey is surely still fresh on some of our tongues. But today the invitation is to move on to savor something quite different, indeed, something much richer and long lasting. Today we begin the Season of Advent, a time of expectation and of preparation. The many voices of this season who will speak to us over the next four weeks – the familiar voices of John the Baptist and Gabriel and Elizabeth and Isaiah – will invite us to look back into history so that we might celebrate again the anniversary of the coming of the one we call Savior; and they will urge us to look forward to the future so that we can be prepared to welcome that same Savior when he will come again in glory.
The arrival of Advent marks a new beginning. In fact, today is for us Christians, the first day of a new year of grace, which is to be manifest in a very special way this year, in the great gift of mercy. Today everything begins anew for us. But unlike society’s celebration of New Year’s Day, which tends to be loud and flashy, the Church’s New Year begins slowly and quietly, and not at all with the revelry of song and dance, but as a period of preparation and attentiveness, calling us to recollection, urging us to greater focus.
Outside the walls of our churches there is very little awareness of Advent, but there is a great deal of preparation. Unfortunately, the style of the latter can often distract us from what we are trying to do inside. Society has grabbed hold of several elements of our Christian celebration and run off on its own with them: in the first place, it has captured the spirit of joy and festivity that the coming of the Savior has brought; secondly it has emphasized the attitude of generosity that we believe God graciously modeled for us in the gift of his Son. Unfortunately, though, society has
largely lost sight of the underlying reason for both the joy and the giving – in fact, it many times actively tries to disregard the reason altogether – and so the festivity rather hangs out there in thin air as it were, trying to find its own reason for existence, suggesting perhaps that giving makes us joyful or that joy makes us givers – not altogether bad ideas in themselves, but having little to do, in fact, with the true cause of Christian joy.
Advent invites us to create a little space for ourselves in order to remember what has been done for us; to remember that our ancestors waited through long and difficult generations to see what we have finally seen and to receive what has been given to us. Advent cautions us not to rush to Christmas but to savor the anticipation, to relive that long experience of waiting, to make our longing increase and our thankfulness grow. And in this space we call Advent we will also remember the promise that the One who finally came and has gone again, will return one day. Our longing and our gratitude will show us how to live now as we await him, as one waits for a dear, dear friend, not made drowsy or distracted by unimportant things, but vigilant, continually running to the door, standing tall with head raised high, for a warm embrace, a hearty pat on the back and even a tear or two of joy.