Advent: The Silent, Hidden Presence that brings Hope

My dear friends,

This Sunday we begin another season of Advent together. Advent, like all liturgical seasons, comes with its own special grace, or graces. And the grace that marks this season more than any other is the grace of hope, a joyful hope that springs from the birth of a child called Emmanuel, a name that means “God is with us.” His coming over 2000 years ago brought great joy to Mary and Joseph, to the Shepherds and the Magi, but our joy lies mainly in His personal coming to each one of us—the fruit of his first coming. By Baptism Jesus has cradled Himself in our hearts, and there seeks to unleash all the gifts and graces of redemption in the daily unfolding of our life. Caryll Houselander, one of my favorite authors, once wrote a book called The Reed of God. It’s great spiritual reading for Advent if you have not yet chosen a book for this time. Caryll explains Advent in this way:

“Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ—of Divine love growing in silence. It is the season of humility, silence, and growth. For nine months Christ grew in His Mother’s body. By His own will she formed Him from herself, from the simplicity of her daily life. She had nothing to give Him but herself. He asked for nothing else. Working, eating, sleeping, she was forming His body from hers. Walking the streets of Nazareth to do her shopping, to visit her friends, she set His feet on the path of Jerusalem. Washing, weaving, kneading, sweeping, her hands prepared His hands for the nails. Every beat of her heart gave Him His heart to love with, His heart to be broken in love. All her experience of the world about her was gathered to Christ growing in her. Talking with her neighbors, she gave Him a human voice. Breaking and eating the bread, drinking the wine of the country, she gave Him His flesh and blood—preparing the Host for the Mass. If we have truly given our humanity to be changed into Christ . . . we must believe that He is growing in our lives; we must believe it so firmly that we cannot help relating everything, literally everything, to this almost incredible reality. Every work that we do should be a part of Christ being formed in us, which is the meaning of our life.”

I like this short meditation from The Reed of God because it helps us to realize what Christ’s presence within us means and how it relates to the whole of our lives and what we do each day.

There is another reason why Advent is a season of hope; Christ’s presence in our life means that He is also with us in every fall, every weakness, every failure and struggle, and able to make a new beginning spring from these moments that can frustrate and discourage us. Pope Benedict has a beautiful way of expressing this. In a homily he once wrote for the feast of Christ the King:

“God has no rigid plan that He has to carry out at all costs. On the contrary, He has many different ways of seeking us out and finding us. He is even able to make man’s devious and wrong ways into ways leading to Him. This is clear, for example, in the case of Adam, whose very sin was made into a happy sin in the second Adam, Christ—and it is clear in all the twisted ways of human history. God’s kingship is a rule of love that seeks and finds us in ways that are always new. For us, this means a trust that cannot be shaken. None of us should be afraid . . . God can always be found . . . We are in the hands of the One (who is able to) write straight on crooked lines.”

I hope those meditations will be helpful as we enter into Advent together. And perhaps we can make it a point to ask God to do two things for us this Advent: to help us become aware and attentive to Jesus’ presence within us, and secondly, to renew and strengthen our hope, because He is with us, truly present to us at every moment of each day. Lord Jesus, Emmanuel, stay with us, and help us always to stay close to You.

God love you,

Fr. Steven

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